£100,000 budget deficit in four years – financial report dashes Dales school’s de-federation hopes

West Burton Primary School.

A financial report into the proposed departure of West Burton Primary from a federation with two other schools predicts that the stand alone school could face a £100,000 deficit in four year.

However, the report, prepared for the governors of the BAWB School Federation, which is made up of Bainbridge, Askrigg and West Burton schools, was today heavily criticised by the county councillor for the upper Dales, John Blackie.

A report, prepared by Sally Dunn, head of finance at NYCC, on the financial implications of the de-federation by West Burton School is among documents that has been shared with parents this week.

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The report states that based on current pupil number projections, West Burton would have a “significant” revenue budget deficit which would increase to at least £100,000 in the next four years.

The deficit would grow irrespective of whether the Government’s new national funding formula (NFF) was fully implemented, is is stated.

The school could run at a deficit for several years, however it would be required to pay back the money to NYCC.

However, the report adds: “Based on the indicative model, the school is unlikely to reach a position where the accumulated budget deficit can start to be repaid as required by the local authority.”

The documents states that an increase of between seven and ten pupils at West Burton would be required to address this situation, with any reduction in pupil numbers worsening the school budget deficit position.

17 new houses have been approved in West Witton and it is hoped families with young children will move into some of these properties, and send their chidren to West Burton Primary.

It is noted in the report that this housing development, as well as a number of other factors, could change the financial position of the stand-alone school.

It states: “Clearly a number factors can influence the financial position of a school; these include
class operating structure, staffing levels and deployment, staff salary levels, utilisation of specific grants e.g sports grant, contracts and classroom resource spending decisions, pupil numbers and levels of external income.”

The report later continues: “The representatives from West Burton CE who are requesting de-federation are reviewing the indicative model produced for a stand-alone school as to where they feel
that additional savings can be made and additional income generated.

“It is understood that their findings will be submitted to Governors for consideration under the due
diligence process.”

The report further states that if West Burton left the federation on January 1, 2019, the opening revenue budget position for Askrigg and Bainbridge as a two-school federation would be a deficit of £108,400.

But the document says the federation would be able to repay the deficit back in a three to eight year period from the 2022/23 financial year, dependant on the implementation of the NFF.

West Burton parents want to leave the federation because they are unhappy about a proposed new structure which would see the youngest children bussed to Bainbridge.

It has been claimed that if this was implemented, West Burton Primary would face closure because parents would choose to send their children to other schools in Wensleydale.

The report states that if the de-federation is rejected and the new structure is introduced, a reduction in pupil numbers because parents choose other schools could “potentially jeopardise” the federation breaking even and repaying the budget deficit, if no action to reduce costs was taken.

County councillor John Blackie has represented the communities served by the three schools in the BAWB for the last 21 years and has been working with residents to resolve the issue.

He was today highly critical of the due diligence process which he described as “biased” against the defederation of West Burton School.

He said: “The writing appears to be on the wall for the future of West Burton Primary School, condemned to closure in the next year or less by a biased exercise in purported due diligence undertaken by the BAWB Federation board of governors conspiring with the local education authority, North Yorkshire County Council, despite the council’s recent public statement that it wishes to see the three schools all remain open.”

Cllr Blackie said that one “redeeming feature” was that the documents recognises that a federation between just Bainbridge and Askrigg Primary Schools wass financially sustainable and the LEA were prepared to give it until as late as the year 2031 to pay back the accrued deficits and establish a break even position.

He said: “This is good news as my objective these 21 years has and remains to keep all primary schools in the upper Dales open.

“The BAWB also accepts there is an overriding risk in the loss of pupils down to an unsustainable number on roll at West Burton Primary School if its plans to bus its children, as young as four years of age, 16 miles a day for the first few years of their primary education are implemented.

“This is the first time they seem to have become aware of this danger despite it being a certainty and made crystal clear by parents of those children at the school or wanting to register them soon there at its Reception class

“Disappointingly the BAWB Federation do not appear to have considered the financial report and credentials of the informal shadow board of Governors for a stand-alone West Burton Primary School submitted in time for its meeting on Tuesday, or to put them on its website or circulated them to all parents in the three schools.

“The shadow board was informally constituted on the advice of the Lead Adviser for Governance for the LEA given at a public meeting, and its financial report was discussed in detail the next day with the Head of Primary Schools finance at the County Council.

“There is sadly a track record of failure of meaningful communications from the BAWB Board of Governors with the community served by West Burton Primary School, culminating in its failure to announce that a co-opted Governor who lives in West Burton has resigned in the last two months, or to make arrangements for his replacement.

Cllr Blackie said the shadow board will present a “much rosier financial picture for a stand-alone West Burton Primary School than the LEA makes out”, which he said would allow it to flourish in the future and attract new pupils.

A spokesperson for North Yorkshire County Council said: “The governing board of the Bainbridge, Askrigg, West Burton primary schools federation (BAWB) has carried out due diligence in exploring the application by West Burton to defederate.

“Governors met on June 19th to discuss the content of a number of reports which set out the impact of defederation on the schools’ finances, educational standards and other related issues. Included in this consideration was the financial proposal for a stand-alone West Burton school as presented by the informally constituted shadow governing board for West Burton.

“A further meeting will be held before July 11 between the BAWB governing board and the West Burton representatives to discuss the reports and all related issues.

“North Yorkshire County Council is supporting the process, but the decision will be taken by the BAWB governing board.”

Derek Walpole, chair of the BAWB Governing Board, said: “We carefully considered all of the information presented to us including the financial information provided by the West Burton representatives.

“The next step is to meet with those representatives to continue assessing the implications of defederation on all 3 schools before taking our decision on 11 July.”