Council writes off school £1.6m deficit

Local Democracy Reporting Service

James Binding

A County Durham school which is about to join a multi academy trust has had its £1.6m deficit written off by council bosses.

St Bede’s RC Comprehensive in Peterlee has been supported by the Northern Saints Academy Trust, now the Bishop Chadwick Catholic Academy Trust, since 2015.

This has put it on an "upward trajectory" after a "requires improvement" rating from Ofsted and a sharp decline in pupil numbers, Durham County Council cabinet member Olwyn Gunn said.

But full conversation could not happen without historic deficits being covered by the council, she said.

Financial liability for future years will transfer to the academy trust.

St Bede's RC Comprehensive, Peterlee

St Bede’s is the only diocesan maintained secondary school in County Durham. All other Roman Catholic secondary schools in the county have converted to academy status over the last eight years.

Ofsted says more work is needed for children's services

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Stephen Sumner

Weston-super-Mare Town Hall

Improvements to children’s services in North Somerset are disjointed and more work needs to be done, Ofsted says.

The latest report, following an inspection in March, said some children are not getting the help they need at the earliest opportunity because social workers and managers are not making consistently good decisions.

Assessments are detailed and capture children’s wishes and feelings, but they do not go into enough depth into their identities, social context, ethnicity, poverty and family identity, the government's schools watchdog said.

The last inspection, in 2017, concluded that the council’s children’s services required improvement and a follow-up visit in 2019 found large numbers of children who needed an allocated social worker.

The council is also inconsistent in helping children quickly enough if they are at risk of exploitation, but inspectors praised social workers as “reflective and thoughtful practitioners who develop positive relationships with children and their families”.

Ofsted said the experience of young people in care had improved since the last inspection, but while leaders have stabilised the workforce and relied less on agencies, they still needed to achieve consistent quality in all service areas.

Sheila Smith, North Somerset Council's director of children’s services, said: "I am confident that overall we are continuing to improve our services. I am disappointed that we have not received an overall judgement of ‘good’ at this inspection.

“There is much for us to be proud of, and still more for us to do to support our families.”