A headteacher is optimistic that a new financial plan to turn around the struggling finances of a Powys secondary school will work.
At a meeting of Powys County Council’s Governance and Audit Committee on Friday, January 12, the Headteacher of Ysgol Calon Cymru appeared before members to answer concerns about the secondary school’s financial situation.
The school, which was set up following the closure Llandrindod Wells and Builth Wells high schools in 2018, has been running in a “deficit position” since 2019.
At the time of its opening £1.374 million of debt carried by the schools was wiped off the slate.
The council’s internal auditors SWAP has issued a “limited assurance” opinion on the school with the concerns being focussed on the school’s financial issues.
SWAP Assistant Director Ian Halstead explained that it was projected that the school’s deficit would get worse.
He expected the deficits to rise with the projections being £1.579 million at the end of the 2023/2024, £1,989 million in 2024/2025, £2.335 million in 2025/2026 and £2.405 in 2026/2027.
But there are signs that the in-year deficits that add to the total are slowing down.
The projected in-year deficit is £627,571 by the end of 2023/2024, £409,902 in 2024/2025, £345,864 in 2025/2026 and £69,854 in 2026/2027.
Mr Halstead said: “The main concerns are around the finance and the ability for the school to operate within budget - it’s a long term issue.
“Generally, the school is performing well.
“A budget recovery plan has been put forward but has not been approved yet.”
Committee chairwoman and lay member Lynne Hamilton wanted to “understand the school perspective” on the issue.
Headteacher Richard Jones, who permanently took the school’s helm in March 2021, believed it had taken four years for the “complicated” schools merger to bed down and to get to “a point” to address the financial problems.
Dr Jones: “We’ve moved on from the audit report here and at the end of today (Friday, January 12) we will be able to present a really robust budget recovery which brings us to a surplus position in future years.
“The key is I have to balance the improvement of our school and the wellbeing of our pupils with the budget management.”
“We are at a point now where we can be a leaner and more efficient organisation, but it’s taken us time to get there.
“We’re a far more straightforward school now and I feel optimistic about our future financial projections.”
Conservative group leader, Cllr Aled Davies quizzed Dr Jones over the finance projections and wanted “improvement” to be defined in relation to the most recent projections outlined by Mr Halstead’s report.
Cllr Davies said: “I would like to understand which year we are going to get an in-year balance because that is the first step of any recovery.”
Dr Jones explained: “We’ve been working since September to improve our budget recovery plan.”
“What we are proposing to submit, is a plan that brings us to the following position.
Dr Jones explained that for 2024/2025 an in-year deficit of £22,747 is predicted, for 2025/2026 a £74,084 in surplus is predicted, and in 2026/2027 the prediction is a surplus of £229,331.
Dr Jones stressed that the figures may vary slightly as the work is ongoing and the financial landscape in the whole country is “pretty turbulent.”
Dr Jones said: “It is a really lean plan which is why we’ve introduced review points to ensure it’s not impacting on wellbeing or curriculum subject offer at the school.”
Ms Hamilton said: “This isn’t easy territory, and the committee will want to see the plan once it has been received and properly examined.”