Fourteen Lewisham schools are in financial deficit with seven more at risk of a shortfall in April, it has emerged.

While a school may set its own budget, the council is ultimately responsible for each school’s budget and its performance.

The deficits are among the “issues” with the schools budget, cabinet member for finance, Cllr Amanda de Ryk, said.

Schools continue to face pressures in their budgets from salary increases, contract price increases and paying into the apprenticeship levy.

Other concerns include a potential drop in the number of children eligible for pupil premium – money given to schools each year by the Government to improve the attainment of disadvantaged children.

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Speaking at a public accounts select committee, she said: “Members will note the issues with the schools budget.

“Fourteen schools are in deficit. Some have reserves which they can use against the deficit.

“Schools funding is flat, which leaves schools to absorb inflation,” she explained.

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But a drop in Lewisham’s population could also spell a further drop in funds, with a possibility fewer children will be eligible for pupil premium, Cllr de Ryk explained.

Lewisham lost 403 pupils over the 12 months ending October 2018, the bulk of which were from the borough’s primary schools.

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While this is a “relatively small risk at present”, school funding is driven by pupil numbers and associated characteristics like free school meals.

She said: “We have the other issue that pupil premium income could drop, given there is an overall drop in the number of people in Lewisham and also those that might be eligible for free school meals.”

Changes in legislation have meant the council will have to have a more “hands-on” role with schools in deficit, according to council documents.

While the Department for Education has made a commitment to support funding for teachers’ pay increases and pensions nation-wide, the details of this are not yet known.