AN EDUCATION chief at a failing school has assured parents that financial procedures have been 'tightened' after it was revealed the former head signed off more than �600 in expenses to her husband.

Theresa Haggart, former head at St Ethelbert's Catholic Primary School, signed off two cheques to her husband, a Slough Borough Council audit into school finances revealed.

The damning audit recommended urgent action should be taken after finding the school did not have an expenses policy, with the head signing off cheques for some expense claims.

Independent auditors from RSM Tenon found Mrs Haggart's husband was paid �242.77 and �378.69 after sampling five expenses claims last year.

Officers said the original receipts were not attached and the date and VAT registration attached to other expenses were not photocopied clearly - to allow the school to claim back VAT.

Ms Haggart stepped down from her role in December last year, after the school's whole governing body had left through mutual termination with an interim executive board (IEB) taking over in October.

Italo Cafolla, IEB chair, said: "The auditors examined the school's financial processes and identified key areas where structures and procedures required improvement. The IEB has scrutinised the report and acted swiftly to redress any areas of concern.

"These include having clear procedures and schemes of delegation, financial purchasing and recruitment processes which are all subject to regular review and continuing scrutiny by key members of the IEB."

The report also flagged up items being bought without the adequate authorisation levels, which was one of five 'high risk' recommendations made.

Mr Cafolla added: "I would like to reassure parents that we have acted upon the auditor's recommendations in full and have delivered a comprehensive action plan. We have addressed all aspects, further strengthened the school's financial procedures and placed the school in a firm financial position to ensure that we can deliver quality education for our children."

The draft audit report was issued to the council on November 13, last year, with the final report - noting the school's action plan - signed off on January 2 this year.

The Observer obtained the report after a freedom of information request.