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Council challenged to make up funding shortfall if Deanes School is saved
6:00am Wednesday 9th October 2013 in News
CASTLE Point Council has been challenged with finding £480,000 to subsidise the Deanes School if it is saved and pupil numbers continue to fall, a leaked letter has revealed.
Falling admission numbers at the under-threat school, in Daws Heath Road, Thundersley, has been one of the key deciding factors behind Essex County Council’s plans to close it in 2016.
In order to remain “financially viable”, were it to stay open, the school would need to attract at least 120 pupils a year to keep a total of 600 students on the books.
Castle Point Council, Basildon Council and Southend Council have all objected to the closure, which is set to be decided by county hall’s ruling Tory cabinet on November 7.
Now, in a letter leaked to the Echo, county council leader David Finch has asked Castle Point Council leader Pam Challis to make up the shortfall if the school remains open, but pupil numbers don’t improve.
In the letter, Mr Finch said: “There appears to us the very likely possibility of a shortfall in funding if the school roll falls below 600, for example, if the school roll were 480, the following year the school would have £480,000 less funding.
“If your council is so convinced that this would not happen I would be interested to knowwhether you would be sufficiently confident to underwrite any drop in funding to the school caused by it going below 600 pupils.”
The letter also states the county council will need to boost pupil numbers after 2023, but it does not expect the school to survive that long because of falling pupil numbers.
Mr Finch added: “I note that since 2004 there have been about 1,200 new homes built in the district, during which period the number on roll at the secondary schools has declined by 485 children.
“Should further developments be identified that we have not yet included, we see little likelihood that they would impact on secondary school numbers for many years.”
Following speculation over a meeting to discuss a bailout plan for the school, Basildon Council leader Tony Ball and Southend council leader Nigel Holdcroft told the Echo they did meet at a Thames Gateway South Essex boardmeeting. Mr Ball said: “We had an informal discussion around the Deanes School.
“In those discussions, many things were talked about, but nothing was confirmed or agreed, so there is nothing I can confirm or deny as to a possible way forward. At the moment, we are supporting the school’s academy application.”
The Echo tried to contact Mrs Challis, but she did not respond.
However, a council spokeswoman said: “Correspondence and discussions are continuing between our respective councils concerning the future of Deanes School.”
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