Cash-strapped primary schools overspend by thousands

Cash-strapped primary schools overspend by thousands
Cash-strapped primary schools overspend by thousands

Dozens of cash-strapped primary schools have over-spent on their budgets by as much as tens of thousands of pounds.

Figures released by the Department of Education (DfE) showed five schools in Crawley and three in East Grinstead spent more than they received.

Maidenbower Junior School, which received only £3,770 per pupil, compared to the national average of £4,732, spent £106 per pupil more than it received. With 590 pupils, this amounted to £62,858.

Pound Hill Junior School was also one of the poorest funded in town, receiving just £3,750 per pupil. The school spent £6 per pupil more than it received, a total of around £2,172.

West Green, Our Lady Queen of Heaven and Langley Green Primary all exceeded their budgets.

Despite their lack of money, Our Lady, Langley Green and Pound Hill were among the six Crawley schools that met the expected standards in the Key Stage 2 SATs last summer.

Children were said to be meeting that standard if they achieved a score of 100 or more in their reading and maths SATs, and their teacher assessed them as ‘working at the expected standard’ or better in writing.

Schools were expected to see at least 53 per cent of their students meet those criteria.

Our Lady topped the pile in Crawley with 73 per cent meeting the required standard.

Next came Langley Green, with 62 per cent, Milton Mount with 58 per cent, Pound Hill Juniors with 56 per cent, while Hilltop Primary and St Andrew’s Primary both achieved 53 per cent.

Tobias Melia, head of Our Lady, said: “Schools have been making use of reserves – rainy day money in case, for example, the boiler breaks down – often built up over a long period, to plug these gaps in funding.

“Clearly you can only do this for so long.

“With reduced funding comes reductions in expenditure and this does/must impact on learning and teaching outcomes eventually – less staff to support children, fewer resources to support teaching.”

Mr Melia said the new SATs results needed to be viewed with “slight caution” as it was not possible to compare the results with previous years.

He added: “That said, OLQOH was delighted with our results, thanks to the commitment of children, parents and teachers, and support of both the Diocese and local authority.”

The DfE figures showed the majority of pupils met or exceeded the expected maths and reading scores in the SATs, even when their schools were not seen to make the required progress overall.

When asked how useful the SATs had been, Dawn Martin, head of Gossops Green Primary said “not as much as they could be, managed differently”.

Mrs Martin added: “It is completely right that children should leave primary school with a good basic grounding in English and maths, but the relentless focus on how well ten and 11 year old children can perform in a timed test has led to a narrowing of the curriculum.

“Schools are publicly funded institutions which should be accountable for their performance, but a greater focus on ongoing classroom practice and teachers’ professional judgement, externally moderated, would be a much more effective preparation for secondary school.

“The removal of tests would also save millions of pounds, which could be redirected to resourcing the day to day running of schools properly.”

In East Grinstead, Blackwell, Estcots and St Peter’s Primary all spent more than they received. Blackwell by £48 per pupil (£12,384), Etscots by £17 per pupil (£7,055) and St Peter’s by £22 per pupil (£4,466).

As with the schools in Crawley, all three had been funded well below the national average. St Peter’s received £3,725 per pupil, Etscots received £3,736 per pupil and Blackwell received £4,074.

Unlike Crawley, though, two of the schools with the highest percentage of pupils meeting the expected standard were also among the highest funded.

Dormansland received £4,303 per pupil – still well below the national average – and saw 65 per cent of children make the grade. Ashurt Wood received £4,617 per pupil and saw 62 per cent make the grade. Neither St Peter’s, Etscots nor Blackwell met the expected 53 per cent.

When asked how big an effect poor funding had on a school’s performance, Mrs Martin said it was “difficult to quantify”

She added: “But certainly being short staffed and unable to access any more than the most basic of resources adds to the existing pressures.

“In addition, due to the poor budget settlement in 2016-17, schools like ours were faced with having to make staffing reductions, which was very damaging to staff morale, time consuming for all involved and took time away from focusing on raising standards.”