St Teresa’s Catholic Infant School has suffered from falling pupil numbers since receiving a poor Ofsted judgement and they have never fully recovered from this even after achieving a good Ofsted judgement in February 2018. There has also been a decline in the nursery/infant population in the area which has exacerbated the problem.
Governing bodies have a duty to set a balanced budget each year and the Governing Body of St Teresa’s Catholic Infant School has worked hard to reduce costs and set a balanced budget, however the school has been operating under a Licensed Deficit Budget Agreement since April 2019.
.On 30th July 2020 Cabinet agreed to cease the statutory closure process for St Teresa’s Infant School and to allow the Governing Body time to implement the revised financial plan which they had presented to Members. The Governors gave Members assurance that the revised financial plan would bring the school back into a balanced budget position and make it viable going forward.
The Governing Body have now explored all avenues to increase pupil numbers and reduce the financial issues however this has not impacted on an upturn in pupil numbers. The Governing Body contacted the LA and the Archdiocese on 20th October 2021 to ask the LA to consider consulting to close the school.
St Teresa’s Catholic Infant School now has 15 pupils on roll as at October 2021 which means that the surplus capacity is now 75 or 83.33%. All pupils would be accommodated in Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Primary School, which is the feeder school for children in Key Stage 2.
St Teresa’s Catholic Infant School has been struggling financially for several years and the Governing Body has worked hard to reduce costs but have unfortunately not been able to set a balanced budget since 2018/19.
The school ended the 2020/21 financial year with a deficit of -£55,316 and although the Governing Body has made several staffing adjustments in August 2021 the current budget shows the deficit rising to -£134,466 by the end of the current financial year.
There will continue to be staffing and running costs in 2022/23, if the school continues to operate until 31st August 2022. When the school closes there will be closure costs associated with the discontinuation of the site along with any potential contractual liabilities that are still outstanding and severance costs for displaced staff. Many of these costs are unknown at this time but will add to the identified deficit position at 31st March 2022. There may be some residual School funding from 2022/23 to offset some of the additional costs but, again, this cannot be calculated at this time.
Maintained schools pay a contribution from their delegated budget each year to the Local Authority towards the costs of meeting its statutory education functions and central services to maintained schools. The amount St Teresa’s currently pays for this support is £3,600 and this income will be lost when the school closes.
St Teresa’s Infant school also buys into many traded services from the Council which will cease when the school closes and this will mean a further reduction in income to the Council of approximately £34,500
The consultation process timescale on the formal closure of the school would be as follows: Action Start Date End Date Comments Initial report to Cabinet 04/11/21
18/11/21 Allow 10 working days for publication of minutes and call in Consultation
22/11/21 4 weeks consultation period which would end on 17/12/21
Stat Guidance says for the LA to determine the length but best practice for it to be in term time Report to Cabinet on outcome of consultation and permission to publish statutory notice 03/02/22
17/02/22 Allow 10 working days for publication of minutes and call in Publication of Notice 02/03/22
Representation period 02/03/22 30/03/22 Four weeks statutory period Decision – Cabinet 26/05/22
This leaves three months for staff consultation. Implementation 31/08/22
The deadlines for each stage are influenced by Cabinet deadlines and call in so these have been built into the dates above. If these are not adhered to then the whole timescale will slip. According to the Department for Education guidance it is up to the proposer to determine the nature and length of the pre-publication consultation.
If the Council agreed to a 6 weeks consultation period then this would require an extra 9 days at the start of term to cover the Christmas holiday period and so finish on 17th January 2022. The deadline for submission of reports to Cabinet for the February meeting is 17th January 2022 and so any report would then have to go to the March 2022 meeting and the process would be postponed further.
It is recommended Council agree to the shorter 4 weeks consultation period included in the table above to meet the proposed closure date of 31/08/2022.