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80,907 - Average cash balance held by schools in 2008-09

Across England, #163;1.781 billion was sitting in school balances at the end of the 2008-09 financial year. This is a reduction of over #163;130 million on the figure from over the same period in the previous year. Much of this money has been allocated for specific projects, but it represents a significant proportion of revenue income.

Effectively, #163;1 in every 20 allocated to schools is still sitting in their bank account at the end of the year. Schools in the West Midlands have proportionally more reserves than those elsewhere in England, but overall the scale of the difference is not very large, although schools in the Yorkshire and the Humber region kept the smallest percentage balances.

Budgeting is not a precise art, and 1,848 schools were in the red at the end of the financial year. The average deficit for each of them was just over #163;75,000 - or around the total salary costs of three NQTs for a year.

The North West appeared to have proportionally more schools with deficit budgets than other regions. Three local authorities in the North West each had more than 20 per cent of their schools with deficits, and a further six authorities had between 10 and 20 per cent of their schools in deficit. In Salford, over 30 per cent of schools were in deficit, with each on average in the red by more than #163;150,000.

For those applying for teaching jobs this year, knowing whether a school is cash rich or running a big overdraft might be an important part of the decision on whether or not to apply for a post. With the good times over, life may be even tougher next year.

John Howson is director of Education Data Surveys, part of TSL Education.

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