A BRADFORD school has run up a budget deficit of over £1.8 million - with over £1 million racked up in the past year alone.

New figures show nine schools in the district have a deficit totalling £2.3 million, but £1.86 million of this is due solely to the financial problems at Hanson School.

At a meeting of the Bradford Schools Forum yesterday a top council officer blamed the eye-watering figure on the fact that the Department for Education had been unable to convert the school to an academy, despite six years of trying.

The forum had been given a list of all the council-run schools in the district, and their revenue balance as of March 2017. Although most schools have a surplus budget, the vast majority have a much lower surplus than just one year ago.

During the discussion, the focus was on the huge deficit of Hanson.

The DfE first announced plans to turn Hanson into an academy in 2011. The school was due to be part of the Schools Partnership Trust, but that plan collapsed. The most recent attempt at turning it into an academy ended last year when the Wakefield City Academies Trust pulled out of plans to add the 1,700-pupil school in Swain House to the trust.

The school is currently working with Leeds-based Gorse Academies Trust to turn its fortunes around, and a new governing body was recently installed.

Judith Kirk, Bradford Council’s deputy director of education, told the meeting that the Council had proposed a similar arrangement, a federated model that would see the school partnered with another local school, back when the first attempt at academisation failed, but that it was shot down by the DfE.

She said: “A lot of this overspend could have been avoided if a timely conversion to an academy took place with DfE funding and sponsorship.

“Twenty months ago the local authority suggesting moving to a federated model, and this was put forward to the regional schools commissioner. The proposal was rejected.

“The DfE has now implemented a similar model to what we proposed 20 months ago. If this original plan would have been accepted by the DfE, then the school’s budget would be looking very different.

“When a school is placed under an academy order it is the responsibility of the DfE to move forward as soon as possible. None of this turmoil would have happened if a conversion would have taken place much sooner.”

She said “conversations” were currently taking place between the Council and the DfE on the school’s future, and that she was confident the new governing body was working hard to reduce the deficit any way it could.

Members raised concerns that the deficit figure could balloon even further unless an academy sponsor was found soon.

Forum chairman Dominic Wall said: “We have always had significant concerns about when a school’s budget gets out of control. We have been aware of issues at Hanson and were willing to help with a recovery plan and allocate resources early on. That could have helped solve the problem at the time, unfortunately the resources we have are no longer sufficient.

“A moral hazard occurs when one person takes more risks but another party bears the cost of that risk. It really is an unbearable circumstance and we should express the highest level of concern about the lack of progress. The rest of the schools in the district will all bear this cost.”

Deputy chairman Diane Rowbotham, head of nearby Swain House Primary, said: “I’m very unhappy about this situation, both from a financial point of view and for local families, who feel very strongly about the need for the school to succeed.”

A DfE spokesman told the Telegraph & Argus: “We have put in place a strong school improvement partner for Hanson School which we believe is in the best interests of the school and pupils.”