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School £1m in debt

ROSE COLLINSON: says she isn't expecting the Department for Education to take any action
ROSE COLLINSON: says she isn't expecting the Department for Education to take any action

AN ADMINISTRATIVE slip-up has left a Kent secondary school in a deep financial mess.

Staff at Gillingham's Upbury Arts College have been told that the school is up to £1million in deficit.

It is the worst of 14 schools in Medway that last week the Medway Messenger nespaper exclusively revealed were facing deficits.

Another secondary school - which has not been named - is also thought to be facing six figure overspending this year. It has been described as in "substantial deficit".

Senior council officials would not be drawn on the detail of the alleged loss at the specialist school, but it is thought to be between £700,000 and £1million.

"Upbury Arts College has a significant deficit but the local education authority is assured that the school will balance its budget this year," said the council's spokesman, Darren Bindloss.

"We are working actively with the school and its staff to address the situation. The plans to improve the financial position at the school will not detract from pupils learning - indeed, making the curriculum stimulating and motivating for students is a priority."

Education director Rose Collinson said she did not expect the Department for Education and Skills to take any action, though it had been informed of the deficit. To balance the books, redundancies may be needed.

The head teacher, Judy Rider, took up her duties a month ago, and is now having to reorganise staff.

One insider said: "This is probably the worst school's budget problem in the whole of Kent. There is to be a restructuring plan involving the unions and personnel from Medway. In other words, people are going to lose their jobs."

Mr Bindloss said: "This will involve some staffing reorganisation to build on strengths and meet the Government agenda.

"Staffing issues or reorganisations are a matter for the individual schools concerned."

The school was given an £800,000 grant in August [2003] to build a new staff room, two years after a £2.5 million reconstruction was carried out.

Ms Rider has not responded to invitations to comment on the situation.

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