SCHOOLS have been warned they should stop hoarding the £18m they have in reserves and “spend on today’s children”.
Figures released show that maintained state schools, both primary and secondary, have not spent up to 24 per cent of their revenue budgets, money set aside for day-to-day running costs.
Councillors called for schools to make sure the money is being spent on current pupils rather than saving for future children.
There are 32 primary schools in the county which have continuously kept at least eight per cent of their revenue budget behind at the end of a school year for the last four years.
Windmill Primary School is one of the 32 schools which has kept surplus money.
Headteacher Lynn Knapp said the main reason was that the school is currently undergoing an expansion which would see it take in 90 children each year rather than the current 60.
She said: “With the expansion coming up we will have to spend on that. We have been preparing for that for the last four years effectively.
“It has always been our reasoning that we could be left with nothing if something big comes up, and we would have to cover that. It isn’t that we are penny pinching. The council is only funding so much and the rest is our responsibility.”
Revenue cash cannot be spent on paying directly for big projects, like expansions. However, it can go on the day-to-day running costs that come from such things, like extra staff, equipment or energy bills.
Mrs Knapp said that if the school was asked to give the money back by council she would fight it.
Councillors at Oxfordshire County Council’s Education Scrutiny committee were unanimously concerned about the high sum being held by schools.
They were told that council officers and the Deputy Director for Education were planning to meet with those schools with the most money left over in the autumn, after the summer holiday, to find out why the money was being kept.
Councillors agreed if the schools were not spending the money then it should be clawed back.
John Howson said: “It is difficult to see why that money is unspent.”
Gill Sanders said: “If I had a child in school I would want them to be benefiting from the money the school has, not knowing that money is going to spent on a swimming pool in five years’ time when little Jonny has moved elsewhere.”
The money does not include an estimated £8m which was taken out of council control when schools in the county became academies.
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