Troubled Birmingham School Has £3 Million Debt

A troubled Birmingham faith school is running almost £3 million in the red with the taxpayer saddled with its liabilities, the council has revealed.

New leadership had to be brought in to Al-Hijrah School in Birmingham last year, after the council forced out the old governors and sacked its headteacher amid claims of financial irregularities and poor education standards.

The scale of the voluntary-aided school's financial woes have been laid bare by Birmingham City Council which said auditors now believed the school's estimated deficit by the end of this financial year would be "in the region of over #3 million''.

It comes as a council inquiry is continuing into allegations £1 million of public money sent to the Bordesley Green school found its way to funding construction of a school in Pakistan.

Late last year, the new council-backed executive headteacher informed parents the taxpayer was shelling out £470,000 in rent and classroom hire costs just to keep the gates open.

In May last year, a Government-backed team took over running the school, and has been tackling what Ofsted recently called "a number of financial irregularities'' left over from the time of the previous regime.

The council say the massive deficit is "due to the financial situation we inherited''.

It has also warned the figure is likely to grow because the council has "a duty to improve the school environment and ensure the children have access to the resources they deserve.''

While the liability is the school's, the deficit is included on the cash-strapped council's own balance sheet.

It recently emerged in a letter from the then executive headteacher Graham Hardy, that before they were pushed out, the old school governors renegotiated the site lease from a peppercorn rate of #1 up to #300,000.

Mr Hardy said the cash was payable annually to the Al-Hijrah Trust, which manages the site, and that ``the money is taken from the budget allocated by the local authority to employ teachers and provide resources''.

The annual budget for running the school is £3 million, which is Government money passed on to Al-Hijrah through the council.

In his letter, Mr Hardy said the school buildings, which are still the Al-Hijrah Trust's responsibility to maintain, had several "serious'' issues including a leaking roof that could cost up to £500,000 to repair.

He told parents the school was also having to pay £170,000 a year for temporary on-site classrooms.

But "there are currently no negotiations taking place with the Al-Hijrah Trust regarding the substantial repair bill for the school building,'' the council said.

The new leadership has since had to buy £12,000 of dining tables and chairs after finding pupils had been eating meals while sat on the floor.

Parents were also told £32,177 had to be spent on pupil safeguarding, including secure external doors and working CCTV.

Following a full structural survey of the site, a £16,000 electrical fault was uncovered, while engineers found "serious issues'' with the school's badly leaking roof, which could cost up to £500,000 to fix.

Alongside its financial problems, the previous leadership team had failed to introduce a new national curriculum last year or appoint enough teachers.

The school has since had to pay £15,000 towards new curriculum materials and training, including the hire of a consultant.

A council spokesman said: "The overall deficit, taking account of the overspending from the previous financial year is likely to be in excess of £3 million.

"Further discussions will be taking place to determine cost implications for next year's budget.

"This is due to the financial situation we inherited.

"It will effectively add to the deficit but we obviously have a duty to improve the school environment and ensure the children have access to the resources they deserve.''

The school was not linked to the Trojan Horse allegations which emerged in March, last year.



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