Schools are in the black to prepare for future budget cuts

SCHOOLS across Portsmouth can be confident they will weather the tough financial years ahead after proving they can keep a tight rein on their budgets.

Out of a total of 65 junior, infant, primary, secondary and special schools, just five were in the red at the end of the 2009/10 financial year.

Figures released by the Department for Education also revealed the majority of schools had tens of thousands of pounds worth of surplus.

Mike Smith, head of City Boys, boasted a surplus of more than 157,000 which he used up to offset the decreasing numbers of pupils - and subsequent cut in government funds - this year.

He said: 'We were facing a very tight budget this year with falling pupil numbers so set some aside to ensure we could continue to provide well for all our boys. But in general my view is money allocated to a school in a year should benefit the children in that year. Rolling money forward to spend on big projects for future years is not acceptable.'

Adam Dare, head of King Richard School, similarly held on to 248,191 to ensure he could continue to provide for his children despite decreasing numbers.'

He said: 'We always have to look years in advance and save up accordingly.

'When I joined this school in 1997 we were taking in 220 children a year from our four feeder primaries, but this year we had about 130.'

Mary Rose Special School in Southsea clocked up the largest deficit of 41,883, however it was later given a cash injection to balance the books after a review into special needs schools ruled they had been underfunded.

At the other extreme, Portsmouth City Council 'clawed back' a total of 45,156 from three schools that had too much cash left unspent. These were Copnor Infants with 26,900, Gatcombe Park Primary with 2,600 and Langstone Juniors with 15,600.

Councils can retrieve money from primary and secondary schools with more than eight and five per cent respectively to spare.

In Hampshire, the scale of deficits was larger in some schools. Topping the list for the Havant, Gosport and Fareham areas was Warblington CoE School, which was 182,163 in the red.

A council spokeswoman said the school had a recovery plan which was being actively monitored.

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