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The Cheshire schools thousands of pounds in the red

Analysis reveals Chester and Ellesmere schools running deficits of almost £500,000

Blacon High School has reported a £473,000 deficit for 2016-17

A teaching union says school budget deficits across the borough – including a £473,000 overspend at Blacon High School – show the government is not investing in our children.

Cheshire West and Chester’s Schools Forum was recently presented with an analysis of school balances for 2016-17 which the National Union of Teachers (NUT) finds concerning.

Among the other deficits listed are:

Queen’s Park High School in Chester - £217,185

Ellesmere Port Catholic High - £478,575

Kingsley Community Primary - £53,637

Eaton Primary - £37,287

■ Belgrave Primary, Chester - £33,393

Ashton Hayes Primary - £28,810

■ Burton Bishop Wilson CE Primary, Neston - £58,928

Chester teacher and NUT representative Greg Foster addresses passersby during a demonstration against academisation

Chester teacher Greg Foster, secretary of the local branches of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), said schools faced government spending cuts as well as rising costs in terms of the increase in teachers’ pay – 1% or 2% for the lower paid – as well as greater pension contributions and general inflation.

The only way for many to balance the books was to cut teachers and teaching assistants leading to larger class sizes.

He said: “So many schools are struggling because they are desperately short of cash. At the end of the day the people they should be investing in, they are not investing in at all.”

Mr Foster said it remains to be seen how the government’s proposed new national funding formula will work out in practice due to a lack of clarity but ‘strongly suspects’ it will mean cuts for most schools. And he argues millions of pounds is being ‘wasted’ through the programme to convert schools into academies.

The NUT divisional representative said the education system was facing a crisis caused by teachers leaving the profession in droves.

“It’s a combination of pay and the ever increasing workload and expectations," said Mr Foster.

Lyndsay Watterson, headteacher at Queen's Park High.

Earlier this year The Chronicle reported that Queen’s Park High School in Handbridge was struggling with falling rolls leading to a projected £1.5m deficit but headteacher Lyndsay Watterson is clear there is a brighter future ahead.

Crucially, Queen’s Park High has joined forces with Christleton High School under the management of Christleton Learning Trust (CLT) after converting to an academy, which became active from April 1.

This should enable the sharing of resources, the ability to make back-room savings and greater opportunities to enhance the learning experience.

Minutes from Cheshire West and Chester Schools Forum revealed just how low pupil numbers are at Queen’s Park. In years 7 to 11 there were just 383 (43%) of the school’s 900 capacity.

A falling roll fund has been established financed across all schools although it won’t ‘fully bridge the funding gap’ with a significant amount for the CLT to cover.

But the demographics which have adversely affected many secondary schools are turning around so that more pupils will be arriving in future.

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