The percentage of schools running a deficit increased between 200809 and 200910, even before the tumultuous changes to school funding that will occur in 201112 begin to affect schools.
Nearly 12 per cent of schools in the North West were running deficit budgets by 200910, compared with 6.5 per cent in the East of England. However, the average deficit in the North West was only slightly larger at #163;98,000, compared with #163;81,000 in the East of England.
The largest increase in the number of schools with deficits between 200809 and 200910 was in the South West, where 2 per cent more schools recorded a deficit budget. Their average deficit was #163;72,000. However, the largest average deficit budget was among schools in the London area, at #163;103,000. No doubt this is partly accounted for by the higher salary levels of school staff in the London region.
Only in the West Midlands did the percentage of schools with a deficit fall during the 12-month period, although the size of the average deficit did fall in the Yorkshire and Humberside regions, from #163;76,000 to #163;66,000, and in the South West from #163;76,000 to #163;72,000.
Schools in the red in the North East had the lowest average deficits of just #163;47,000 per school in 200910 - less than half the average deficit in both the North West and London regions.
The combined effects of having to offer the pupil premium to poorer pupils, cuts in 16-19 funding (albeit limited to 3 per cent per learner in schools), a pay freeze and possible changes to national pay and conditions and pension contributions will make the next two years challenging.
Whether a school service run from Whitehall will tolerate deficits as much as local authorities, only time will tell, but any requirement for schools to eliminate them will come as bad news at present.
John Howson is director of Education Data Surveys, part of TSL Education
PERCENTAGE OF SCHOOLS IN DEFICIT 200910
South West 9.2
South East 8.9
West Midlands 8.1
North West 11.6
North East 8.1
Yorkshire amp; Humberside 8.3
East Midlands 10.9
East of England 6.5.