COUNCIL chiefs are taking money from children to pay for a £3.3 million mistake by bureaucrats, according to a headteacher, speaking on behalf of his colleagues.

Fairlight Primary head Damien Jordan said: “Headteachers across Brighton and Hove cannot support the council’s decision to take money from schools and children’s education.”

It was being taken to pay for what he said was ultimately an historical error made by Brighton and Hove City Council.

Blatchington Mill head Ashley Harrold said the council was taking the money without the consent of heads and governors and the Schools Forum, their representative body.

The remarks were made at a meeting of the Schools Forum this week.

The mistake came to light last year when the council told schools staff employed during term-time only were not receiving enough holiday pay.

As a result, the Local Government Association, which represents councils, agreed a new formula with the unions representing school staff.

It meant support staff were owed between 0.65 and one extra week’s pay a year depending on grade, length of service and the number of weeks a year that they worked.

The council said on Monday that schools would have to foot the bill for 43 per cent of the £3.3 million owed to staff due to the pay formula error.

This would work out at £142,000 a year, paid back over ten years, with special schools and secondaries hit hardest as they employ the most staff to work term-time only.

The Argus: Fairlight Primary and Nursery School could. Photo: Paul GillettFairlight Primary and Nursery School could. Photo: Paul Gillett

Headteachers’ representatives have called for a meeting with councillors because they do not believe that schools should pay for the council’s mistake.

Mr Harrold, who represents secondary school heads on the forum, criticised the lack of discussion with schools. He said: “The term-time back pay agreement was negotiated without input from schools and has not been approved by primary or secondary schools at the Schools Forum.

“At a time when schools are incurring large additional costs in order to run safely during Covid, this is an unwelcome additional cost.

“It should be noted that these charges are for mistakes that were made centrally and were beyond any school’s control.

“It remains vital that schools have the finances to run effectively. The children of Brighton and Hove deserve no less.”

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The council’s acting finance chief Nigel Manvell said there was no other option than for schools to pay a share of the debt over the next ten years.

He said: “When we were originally looking at this problem pre-pandemic, pre Covid and pre lots of financial angst for all sides, we were looking at some potential options.

“The council is looking at a £17 million budget gap next year and the spending review announcements may be slightly better than we could have hoped for but they are not the answer.”