New figures have exposed the impact of Government-run schools being "consistently underfunded", with the education establishments collectively ending last year £3.5m in the red.
There has been a year-on-year increase in school deficits since 2018, with those in charge attributing it to “pressures… from variations in demographic demand and increasing standards.”
Pictured: More than half of Jersey's schools came out with a spending deficit last year.
The figures were revealed in response to a written question from Deputy Mike Higgins. They showed that in 2016 and 2017, the total of all school budgets retained underspends of £126,077 (2016) and £228,944 (2017) respectively.
However, in 2018, this suddenly took a turn, with the year concluding with a deficit of £1.6m. Over the following two years, this deficit continued to grow, rising to £3.3m in 2019, and most recently £3,509,520 in 2020.
An independent review published last year recommended extra funding for education, as well as “immediate development of a radically simplified funding formula that will provide a flexible platform to support future education policy developments.”
In the Education Department's response to the question of why the deficits were occurring, it was acknowledged that the report “confirmed that schools had been consistently underfunded.”
“The biggest contributing factor to overspend is pressure to increase staff numbers in order to address pressures arising from variations in demographic demand and increasing standards,” the response read.
“An example of these combined pressures is the increase in the number of higher needs pupils requiring more specialised support. This results in increased support staffing ratios.”
Pictured: The Ministerial response to questions on the reasons for the deficit stated that it was partly to do with the need for specialised support.
Furthermore, it stated that “cleaning contracts are significantly overspent in schools but also more widely. The move to a Living Wage is cited as a factor in increasing prices by suppliers.”
A response to a separate written question from Deputy Higgins shows the spend in the past year on SEN and mental health units across schools in 2020 was £10.2m, though it notes that actual costs could differ as they “could be coded to different business units.”
This was split between £5m in mainstream schools, £5.2m in special schools and alternative provision (Mont à l’Abbé, La Sente and La Passerelle).
This spending has gone up by more than four times the spending figure of 2016, when it sat at £1.1m, rising with each year.
In addition, the total cost of additional resource centres in 2020 across schools was £1.8m, and the CYPES Inclusion service £4.3m.
In 2020, £207,788 was spent on the central ‘English as an additional language’ (EAL) team, supporting around 2,985 students (as figures as La Sente were below five students, the number was not disclosed).
However, despite there being around 527 fewer students in this category than in 2016 (again, excluding the fewer than five from La Sente, as well as fewer than five from Jersey College for Girls Prep), spending was higher at £249,003.
This spending increased even further in 2017 and 2018 - however, this was due to a pilot scheme which was then discontinued in 2019 - in that year, the figure fell back down to £190,209.
On overall funding, the Education Department's response to Deputy Higgins’ questions adds: “The Education Reform project is underway to… ensure schools are fairly funded.”
"Generally, across the whole sector an increase in numbers of children with Special Educational Needs and Mental Health needs has been a major factor in increased spend. An Inclusion Review is underway to ensure we understand this and how to address it."
Pictured: The new figures came as a result of written questions from Deputy Mike Higgins.
The inclusion review is an independent review looking at needs and provisions for all children and young people - parents, carers, and children are currently being asked to answer surveys to have their say.
On the review, special needs group the Parent Carer Forum said they “would strongly encourage all our members and the impacted wider community, to ensure they have their say on how the current existing arrangements are working for them.”
Concerns about inclusion have been in the public eye recently - earlier this year, Express covered concerns about the facilities at the island’s school for children with social, emotional and behavioural needs, La Sente, and how they felt they needed to improve.
Last month, Assistant Education Minister Deputy Scott Wickenden visited both its KS2 and three buildings at D'Hautrée House, as well as its KS4 facility at Five Oaks, saying that “it's clear that there is a lot of work to do to provide a modern, healing environment for the school.”
Speaking about how overall deficits are handled, the Ministerial response stated: “If a Government-funded school overspends, the deficit must be covered by underspends elsewhere within the CYPES department.
“If any schools underspend this goes towards offsetting overspends in other schools.
“Prior to 2018, schools deficits and overspends were carried forward but that rule changed so that the budget has to be managed within year within the department.
“For fee-paying schools their deficits / surpluses have been carried forward as it is deemed that they are able to use fee income to bring their spend back into balance, and that is more appropriate than using Tax payers money to cover any deficit."
Schools with a deficit between £400,000 - £700,000
Schools with a deficit between £300,000 - £400,000
Schools with a deficit between £100,000 - £200,000
Schools with a deficit between £50,000 - £100,000
Schools with a deficit between £10,000 - £50,000
Schools with a deficit between £1,000 - £10,000
Primary Schools which underspent in 2020
Secondary Schools which underspent in 2020
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