THE last remaining council-run secondary school in the county ran at £1.6m in the red last year, new figures reveal.

Carterton Community College is the only secondary school in Oxfordshire that is yet to convert into an academy, and recorded one of the largest deficits of local authority schools in the country.

Last week the Department for Education (DfE) released statistics for every council-run school in England, recording information including their total revenue balance for the 2018-19 financial year.

Carterton's balance stood at -£1,600,119, which was the 22nd largest deficit of more than 20,000 schools in the table.

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A handful of schools elsewhere had deficits of more than £3m.

A spokesman for Oxfordshire County Council, which runs the school, said: "Carterton Community College is a local authority maintained school.

"We can confirm the College currently has a budget deficit."

DfE guidance states: "A school's total revenue balance is calculated from the combination of any unspent allocations, and the cumulative balance of income less expenditure from revenue funding sources during the financial year, and any balances carried forward from previous years."

Figures show that the school has not been in surplus since 2013-14, and the deficit has risen year on year since 2014-15.

According to Department for Education analysis, the percentage of schools with a deficit nationally decreased from 10.2 per cent in 2017-18 to 9.9 per cent in 2018-19.

However, the average deficit per school has increased.

The average figure for council-run secondary schools in deficit nationally was £568,648.

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Of 156 council-run schools in Oxfordshire, 143 were in surplus.

Of those in deficit, two were nursery schools, seven were primary schools and one was a special school - Northfield School in Blackbird Leys.

Three secondary schools were recorded with deficits, but two of these had no figures recorded in the table because they have since converted into academies.

This week, research by the independent Reform think tank found that more than one in four local authority maintained secondary schools in England are 'in the red'.

Carterton Community College teaches about 600 pupils, and was rated 'requires improvement' by Ofsted in June.

Despite some concerns, it did praise 'ambitious' governors and rated personal development, behaviour and welfare 'good'.

The school was approached for comment about its finances.

Oxfordshire County Council declined to comment on whether or not the school had plans to convert into an academy, and said this is a matter for its governing board.

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The council's Schools Forum, which represents governors and headteachers, released a report in June into the school revenue figures for the year ending March 2019.

It said: "There does not seem to be any particular, unifying, cause or causes for a school to be in a deficit position. 

"A number of issues, either singularly or in combination underpin the reasons for schools to be in deficit. 

"These contributory factors as experienced by schools continue to include: Temporary additional costs whilst class sizes are growing; Unforeseen expenditure where no contingency existed; A significant decline in pupil numbers, particular in small schools and the inability to make proportionate, immediate, savings; Short-term staff restructuring costs (redundancy); Weaknesses in the control and monitoring of expenditure; Insufficient information to and challenge by governors; Expenditure having to be incurred earlier than planned; Timing of payments at year-end."