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£3m pot for East Lancs schools’ debts
MILLIONS of pounds has been set aside amid fears that schools will leave old debts as they become academies.
Lancashire County Council’s schools forum is to create a £3million pot in anticipation of bills left by failing schools.
Last year, the government confirmed that councils will inherit the deficits of schools that are forced to become sponsored academies.
And the county council is concerned that schools struggling with finances are the very schools likely to be forced into becoming academies.
At a meeting of the schools forum, members said there was great uncertainty over which schools may face failing an upcoming Ofsted inspection.
A report to the meeting said: “Those schools most vulnerable to financial difficulty are the very schools most likely to be found inadequate.
“Once found to be inadequate, there is a high likelihood the Department for Education will seek to academise them. Therefore, we need a reserve.”
Chairman of the forum, John Davies said: “The Department for Education say that once budgets are announced we have to stick to them so we have to guess in advance what we might need.
“This strikes me as absolutely stupid but unless we win the Euro Millions we won’t be able to fund the unexpected unless we plan. We will be taking a proactive look at the budgets of each school. It won’t be the case that a school will think: ‘Oh, we are not doing well, we will become an academy’.”
East Lancashire representative for the teaching union NASUWT Claire Ward said often the academisation process left councils unable to help financially.
She said: “Often when a school is in trouble, the council can offer them budget assistance and the chance to repay funds back. However when they get taken from the authority to become an academy that is no longer possible.
“Councils are realising that they will be left with heavy debts if they allow schools to leave them with the bill.
“This means that a lot of the time that teachers have to be made redundant instead of the financial problem being overcome with the help of the council.”
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