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THOUSANDS OF SCHOOLS FACE DEBT CRISIS

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Thousands of run-down schools are facing crippling debt because their budgets are too low to cover the costs of edu...
Thousands of run-down schools are facing crippling debt because their budgets are too low to cover the costs of education, reported The Observer (p9).

New figures from the DfEE reveal that 2,470 schools - more than 10% of the schools in England and wales - were in deficit last year. Senior education sources estimate the total debt ould be as much as£200 million.

Education secretary David Blunkett will this week announce measures to reduce paperwork faced by schools. In a speech to the national Association of Head Teachers on Thursday he will say directives and initiatives delivered to schools by his department must be reduced by half. He will also praise teachers for the good work they are doing to raise standards in teaching maths and English.

Critics say the debt figures reveal how far Mr Blunkett has to go to ensure that schools are delivering better standards. The debt figures blow a hole in government attempts to resolve school problems with one-off windfall payments, agreed in the Budget, of between£9,000 and£40,000.

Head teachers point out that instead of being used to buy new equipemnt, the payments are disppearing into a black hole of debt. Kevin Short - brother of international development secretary Clare Short - who last week resigned as head of Hamp Junior School in Bridgewater, Somerset, told The Observer he had to cut back on modernising his school because he was fighting a£30,000 deficit. The school could not afford a full-time caretaker and he and other volunteers had to go in at weekends to do decorating.

One school on Tyneside has debts of£128,000, up from£44,000 the year before, while another has debts of£112,000, up from£32,000.

Judith Elderkin, head teacher of Marlborough Road Primary School in Salford, Greater Manchester, said she was considering laying off two senior members of staff because money was so tight. He school faces a deficit of£100,000 this year. 'As staff costs make up 90% of my budget that is the area you have to look at,' she said.

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