A BRADFORD school already in a perilous financial situation is likely to "continue to significantly overspend" in the coming years.

Hanson School's spiralling deficit has continued to be a major concern for council and school bosses in recent years.

And a new report into the school's finances reveals that by March its deficit is likely to have reached £4.16 million.

The report will be discussed by members of Bradford Council's Corporate Scrutiny Committee next Thursday.


They will be told that the deficit has been down to a perfect storm of the school being locked into a costly PFI contract, a recent drop in pupil numbers, and the school governing body also being responsible for an on site sports facility.

In recent years members of several Council committees, as well as the district's Schools Forum, have called for more details on how the school has accrued such a deficit. Education bosses have often replied by saying many of the issues could not be disclosed in public.

Call for report into perilous finances of Hanson School -which one Councillor says is 'too big to fail'

Although the new report going to the Scrutiny Committee does refer to some exempt information, it does contain more information than many of the previous reports into Hanson School.

The school was put into special measures in 2010 following a critical Ofsted report. The Department for Education made an order to convert Hanson into an academy in 2011. Initially the Schools Partnership Trust agreed to take over the school, but dropped out in 2015.

Wakefield Academies Trust then agreed to take on the school, but withdrew in late 2016, meaning Hanson remains a Bradford Council run school.

It came out of Special Measures in January 2018 and is now "Requires Improvement" according to Ofsted.

Hanson School was built using PFI funding, and as such is in a 25 year contract where it is required to pay £934,000 a year for "premises related costs as well as a proportion of contractual repayment capital liabilities."

Hanson's Governing Board also has a contractual responsibility relating to the provision of sports facilities on site. The report adds: "The Council is not party to that contract and therefore, due to commercial confidentially is not able to discuss in detail."

The report reveals that pupil numbers at the school "significantly" reduced in 2015 and again in 2016. Schools are funded per pupil, so this resulted in a significant reduction in funding.

By October 2017 the school was running below capacity by 199 pupils.

But members of the committee will be told that pupil numbers have started to rebound, with 300 new pupils starting this September compared to 284 in September 2018.

The school's original deficit for 2019/20 was forecast at £4 million, but extra funding announced by the government meant reduced this by £500,000.

Due to current rules regarding academies, if a school with a deficit becomes an academy, that deficit is transferred to the local authority - meaning Bradford taxpayers would have to foot the bill.

Members of the committee will be told that the Council has set aside £650,000 to manage the school's deficit.

"The report says: "The beginning of the School’s overspending in 2015/16 can be explained with reference to a school in Special Measures, with overspends in key related budget areas, including in teaching supply costs and pupil alternative provision.

"Schools in special measures, especially for an extended period of time, typically spend more due to staffing, leadership and pupil behaviour issues as well as in seeking to invest to recover standards.

"The most significant factor behind the growth of deficit in 2016/17 (+ £1m) and 2017/18 (+£1.1m), and one of the main legacy issues that the School is now seeking to recover from, is that the School’s spending did not reduce sufficiently to balance the reduction in funding that came from a reduction in pupil numbers in October 2015 and October 2016.

"It is important to identify that Hanson School faced these circumstances over a period when the real terms value of funding has been heavily eroded in particular by the growth in salaries costs.

"Hanson’s Governing Board on April 30 2019 formally agreed the School’s 2019/20 budget, which overspends by £0.654m, meaning that the School’s deficit at March 2020 is forecasted on this basis to be £4.16m.

"The School’s formally submitted three year budget also indicates that the School will continue to significantly overspend in future years."

The report says the Council is working with the school to balance the budget, adding: "Work is taking place to identify further savings that can be made with the aim of bringing the in year spending position of the School into balance as quickly as possible.

"The outcomes of this work – at what point the School’s budget will balance and what action is needed to deliver this – are not yet established but will be as soon as possible."

An auditor for the Department for Education is also soon to visit Hanson to "help identify key areas of efficiency and saving."

The committee meets in City Hall at 5.30pm next Thursday.