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School's £578k shortfall shock

PUBLISHED: 16:45 19 March 2009 | UPDATED: 13:23 03 July 2010

AN investigation has been launched into financial management at a Gorleston school after it was revealed it has a funding shortfall of up to £578,000.

Twenty staff at Oriel High School, including teachers, classroom assistants and managers, are facing redundancy in a bid to claw back some of the cash.

AN investigation has been launched into financial management at a Gorleston school after it was revealed it has a funding shortfall of up to £578,000.

Twenty staff at Oriel High School, including teachers, classroom assistants and managers, are facing redundancy in a bid to claw back some of the cash.

Staff were dealt the bitter blow on Monday following a meeting with senior managers and school governors - with teachers said to be disappointed by the move following the

school's recent progress. News of the overspend has only come to light near the end of the financial year.

Improved GCSE results last year had boosted confidence, with teachers optimistic that achievement could be raised even higher, but the looming cuts have sparked fears that progress will be hampered.

Chairman of the governors, Trevor Wainwright, said as far as he was aware headteacher Paul Butler, who is currently on sick leave following a road accident, was not aware of the budgetary situation.

Staff will now take part in a five-week consultation period over redundancies, and Mr Wainwright said he hoped the need for compulsory redundancies would be reduced by some of the 100-plus staff opting for voluntary redundancy.

He said: “It will not affect the running of the school at all. Education will not be affected and I feel the school will become stronger out of this.”

Mr Wainwright explained a key factor in the funding shortfall was pupil numbers in years seven and eight being 120 lower than predicted, with each child bringing in £3,000.

“Basically, we are over-staffed,” he said.

He said despite Oriel being classed as a Challenged School by the government, massive improvements had, and were continuing to be, made in education. Recent audit reports carried out by the county council were positive and identified Oriel was an improving school.

Mr Wainwright added governors would continue to work alongside staff throughout the redundancy consultation period and said Oriel had “committed and dedicated” staff who would ensure the future success of the school.

He pledged an independent audit of the school's accounts.

Acting headteacher Naomi Palmer said her message to parents was that provision for students would not be affected. Their commitment to personalised learning, raising standards in English and Maths and enabling children to take GCSEs early was unwavering.

She said: “We are not going to sacrifice those things for financial reasons.”

A county council spokeswoman said: “We recently reviewed progress being made at the school, and are very happy with the level of education being provided for students.

“But, in light of this significant budget shortfall, we will be working closely with the governors and senior management at Oriel to help them investigate the matter, and ensure there is no disruption to the students' education.”

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