A meeting to look at the lessons to be learnt from a school merger in Powys less than two years ago will be held before a major shake-up of education in the county begins in earnest.

Less than two years ago, Builth Wells and Llandrindod Wells high schools were merged to become Ysgol Calon Cymru, with one headteacher and a single governing body.

A deficit of £1.4 million was written off when that happened – but by March 31 it had still racked up a new deficit of £131,302.

At a meeting of the council's learning and skills scrutiny committee on Monday, the issue was raised as a lesson to be learned before the transformation programme for the county's education sector kicks off.

Committee chairman Councillor Pete Roberts, (Llandrindod South – Liberal Democrat), said; “We’ve recently had Builth and Llandrindod schools merging together.

“Looking at the figures, they have the sixth largest cumulative deficit. If we don’t learn lessons from that before we transform others, I would be quite concerned.

“We need to understand what went wrong in setting up that school to put them in this position.”

Committee vice-chairman, and Rhayader primary school governor, Angela Davies, added:  “I was a member of the temporary governing body of Ysgol Calon Cymru, I would welcome that conversation.”

Education portfolio holder Councillor Phyl Davies (Blaen Hafren – Conservative), said: “I think there are a huge amount of lessons to be learnt from that process.

“We shouldn’t be setting a school up to fail but, when we look at the position of Calon Cymru, it does ask, how we expected them to ever manage?”

Education consultant Geraint Rees, wondered whether the decision on  having one school on two campuses would have been the same, if the discussion on  the merger had been wider ranging.

He also pointed out that the new executive headteacher, Janet Waldron, had only been appointed in January, and had barely started the job when coronavirus struck.

He added that school mergers were never “neat” due to “historic legacy”.

Mr Rees said that transforming schools in the county would need to be seen as a “whole authority project”  supported by people “well beyond the cabinet and scrutiny committee”.

“Other authorities were going through transformation eight or nine years ago and there are lessons to be learned from there as well,” said Mr Rees.

Cllr Roberts said he would now look to organise a future meeting to look at the issues in more depth.