THE struggling finances of two High Schools in Powys have been probed by internal auditors.

Both Brecon High School and Welshpool High School have huge financial problems, and SWAP (the auditors) published  “adverse opinion” reports after investigating the issues.

Representatives of Welshpool High School also met a working group of councillors from the Audit Committee earlier this month to allow committee members to delve deeper and find out why the problems have happened.

The reports were discussed at a meeting of Powys County Council’s Audit Committee on Thursday, November 19.

SWAP Assistant Director, Ian Halstead, said: “Welshpool came in to speak to us at the working group, and they reflected on how things are turning around with increased funding.”

“The budget situation is much better, but less clear is how they are going to bring that deficit down.

“Overall it’s going in the right direction.”

Mr Halstead added that they would follow up their work with the schools.

Work on the audit reports had been done between December 2019 and May, 2020.

Committee Chairman Cllr John Morris, (Crickhowell – Liberal Democrat) said: “The working group went through the reports with a fine tooth comb.

“Because of Covid and other things, these are quite old reports.

“Things have moved forward but we still need to monitor.”

Cllr Morris added: “I find the internal working group very useful in order to talk directly, in this case to the head and chair of governors.

“Whereas a full committee meeting may not be as beneficial as to where we got to.”

The report on Welshpool High School stated that during the time of investigation  there was  “no realistic deficit recovery plan in place.”

If things did not change by the end of the 2022/23 financial year Welshpool High School was projected to have a deficit of £2.25 million.

A report from Internal Audit Working Group said that:  “A smaller surplus was likely in 2021/22 but further deficits were anticipated in future years.

“Whilst improvements were being made and further efficiencies sought, the Head Teacher was of the opinion the current system was unsustainable.”

The report on Brecon High School recognised the school has a historic debt problem.

The report said: “Following a succession of Headteachers a new Headteacher has been appointed having been in an interim post for a short while.

“He is well versed in the situation at the school and is working with the Governing Body to rectify the budget situation at the school along with the recommended curriculum improvements required following an (critical) Estyn inspection.”

The report pointed out that the Headteacher face a difficult task of needing to expand the subject choices for pupils to please Estyn while at the same tine having to find savings and cuts to reduce the budget.

Both schools have been given warning notices about their finances.

A report which will be discussed by Cabinet next week (Tuesday, November 24) shows the expected position on March 31, 2021 was to be:

Brecon High School : £1, 863,864 deficit.

Welshpool High School: £725,218 deficit.

After working with education and finance staff on a recovery plan, the position at March 31, 2021 is now expected to be:

Brecon High School : £1, 941,422 – by 2022/23 their position should be £90,000 better than estimated without the recovery plan.

Welshpool High School : £660, 482.