In these cash-strapped times, it's becoming increasingly important to know how much money a school has to weather the cuts that are coming. To get a good idea of a school's revenue and the reserves they have for 2009-2010, you should log onto the Department for Education's Administration and Finance
pages. Once you are there, find the county or borough that your school is in -- they are listed alphabetically over 20 pages -- and download the relevant spreadsheet on the right hand side of the page. Tables A and A1 in the spreadsheet (tabs at the bottom of the page) give the information about the Local Authority's budgets, including budgets for things like Youth Justice and Looked-After Children, Table B gives the information about schools.
Click on the Table B tab at the bottom of the page and find your school; starting with early years at the top and working down to schools which admit older age groups. There is loads of information here, including the Total Resources Available to the School (Column O)
and School Expenditure (Column P).
For me, the most useful figure is the Uncommitted Revenue Balance (Column T)
. This is the money that the school has in reserve; revenues and expenditure may change during the year, but if a school has spare cash to cover unforeseen circumstances then they are in a good position to fill the holes left by the cuts in the various funds that are being axed, most especially the big cuts in building, music, sport and arts funding that we know about.
I found it fascinating to note that many of the schools in my borough, Tower Hamlets, had considerable sums in reserve. Mulberry Schools For Girls, for example, has a whopping £3348088.07 in uncommitted revenue. This is not common, with most schools in the borough having reserves that amount to hundreds of thousands, not millions! However, LA schools in Hackney, my neighbouring borough are not doing so well, with none of them reporting surpluses. Could this be due to the fact that the borough is keen upon all schools becoming Academies? It's becoming increasingly obvious that schools that are in financial difficulties are the ones really wanting to opt for Academy Status for the extra money that they get with the new status. It is worrying to note that the budget figures for Academies are not publicly available.
It would be interesting for people to comment upon this. Some people I've spoken to say that the figures are not reliable and don't reflect the true complexity and constant change of school budgets, while others are convinced they provide a good picture. What's the "uncommitted revenue" for your school like? If you are concerned about this issue, you should speak to your headteacher, relevant governor or bursar. It's important that people know where public money goes and feel empowered to ask questions. It is deeply troubling that Academies and Free Schools are not subject to this kind of scrutiny.