EDUCATION bosses in Wokingham, who are facing a funding gap of almost £6 million, are concerned they do not have enough money to help schools struggling with the financial impact of Covid-19.

A growing number of schools are struggling to balance the books due to the pandemic and financial support offered by the government has “fallen significantly short” of what is needed, according to a council report.

The council says the financial impact on schools “has been varied” but the loss of private income has been “one of the key sources of concern”.

At the end of the summer term, 28 Wokingham schools revealed they had lost a total of £595,000 of income, which they usually generate from breakfast clubs, after school clubs and renting out facilities such as school halls.

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The council also says that costs associated with hiring additional staff, due to due to Covid-19 bubble requirements and staff sickness, are “a growing point of concern” for schools.

Wokingham Borough Council has been handed £142.74 million of ring-fenced government cash, known as the Dedicated Schools Grant, to fund schools across the borough in 2020/21.

But the council predicts that by March 2021, it will be left with a £5.98 million deficit, which is largely due to the rising cost of special educational needs services.

According to the council, it has “a small contingency budget” of £50,000 to support schools that have been hit hard by the pandemic but “it is unlikely that the level of funds would be sufficient”.

However, 16 Wokingham schools have successfully applied for government funding to cover “exceptional costs” and more claims are being considered.

The council report states: “Government funding made available to the council to address Covid related pressures more generally has fallen significantly short of budget pressures experienced.

“Therefore no flexibility exists to consider this for schools.

“A small number of schools were already facing a very difficult financial position for the 2020/21 financial year, and it is therefore likely that a greater number will now face a budget deficit.

“The Schools Finance team are in contact with those schools already known to be facing a deficit to discuss their position in more detail and support the development of a budget action.”

It added: “It is recognised that schools across the borough are likely to be facing similar challenges.

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“While the local authority does not see details of the financial position of academies, it is assumed that similar themes will be emerging.”

Earlier this year, the council predicted a £4.88 million deficit, due to the cost of the Addington School expansion and the cost of placing children in independent special needs schools.

But it now expects that to increase by £1.09 million due to the cost of placing children in secondary schools, colleges and special needs schools outside of Wokingham.

The council says a review of spending on special educational needs services is “a key priority”.