Whopping seven-figure bank balances held by some schools in Tower Hamlets

Sir John Cass Red Coat School, Stepney Way.

Sir John Cass Red Coat School, Stepney Way. - Credit: Archant

Some schools in Tower Hamlets are sitting on whopping seven-figure bank balances, with one secondary school accused of “hoarding” a cool £2million in its coffers.

Critics have blasted the practice, which occurs when schools save their unspent funds, arguing the money should be spent on what it was intended for; children’s education.

Sir John Cass’s Foundation and Red Coat School in Stepney has the biggest surplus in the country, with more than £2m sitting in its bank account, according to new figures released by the Department for Education (DfE).

Some of the money consists of pupil premium funding from the government, which distributes extra cash to schools with students from deprived backgrounds, and critics say the surplus shows the funding is either unnecessary or not being used effectively.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of teaching union the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, told the Times Educational Supplement: “It is a massive amount of money to be sitting on and this money should be spent on pupils’ education.

“While it’s perfectly legitimate to build up reserves, this level of hoarding should mean schools are held accountable. If they don’t show how the money is being spent, then they should be forced to give it back.”

But Haydn Evans, headteacher of the Church of England school in Stepney Way, is furious at the “woefully inaccurate and misleading” implication.

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He said the money is simply a roll-over budget, and the school has been saving for a major building project.

He added: “The school has to plan, like many others in Tower Hamlets, in anticipation of austerity measures and contractions in budget that are already coming through.”

The school adds “very substantially” to the pupil premium funding, he pointed out, and said the DfE has previously used the school’s financial methods as a case study for good practice.

His school is rated “outstanding” by education watchdog Ofsted and he puts that down to “the financial investment it makes in the students who are in need”.

Several other schools in Tower Hamlets are also reported to have bulging bank accounts, including George Green School on the Isle of Dogs, which has more than £1m.

But a spokeswoman for the DfE told the Advertiser that while the department expects schools to have a clear plan for using large surpluses, schools are “best placed” to manage their own budgets.

A spokeswoman for Tower Hamlets Council said: “It is the governing body of each individual school that is responsible for determining the priorities for spending, including the appropriate level of balances.

“The Schools Forum locally scrutinises individual schools’ plans annually.”