Commenting on the independent audit report published today into the creation of the dual-campus Ysgol Calon Cymru out of the merger of the former Builth Wells and Llandrindod Wells High Schools from September 2018, the Leader of the Opposition on Powys County Council and Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrat group, Cllr James Gibson-Watt, said:-
“This report makes for sorry reading. At the time when the merger was proposed I and my council group warned the then-Cabinet not to do it, believing it would be divisive, financially unsustainable and potentially damaging to pupils’ learning. Our warnings have been vindicated by this report.”
“Of great concern is how the report highlights the very poor systems of scrutiny and internal decision-making operating within the council at the time. Although to an extent that flaw has since been corrected, with the relevant scrutiny committees now much-involved before this type of decision goes to the council’s Cabinet for decision, that is no excuse for what was done. The Cabinet was warned about the dangers of this merger and ignored those warnings.
The Council’s current Leader, Cllr Rosemarie Harris, was a member of the Cabinet at that time and she and her former colleagues bear a heavy responsibility for a decision and process that has in the meantime undoubtedly had a negative impact on many young people’s educational attainment and life chances, while at the same time leaving on-going financial risks for the Council and still leaving much to clear up.
It is particularly galling that having taken the decision to merge the schools into one, the Council left the governing body of the new school to fend for itself and clear up the mess.”
“The school is now under new and well-respected leadership, its budget has stabilised and performance is improving, which is very good. But this position is fragile and the whole experience leaves many lessons to learn.”