BRADFORD’S political leaders have been urged to “dig their heels in” to help reduce a Bradford school’s £5.1 million deficit.

The issue of Hanson School’s spiraling deficit was raised at a meeting of Bradford Council’s Executive yesterday morning.

A report into the Council’s finances revealed that the Swain House school, which at over 1,600 pupils is one of Bradford’s biggest, had seen its deficit rise from £4.3m to £5.1m in the past year.

It comes as the school approaches the 10th anniversary of being given an academy order by the Government - forcing Bradford Council to hand over control of the school to a private academy chain.

But in the decade since the order, no academy has been willing to take on the school, and it remains in local authority control.

The deficit at the school has been rising for a number of years, and previous meetings discussing the issue have heard it is due to a mix of the school being locked into a costly PFI contract, a drop in pupil numbers a number of years ago due to poor results, and the school governing body also being responsible for an on site sports facility.

A report to the Executive said pressures relating to the Covid 19 pandemic are an additional reason for the increasing deficit.

Hanson School’s deficit rises to £5.1 MILLION

At the meeting Councillor Mike Pollard (Cons, Baildon) said: “It is time for Bradford’s political leadership to dig its heels in.”

He pointed out that it has been almost a decade since the school was given an academy order, adding: “We are approaching the ten year anniversary of Hanson getting an academy order without any academy trust wanting to touch Hanson with a ten foot barge pole.

“This deficit issue seems to be a standing item on the agenda of the Corporate Scrutiny Committee.”

Referring to the fact that the deficit had been rising by around £750,000 a year recently, Cllr Pollard added: “I acknowledge Covid won’t have helped, but let’s not pretend that is the core problem here. The school finances need radical restructuring.”

He said he realised aspects were out of the control of the Council, but asked what the Council was doing to put pressure on the Department for Education to act.

Councillor Imran Khan, Executive for Education, Employment and Skills, pointed out the school’s recent history. He said in one four year period the school had four heads, and three academy trusts had come forward to take over the school, only for all those deals to fall through.

He said: “Our main focus is raising standards of the school.”

He told the meeting that the current governing body and leadership team were helping improve the school’s standards, adding: “They are starting to turn things around. The current head teacher is doing a fantastic job. he has come in and stayed at the school under challenging circumstances.”

Cllr Khan said: “I’m sorry to say a lot of this is out of our control.

“The government has failed this school, they have had opportunities to step in and help.

“We hope at some point in the very near future things may change to bring the deficit down.

“Hanson is one of our biggest schools and we have to make sure it continues to operate and offer its pupils the best possible chances.

“You’re right, this issue has become a regular item at meetings, and we’re doing everything we can to bring this under control.”

The Department for Education has been contacted for a response.