SEVEN schools in West Berkshire ended the financial year with a budget deficit totalling £254,145.

Westwood Farm Federation, Beenham, St Finians and the Willink had licensed deficits while Stockcross, Welford & Wickham and Enborne primary school had unlicensed deficits.

Licensed deficits mean the council approves the budget and works with the schools on their budget.

Unlicensed deficits are not approved by the council, but each of the three schools have submitted balanced budgets for this financial year.

Five schools started last year in deficit but are now in surplus: the Willows, Kintbury St Mary’s, Parson’s Down, St Johns and John Rankin Federation.

Ian Pearson, head of education at West Berkshire Council, congratulated schools who came out of deficit, at a meeting of the schools forum on June 17.

He said: “Schools need to be congratulated for this. They have worked extremely hard. Those headteachers will have had to consider some very difficult decisions.”

However, the scale of budget cuts was questioned by Reverend Mark Bennet, who is a governor at Kennet school.

Rev Bennet said: “Some of the reductions are astonishing. Is that being done without disadvantage to the education of the children?

“Are the schools taking enough care of the children in reducing the budgets that much?”

Mr Pearson said: “Head teachers put the needs of children at the forefront. But it’s not without pain.

“Clearly some of the efficiencies still have a degree of pain, [such as] losing staff or tightening of the curriculum offer.”

David Ramsden, head teacher at Little Heath school, said: “It all comes with pain. We had to make a decision around our A-level offer. It all comes at a cost.

“But most headteachers take the view that children come first. We don’t make decisions lightly, but we want to avoid a deficit at all cost.”

Across England, total school spending per pupil has fallen by 8.6 per cent in real terms over the last decade, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies. Reversing these cuts would cost £3.8 billion.