TWO schools in County Durham could become part of a trust because of fears they will become financially unviable.

Durham County Council is proposing to create a multi-academy trust incorporating Wellfield School, in Wingate, east Durham, and Tanfield School, near Stanley.

The two schools have a combined deficit balance of about £4million, of which £3.4m relates to Wellfield, which would be written off if the trust is approved.

Councillor Olwyn Gunn, cabinet member for children and young people’s services, said: “We have examined all options available. Because of government funding guidance and academy trust legislation we find that the multi-academy trust is the only way forward to build on the improvements already delivered at Wellfield and at the same time work for Tanfield School.”

Wellfield, which has 743 children on the roll, is one of two schools in County Durham which has been subject to a review because of significant concerns about their financial viability.

A review is also being carried out at Wolsingham School, in Weardale, while primary schools in Horden were also looked at.

The council has now outlined a number of options for how difficulties at Wellfield could be managed, including the possibility of it’s closure.

It’s preferred option is to create a multi-academy trust, which would allow the council to pay off the debt.

Governors at Wellfield, who did not want to join an existing trust, are willing to form their own, according to a report to be considered by members of the council’s cabinet next week.

The proposed partnership will have to be approved by the regional schools commissioner.

Cllr Alan Napier, cabinet member for finance, said: “It is important that schools operate with a balanced budget. The proposal for these schools to become part of a multi-academy trust will mean that we have to meet the accrued deficit balances from our reserves.

“However given the work undertaken to review educational provision in the area, we are aware that this is the only option that provides sustainable education for young people within an ever tightening financial envelope for our schools.”

The council has a £4.5m reserve to cover the budget deficit.