Just two secondaries rack up half of city high school debt

James Gillespie's High School. Picture: Jon Savage
James Gillespie's High School. Picture: Jon Savage
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TWO secondaries have been ordered to make savings after amassing deficits worth £413,000.

James Gillespie’s High School (JGHS) and Trinity Academy accounted for around half of the £832,000 overspend recorded for the entire city in 2014-15.

Trinity High School. Picture: Jon Savage

Trinity High School. Picture: Jon Savage

Headteachers at 11 of Edinburgh’s 23 high schools have now been tasked with implementing plans aimed at balancing the books.

The figures have sparked alarm and anger among parents’ leaders, who said they could have important implications for general classroom spending.

And they stressed that staff based in older or listed buildings may have very little “wriggle room” when it comes to reducing costs in areas such as heating and lighting.

Andrew Macmillan, parent council chair at Trinity, said: “Trinity Academy has a new, dynamic headteacher, Bryan Paterson, who has introduced many great initiatives to achieve excellence in all areas, and parents would be concerned if the council’s plans to reduce the historic overspend, which was not of the new head teacher’s making, impacted on these initiatives or our children’s education.

“We have a good working relationship with the council, which is fully supportive of these initiatives, and we understand the council’s severe budget pressures.

“You would need to ask the council how these overspends in a number of Edinburgh secondary schools have been allowed to build up – it may well be due to budget cuts imposed on schools over the years.”

He added: “I understand from Councillor [Paul] Godzik’s reply in the full council meeting last week that there is a plan to reduce these overspends, and am sure that the council would not wish this plan to have any adverse impact on our children’s schools.

“Parents therefore want these historic overspends to be written off by the council when schools’ budgets are so tight, just as Castlebrae Community High School’s much higher overspend was written off a couple of years ago.”

Parent council leaders at JGHS warned that budget pressures were already having a significant impact, with concerns raised over pupil trips not being run and a lack of text books.

A spokeswoman said: “We will be attending this year’s budget meeting and will respond on any fresh proposals as required. We also have an active fund-raising group, and are working with the school to help where possible.”

Opposition figures have called for “urgent” action to establish why overspends had been allowed to build up.

Councillor Jason Rust, Conservative education spokesman, who requested the budget data, said: “There seems to be an inconsistency in terms of sums being written off in the case of some schools, but not others.”

Councillor Godzik, education leader, said: “School budgets are monitored closely and where there is an overspend for any school an action plan is in place to reduce it over an agreed period. In addition new training is being rolled out which includes assessment of financial controls.”

johnpaul.holden@edinburghnews.com