A CITY education chief has hit back at claims that a school's financial "predicament" was down to "poor council decisions."

Southampton City Council's head of education Councillor Darren Paffey said the council has supported staff at Valentine Primary School - who have been forced to make savings of nearly half a million pounds from their budget. As reported head teacher Liz Filer has put forward plans to make "significant reductions" to staff in a bid save cash.

National Education Union then announced plans to hold a ballot over strike action - which if successful could see teachers at the school take to the picket lines.

James Ellis, NEU regional officer had said: “Valentine Primary finds itself in this predicament because of the school funding crisis caused by the government, but this has been compounded by poor decisions by the city council."

Now Cllr Paffey says "every Southampton head teacher has faced financial challenges in recent years" - and that the council has provided "significant support over several years" to help Valentine address their "growing deficit."

In a statement issued to the Echo he said: "Our finance team has worked with them, we’ve appointed other Southampton primary and secondary headteachers to look at the finances and offer expertise, and whereas schools in deficit normally have three years to turn things around, we’ve offered Valentine up to five years to do this.

"Equally, we’ve put in regular support from a School Improvement Officer to help them raise standards that Ofsted requires at Valentine."

In September 2018 Ofsted inspectors said the school "requires improvement" - and that "the school is not on track to be good at the time of the next inspection. This is because outcomes for pupils have not improved quickly enough."

As reported, the school is in line for a £1.2m city council cash injection towards a new school building - in what Cllr Paffey called an "exciting development."

But in December last year Ms Filer issued an "embarrassing" Christmas wish list to parents, asking for help with basic equipment such as pens and rulers. A Sheffield based company responded and sent thousands of items of school kit as a "random act of kindness."

Union chiefs say there are around 30 members of staff at Valentine Primary who are members of the National Education Union - the body behind the Hands Off Valentine campaign and behind the strike action.

A spokesperson for NEU said they expect a "yes" result from the ballot - which will run from February 4 - 23.

Liz Filer said she had "no comment to make" on the strike action.