Senior councillor airs plans to federate schools to tackle deficits – Brighton and Hove News

Senior councillor airs plans to federate schools to tackle deficits – Brighton and Hove News

Plans to bring Brighton and Hove schools into a federation – or federations – are still in their early stages, a leading councillor said today (Wednesday 10 July).

The Labour deputy leader of Brighton and Hove City Council, Jacob Taylor, said that the number of schools with budget deficits meant that action was needed.

Head teachers walked out of a recent meeting with senior council officials to discuss the proposal.

But Councillor Taylor told the council’s People Overview and Scrutiny Committee that the growing number of schools in the red could adversely affect the council’s budget.

Falling pupil numbers have exacerbated budget deficits. At the end of the past financial year, school balances were £281,000, down £4.259 million from £4.54 million at the end of 2022-23.

The risk is that the schools budget, funded directly by the government through the dedicated schools grant, will go into the red by around £8 million this year and need to be bailed out by the council.

Councillor Taylor told the committee, which met at Hove Town Hall, that the Labour manifesto said that the party would explore creating federations because the party was not in favour of academies.

He said: “Federation is potentially a route to helping schools with their budgets and with the pupil numbers issues that we’ve talked about.

“Formal federation of schools can start to drive some cost efficiencies but also efficiencies in terms of quality and what’s delivered.

“For example, if you have eight schools that came together in a federation, perhaps they wouldn’t need eight school business managers, eight premises managers or as much senior leadership across those eight schools.

“That might be a way to maintain all those as individual schools but achieve savings across those eight schools.

“It’s very much an alternative to academisation. It might drive some of the benefits the multi-academy trusts have in terms of efficiencies without moving to an academisation model outright.”

Councillor Taylor said the council was communicating with head teachers, governors and trade unions but had not yet proposed any formal federations.

Any move towards federating would go through the scrutiny process.

Conservative councillor Anne Meadows said that schools that were managing their budgets would be asked to manage schools in the red.

She said: “I was a school governor for 27 years and I know that business managers, teachers and head teachers and everyone who deals with the budgets works full time.

“They’re not part-time where they can suddenly devote another 40 hours in a week to go and help another school. I’m just wondering how you’re expecting that to work.”

Councillor Taylor said that no federations had been proposed yet but a “hypothetical” idea was put before heads and governors.

Any future federations could include secondary and primary schools and need not necessarily be geographic.

Schools have been asked to get in touch with the council by Tuesday 23 July if they are interested in federating.

A survey has been sent to schools inviting feedback on the federation proposal.