‘Significant financial impact’ of high school’s expansion

The local high school, which this year landed nearly £3m to improve and extend facilities, has predicted a cash crisis as its funding lags behind pupil numbers.
In its annual report, Alsager Multi Academy Trust said the expansion of Alsager School would have “a significant financial impact”.
This is due to the school suffering from lagged funding through a five year expansion period, as children from new developments start to move to the high school. Pupil numbers are expected to increase by 130.
The annual report said lagged funding over the years 2019-20 to 2023-24 for these pupils was likely to be in the region of £450,000.
There is no indication as to what, if any, problems this might cause in Alsager — but Congleton’s Eaton Bank Academy was forced to join the Fallibroome Trust last year after it suffered a similar crisis.
With funding lagging behind pupil numbers, Eaton Bank was forced to borrow £297,000 against future pupil numbers from the Education and Skills Funding Agency.
The Congleton academy’s 2018 annual report questioned the academy’s ability to continue as a going concern; the academy also had to borrow £63,000 to meet essential costs — including staff salaries — in 2019 and repayments of the £360,000 were due to start in July 2019, with the balance to be paid by 31st August 2022. However, the agency wrote off the debt when the academy joined The Fallibroome Trust.
As for this year: the annual report said Alsager Multi Academy Trust was in good health.
Most day to day income for the Alsager trust, which runs Weston Village Primary School and Alsager School, is obtained from the Education and Skills Funding Agency in the form of grants restricted to particular purposes.
The report said that during the year to 31st August 2019, total expenditure was £8m and “more than covered” by grant income from the agency, together with other resources.
The trust also received other grants from the agency and other organisations, notably £960,000 for two successful condition improvement fund applications and £2.7m in capital funding from Cheshire East Council to fund the school expansion.
The school expansion at Alsager School allows its pupil numbers to increase by 130; the condition improvement fund paid for projects at both Weston and Alsager.
The report said the trustees hoped to build a reserve of designated funds of at least 5% of annual income to safeguard against unforeseen circumstances, capital improvements or developments, late agency payments, “emergencies and other catastrophes”.
The report also discussed pupil funding, saying Cheshire East was one of the lowest funded authorities, so the trust’s overall funding was “considerably lower” than almost all other local authorities. Pupil funding rates were lower than some of the school’s closest neighbours and remained the trust’s most significant risk.
In the classroom, Alsager School’s Progress 8 score in 2019 of +0.23 was above average and in the top 30% of schools nationally for the third year running.
Other performance indicators included 78% of pupils getting 4+ in GCSE English and maths and 55% get 5+; 26% achieving an Ebacc GCSE; 98% getting A-level grades A*-E and 70% grades A*-C.
Expected standard for KS2 was reading 64%, writing 72% and maths 72%, with 28% above the expected standard for reading, 8% for writing and 233% in maths.
Alsager School was designated as the lead school for the Cheshire and Wirral Maths Hub starting on 1st September, and nationally designated as an anti-bullying accredited school as part of The Diana Award, the only school in Cheshire to achieve this.
Alsager Multi Academy Trust acts as a custodian trustee for Alsager Community Trust. The aim of this is to provide increased opportunities for all young people aged 5-18 within Alsager and raise achievement across all six schools in the trust: Alsager School, Highfields, Cranberry, Excalibur, Pikemere and St Gabriel’s.
Leadership and management at Alsager School was judged outstanding during its last Ofsted visit with the quality of governance being stated as very strong.
Total funding for education from the agency was £7.2m, with other grants of £412,570 and local authority grants of £184,016.
The report shows that catering income was £65,628; miscellaneous income £132,734; lettings income £15,409; placement income £25,595; training income £6,495, and music income £24,876.
Staff costs during the year included wages and salaries of £5.35m, totalling £6.6m when other costs were added.
Staff restructuring cost £4,815 in redundancy payments, with severance payments of £4,949.
The average number of people employed by the academy during the year was 200: 104 teachers, 86 support staff and 10 management.
Three members of staff earned £60,001-£70,000 and one £100,001-£110,000.
Everybody Sports and Recreation provides the trust with the use of its facilities for a fee. During the year, Everybody Sports and Recreation paid the trust £15,351 for the hire of the outdoor pitches and the trust incurred costs from it of £18,122 for hire of leisure facilities.