RAGE stands for Reydon Action Group for the Environment and they are on Facebook.
Although St Felix has not been in the news recently, we have continued to make progress behind the scenes.
St Felix Business Plan
WDC has finally handed over all of the supposedly confidential financial documents that had previously been withheld from the public.
As we expected, the school’s Business Plan is long on aspiration but short on detail. It contains no real plan to reverse the school’s financial decline and fails to provide any rationale for the proposed sale of the playing fields.
We are working on a detailed analysis but in the meantime, here are some examples of how the plan chops and changes:
The Business Plan 2013 – 2016 and a 2014 Addendum were the two main financial documents submitted to Waveney with the original planning application in 2015. The Business Plan said:
'No further capital expenditure is planned. The state of the facilities and infrastructure is good enough for the next five years.'
The Addendum only one year later set out proposed capital expenditure of £4m! It made no mention of how this was to be funded or of the proposed land sale.
But Waveney’s consultant thought it was a good plan and justified ‘enabling development!
In 2012 and 2013 a Key Objective was to build the school roll to 475 pupils.
By 2014 this had reduced to 375 pupils.
By October 2016 forecast pupil numbers were only 275 (2015-201) rising to 313 by 2018-2019.
Raising pupil numbers is key to the school’s future success. But where are the plans and which forecasts are we expected to trust?
Grants and Bursaries
The school provides grants, bursaries and scholarships which are funded almost entirely out of income. Remarkably, as the school’s financial position has deteriorated, the value of scholarships has increased so that they are now a major financial drain. In the last financial year they totalled £1,049,084 which was 22.5% of (full) fee income. This was clearly not sustainable.
The first draft of the Financial Viability Report shows that the school proposed to use £1m of land sale proceeds to establish a scholarship fund.
In subsequent versions of the Viability Report, this proposed £1m scholarship fund disappeared to be replaced by additional proposed expenditure on buildings – presumably because Waveney planners had told the school that the concept of ‘enabling development’ could not be stretched so far as to include such a fund.
The school’s financial reports suggest that the generous bursary policy is unchanged. But how will it be funded in the future if not from ‘enabling development’?
St Felix Accounts Year Ended 31.8.12
‘The Governors are delighted with the new Headmaster’s progress in developing new marketing initiatives that include a new website’
Business Plan 2013 – 2016
‘Website to be seen as our priority marketing tool as this is where parents will start when seeking information about the school. First impressions are vital. Promoting success to current parents on the web is equally important.’
Letter from Bidwells to Waveney 24.5.17
‘The website has fallen into disuse, is not up-to-date and I understand the new Headmaster has commissioned a new website with up-to-date content’
You could hardly make it up but Waveney still accepts St Felix’s financial projections at face value.
School’s Financial Management
At least the school governors have a keen sense of irony. This is from the Introduction to the Business Plan :
2002 - Since this date, the school has been very well managed financially
Coincidentally, 2002 is when the current management regime headed by Mr John Whyte took over.
Section 106 Agreement
We hope to persuade Waveney Planning Committee to think again when the s106 agreement is voted on. A first draft agreement is now under discussion with the School. When (or if) it is finalised, we have asked WDC to make it available in sufficient time to allow us to comment in advance of the Committee meeting .