Secondary school in Harlesden battling £500k financial blackhole

Newman Catholic College

Newman Catholic College - Credit: Archant

Defecit at Newman Catholic College revealed following the departure of headmaster Richard Kolka

Richard Kolka has stepped down as headteacher

Richard Kolka has stepped down as headteacher - Credit: Archant

A struggling secondary school in Harlesden is battling with a half million pound deficit, it has been revealed.

The news has come as a double whammy for Newman Catholic College (NCC) following the departure of its headmaster Richard Kolka last month.

Mr Kolka was suspended from his post in January but resigned before an investigation into allegations against him was completed.

It is believed that the school, in Harlesden Road, has struggled with its finances and has a financial black hole of around £500,000.

A source told the Times that the school had struggled to cope and claimed that broken boilers had not been fixed, causing children to wear overcoats in the classroom, and that non-specialist teachers were teaching other classes while staff were being forced to cover for one another.

Financial auditors from Brent Council visited the school for a week in February this year and are currently drawing up their report.

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The exact reasons for Mr Kolka’s departure are unknown but a council spokesman previously said concerns had been raised over “management issues.”

In a letter, seen by the Times and sent to all members of staff, Mr Kolka, who joined the school in 2003, put his decision to leave down to “a combination of circumstances”.

NCC, which was formely called Cardinal Hinsley School, has struggled in recent years.

Last year only 35 per cent of pupils achieved the five A* C grades, including maths and English, falling below the government’s benchmark of 40 per cent.

Danny Coyle, acting head-teacher at NCC, said he and staff were unaware of the reasons for Mr Kolka’s departure, but admitted that they first noticed debts around 18 months ago.

He said: “We had to make sure we had a plan in place to deal with it. There have been no staff redundancies, but we had to look at where we could trim down on services.”

He added that there were five boilers in the school, one of which was being repaired, but said it was “absolute nonsense” that staff were being forced to cover for each other.

He added: “All the problems are behind us and we are working on a balanced budget. We have paid off around £300,000 of the debt and have a clear plan in place to pay the rest. Our recent Ofsted report [good in 2011] shows we are improving.”

A Brent spokesman said: “NCC has a plan in place to repay its budget deficit as would be expected of any school in a similar position. A recent audit was carried out at the school. This was part of the council’s normal audit cycle for Brent schools.”