Schools funding timebomb

SUFFOLK schools are facing a financial 'ticking timebomb' despite government cash promises, The Evening Star can reveal today.Headteachers across the county are even more worried about the financial situation than they were last year.

SUFFOLK schools are facing a financial 'ticking timebomb' despite government cash promises, The Evening Star can reveal today.

Headteachers across the county are even more worried about the financial situation than they were last year.

And there are further potential pitfalls lurking for cash-strapped schools over the next 12 months.

On Wednesday education minister Charles Clarke told MPs school funding would rise by four per cent from April onwards.


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But that figure will be dwarfed by the potential cost of soaking up the financial fallout from the government's much-vaunted teacher threshold pay programme.

Introduced nearly three years ago, the scheme offered higher rewards for experienced teachers.

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Government guaranteed funding for the first three years. But if that is not renewed, schools will be tens of thousands of pounds out of pocket.

And many headteachers spoken to by The Evening Star have lost faith in Whitehall promises after last year's fiasco.

We have learned schools across the county were forced to eat into precious reserves to stay afloat last year.

That cash is no longer available if, as feared, money problems resurface.

Tony Lewis, county council executive member for children and young people, said final funding figures will be thrashed out with the government over the next couple of months.

But he admitted the situation is already giving cause for concern.

He said: "It looks like it's going to be tight. The government is saying 'look at it over two years.'

"This is part of a three-year settlement. This is the tightest year of the three and the following year will be the most generous.

"But before we can say to schools you can take temporary measures for the coming year because there will be more money coming, we have to wait and see the figures.

"Things like taking money out of reserves and going into licensed deficit – schools aren't going to do it over and over again.

"I am not aware of any Ipswich schools that should require more licensed deficits than we have got at the moment."

Westbourne High School was given leave to go into deficit for the coming year – effectively operating under an overdraft.

The Ipswich school emerged as the most cash-strapped when The Evening Star blew the lid off the funding crisis in May.

But others in the area could soon be treading the same path if the fears of headteachers come to pass.

N What do you think? Write in to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk or visit the forum at www.eveningstar.co.uk

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