Twenty schools in Staffordshire have been spending more money than they have coming in - and their combined deficit tops £2 million.

Across the country, increasing numbers of schools were already struggling to make budgets stretch before the pandemic.

Teaching unions have warned extra costs have negated much of this year’s funding increase.

They say promised extra money is not enough to address what they claim to be long-term underfunding.

The equivalent of one in seven (14 per cent) county council-maintained schools in Staffordshire are now spending more than their income.

The figures include primary and secondary schools, as well as special schools, nurseries and pupil referral units. However, they do not include academies.

Overall, the 23 schools in Staffordshire reported a combined deficit of £2.4 million in 2019/20, according to the Department for Education (DfE) figures. The average deficit per school in 2019/20 was £102,835.

The primary and secondary schools in Staffordshire running a deficit in 2019/20

School name // Local Authority // Phase // Revenue balance
King Edward VI High School, Stafford // Secondary // Staffordshire // -£532,767
Flash Ley Primary School, Stafford // Primary // Staffordshire // -£429,237
The King's CofE (VA) School, Kidsgrove // Secondary // Staffordshire // -£292,517
Stafford Manor High School // Secondary // Staffordshire // -£149,668
St Paul's CofE (C) Primary School, Stafford // Primary // Staffordshire // -£140,798
King Edward VI School, Lichfield // Secondary // Staffordshire // -£134,268
The Henry Prince CofE (C) First School, Mayfield (now closed) // Primary // Staffordshire // -£131,673
Squirrel Hayes First School, Biddulph // Primary // Staffordshire // -£131,438
Fulfen Primary School, Burntwood // Primary // Staffordshire // -£63,466
St Peter's CofE (VC) First School, Marchington // Primary // Staffordshire // -£37,862
Western Springs Primary School, Rugeley // Primary // Staffordshire // -£37,137
Barlaston CofE (C) First School // Primary // Staffordshire // -£36,206
Cooper Perry Primary School, Sieghford // Primary // Staffordshire // -£35,906
Abbot Beyne School, Burton // Secondary // Staffordshire // -£30,163
West Hill Primary School, Hednesford // Primary // Staffordshire // -£23,179
Highfields Primary School, Burntwood // Primary // Staffordshire // -£21,702
St Leonard's CofE (VA) First School, Ipstones // Primary // Staffordshire // -£4,272
Holy Trinity CofE (C) Primary School, Burton // Primary // Staffordshire // -£3,970
St Stephen's Primary School, Fradley // Primary // Staffordshire // -£2,937
Hob Hill CE/Methodist (VC) Primary School, Brereton // Primary // Staffordshire // -£1,966

Each school has been approached for comment, but only Stafford Manor High School responded.

Head teacher Richard Lycett said: "Financial information about schools has been publicly available through the Department for Education (DfE) website for a number of years.

"Figures quoted relating to negative revenue reserves in 2019/2020 does not affect the day-to-day running of the school, and does not impact on the pupils' education.

"We are very proud of the provision we offer at Stafford Manor High School, and with rising pupil numbers, the school is in a really strong position for the years to come."

Unions say Government funding is not enough

Across England, there were 1,575 local authority maintained schools in deficit in 2019/20. That was the highest number in a decade, up from 1,376 in 2018/19.

With the number of council-maintained schools falling, as more convert to academies, the proportion running a deficit has grown to one in eight (12 per cent).

The size of UK schools' combined deficit is also growing. It stood at £233.3 million in 2018/19, but rose to £266.4 million in 2019/20.
That is the highest level since records began in 2002/03.

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Eduction Union, said: "Budgetary pressures were already enormous before covid, and Boris Johnson’s settlement for schools fell way short of what is needed.

"Covid-19 costs will have negated a large amount of the increase in school funding in 2020/21.

"Schools and colleges are sick and tired of playing snakes and ladders with this Government over funding.

"To ensure every young person gets the education they deserve we need a serious commitment in the autumn spending review, far above the paltry, miserly sums offered in recent months."

Across England, the planned spend per pupil in 2019/20 was £4,556, up from £4,521 in 2018/19.

However, when adjusted for inflation, schools were £46 per pupil worse off on average.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the rising deficit figures were another sign of the huge pressure on school finances as a result of inadequate levels of funding from the Government.

He said: “The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has calculated that school funding per pupil in England fell by nine per cent in real terms between 2009/10 and 2019/20 - the largest cut in over 40 years.

"The Government has sought to improve matters with a three-year funding boost through to 2022/23 but we do not think this is enough to reverse the damage of years of underfunding.

"Schools have also incurred considerable additional costs during the pandemic in order to implement and maintain a host of safety measures without adequate reimbursement from the Government.

"It is therefore likely that the situation will continue to be precarious in the foreseeable future. The Government must address this issue and ensure that schools have the funding they need."

DfE claims it is actually delivering big funding boost

The DfE said the most recent 2019/20 data on financial reserves does not show the impact of the increased funding. It has also provided additional funding of £139 million through the covid exceptional costs fund.

A DfE spokesperson said: “This government is delivering the biggest funding boost for schools in a decade.

"By 2023 we will have increased school funding by over £14 billion compared to 2019-20, including additional funding for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

“On top of this, we are providing £1.5 billion per year to fund additional pension costs for teachers. Overall, this will bring the schools budget to £52.2bn by 2022/23."

IFS analysis found this budget increase would nearly reverse past cuts, taking inflation into account.

However, with expected increases in teacher pay, the rise in spending per pupil would be lower, and, either way, school spending per pupil in 2022/23 would be no higher in real terms than in 2009/10.

While increasing numbers of schools are in deficit, many more have a surplus - 11,493 in 2019/20, with an overall revenue budget of £1.7 billion.

While that money may be committed to projects already, previous research by the Education Policy Institute (EPI)) found if councils fully redistributed the surpluses from the schools in their areas to those schools in the red, funding deficits would be wiped out in four-fifths of council areas.

Top stories from StaffordshireLive

Want to sign up to receive these stories straight to your inbox? It's free and means you'll never miss out on the most important Staffordshire news of the day

You can sign up for free here

Not signed up yet but want to try it out?

You can read a preview of our newsletter here