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Saturday, December 9, 2023

School to become academy as £2.9m deficit written off

A secondary school is due to join a multi-academy trust as part of plans to clear a £2.9 million deficit in its finances.

Several years of decline in pupil numbers at Wellfield School, Wingate, has seen New College Durham Academies Trust step in to save the school from further budget difficulties.

Earlier failures in standards at Wellfield, including being rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted in 2012, meant the community lost faith in the school and first choice applications significantly declined to some of the lowest preferences for secondary schools in County Durham.

Issues around the school’s sustainability all had a detrimental impact on the popularity of the school and created “inevitable financial challenges”, a council report stated.

A new leadership team made improvements to the school, with Ofsted twice rating it ‘good’ in 2014 and 2018, but it accrued a substantial cumulative deficit. Council officials estimate the deficit, which is due to reduce to £2.841 million by 31 March 2023, would not be cleared until 2036.

New College Durham Academies Trust has academies in Consett and North Durham and hopes to expand, with Wellfield due to transfer to its ownership later this year if it receives approval from members of Durham County Council’s cabinet.

The authority said the transition is needed to secure the school’s sustainability and maintain its strong educational outcomes.

Cllr Ted Henderson, cabinet member for children and young people’s services, added: “Wellfield School plays an important part in the county’s education offer and provides a good standard of education to the communities it serves. With consistently strong attainment outcomes, it is essential that we help to secure a sustainable future for the school.

“The most effective way to do this is for the school to convert to academy status. This will allow Wellfield to maintain its strong education outcomes and to continue to grow its pupil numbers.”

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