The trust running Samuel Ward Academy in Haverhill says it expects to wipe out a £921,000 budget deficit at the school within three years.
Figures seen by the Haverhill Echo in the wake of the decision by Samuel Ward Academy Trust (SWAT) to start charging the parents of pupils in Hundon, Glemsford and Clare for school transport to Samuel Ward showed that the deficit went from £761 in 2015 to £921,798 12 months later.
The huge rise in debt is down to a delay in funding being received for the rising number of children joining the school.
The funding delay is also behind the decision to stop the free transport, as Mark Neild, the deputy CEO and director of Education (secondary) at SWAT, explained: “A large part of the deficit faced by Samuel Ward Academy is due to the way schools are funded, namely through lagged funding.
“The Academy has been for many years a very popular school amongst its community.
“The numbers joining each year recently have exceeded those departing in Year 11.
“The increase in numbers naturally necessitates an increase in staffing and therefore costs.”
“The funding the Academy receives for these extra students is given to the Academy a year after the students arrive at the school.
“Through careful management of costs at the Academy, our projections show it coming out of deficit within three years.
“We are making tough decisions such as reducing the subsidy for bus travel in order to make these savings in such a way as to have no negative impact on educational experiences of our students.”
The Trust’s pre-tax profits plummeted by more than £25 million between August 2015 and August 2106, going from £28,179,295 to £3,142,082.
Mr Neild said the drop was in relation to building projects carried out by the Trust in the last couple of years or so, which has seen the construction of two new schools in the shape of The Sybil Andrews Academy in Bury St Edmunds and Thomas Gainsborough School in Great Cornard (formerly Great Cornard Upper School).
He said: “The difference between 2015 and 2016 are in relation to new build projects carried out within the Trust.
“This money was received by the Trust only for the new build projects.”
Asked if the growth of the Trust, which now has 19 schools under its control, is impacting on services offered by Samuel Ward Academy, Mr Neild answered: “Yes, but only in a positive way.
“Governors, senior and middle leaders, heads of departments and teachers all have access to a much wider range of training and support activities.
“For example, heads of department meet across the Trust termly to moderate work, plan curriculum and discuss teaching and learning techniques.
“Governors also have access to regular training including an annual conference event and leaders are able, for example, to complete the NPQML, NPQSL and NPQH qualifications through our Teaching School Alliance.”