A recent report has raised alarms about the financial health of nearly half of the schools in Brighton and Hove, prompting warnings that the local council might be compelled to provide financial support to these struggling educational institutions.
According to a recent report presented to the Brighton and Hove City Council’s Strategy, Finance, and City Regeneration Committee, a significant number of council-maintained schools, precisely 33 out of 61, find themselves in a precarious financial position with licensed deficits. This financial challenge coincides with an increase in the number of schools in the region with surplus capacity.
The Chief Financial Officer of Brighton and Hove City Council presented a comprehensive overview of the situation during a committee meeting on Thursday, December 7. The government allocates a dedicated schools grant amounting to £198 million annually, which the council then disburses to schools. However, in cases where schools overspend beyond their allocated budgets, the council may find itself obligated to step in and provide additional funding to help them restore financial equilibrium.
The licensed deficits for the current financial year stand at a significant £4.39 million, as revealed to councillors. This figure is only marginally lower than the £4.54 million surplus recorded at the close of the most recent full financial year, 2022-23.
During the committee meeting, concerns were raised about a potential £573,000 overspend beyond the existing surplus. Questions were posed regarding whether this additional funding would need to be sourced from the council’s budget and if the funding shortfall was linked to a decline in student enrollment in Brighton and Hove, as educational funding is typically based on pupil numbers.
The council’s representative acknowledged that the current budget situation was a “close call” and reassured the committee that the council is actively working to assist schools in achieving a balanced financial position. However, he noted that having more than half of the schools in deficit is “highly unusual.” While unable to provide a national context, it was suggested that falling pupil numbers, coupled with below-inflation increases in the dedicated schools grant over several years, were contributing to the financial challenges faced by schools in Brighton and Hove.
The council is currently in the midst of public consultations regarding the proposed closure of two primary schools and the reduction of admission numbers at nine others due to a surplus of available spaces. The forecasts indicate a significant gap between available primary school places and the expected number of children requiring placement in 2025 and 2026.
A debate on the proposed closure of two undersubscribed primary schools is scheduled for Thursday, December 14. Concerns have also been raised by parents from various schools, with active campaigns against reductions in student intakes from 2025.
Public consultations, which are accessible on the council’s website, include proposals to cut admission numbers at several primary schools, starting from September 2025. The outcome of these consultations will undoubtedly impact the educational landscape in Brighton and Hove, with the financial health of schools hanging in the balance.