North Yorkshire schools spiral into debt due to Covid-19

Classroom file pic.

The number of North Yorkshire schools spiralling into debt is set to more than double as major funding gaps widened by the Covid-19 pandemic bite.

New figures released by North Yorkshire County Council show almost half of all state schools will plunge into the red by 2023 – with debts totalling more than £18m.

Currently 37 state schools in North Yorkshire have total debts of £7.2m. This is expected to soar to 93 schools with £18m deficits.

Further figures show out of 149 local authorities across the country, North Yorkshire places 133rd when it comes to government funding for students. On average, a school in North Yorkshire will receive £5,151 per pupil next year, compared to a national average of £5,496.

Amanda Newbold, the county’s assistant director for education and skills, said there are “many complex reasons” for schools to predict budget deficits.

She said: “Typically, they may relate to a change in pupil numbers or pupil profile which means a change in future income levels and which may require the school to review its operations and resources accordingly.

“The rurality of North Yorkshire is also a factor in this; there are additional costs in delivering education in a rural, sparsely populated county such as ours.

“This particularly impacts small, rural secondary schools which cannot achieve the economies of scale in delivering a broad curriculum, which larger, urban schools are able to do.”

Councillor Patrick Mulligan, the county’s executive member for education and skills, added: “We will continue to support schools in the county to take early action to help prevent a deficit and support them to develop recovery plans to ensure they remain financially sustainable.

“In addition, we will also continue to ask the Department for Education for fairer funding for North Yorkshire schools and pupils.

“We are concerned the national funding formula does not provide sufficient funding for small, rural schools which cannot achieve the economies of scale in delivering a broad curriculum, which their counterparts in larger, urban areas can.

“We will continue to make this case to the government.”