Can independant schools part close?

(19 Posts)
teleport Thu 28-Apr-16 06:06:12

Ds is at an independent school which has 3 parts.

A very buoyant nursery from 3months up. Pre-prep there has nearly 60 children.

Prep school which has followed a similar pattern for years and years - reception half full, year 1 3/4 full and year 2-6 full with 1 or 2 on the waiting list for each year. People always join in abundance from about year 2 for some reason. Very good reputation, heavy grammar school admission from it. Ds absolutely loves it there and we are very happy.

The senior bit is a whole other story. They rely heavily on international students / boarders for the money or local children who don't quite fit in at large local (good) comp or 3 grammars. My best friend is a teacher there so I'm privy to extra info.

Numbers have dropped to nearly under 100 for September in seniors. Staff are being made redundant and managed out. Inexperienced teachers or non specialise taking exam classes as they can't afford to replace. Exam marks predicted really bad for this year. Less boarders / overseas etc etc. a fair amount a debt, the writing is most definitely on the wall for the senior department.

Is it ever possible to shut part of a school? If the nursery and prep are so buoyant, is it ever conceivable to keep them open and shut that bit that is bad? I think it would take lots of planing and organisation as the catering facilities and main office staff are all based in senior buildings which I guess they would need to sell off and maybe it would be a total faff, maybe that bank will just want to get rid.

There are no other Indy schools around work direction we can access so I am in the process of getting a state place for September just in case but I'm so reluctant as they are all really bad schools and the shock for ds is going to be huge.

I'm so worried and can't sleep at night for what to do.

LIZS Thu 28-Apr-16 06:22:02

A school near us closed the junior part in two stages but kept the senior school. A year or two later that in itself needed external financial support but is now re establishing itself .

teleport Thu 28-Apr-16 08:19:08

Thank you, that's good to know it can happen.

The problem with private schools is that no one tells you anything until it's too late!

blearynweary Thu 28-Apr-16 08:26:01

We are in a similar situation. We are moving our dds to the local very good state school.

bluecarpet Thu 28-Apr-16 10:15:36

yes, I knew a school which closed their sixth form. The whole school was taken over by another one a few years later so it was a sign of things to come.

bojorojo Thu 28-Apr-16 15:14:20

Can you not see if there is weekly boarding available somewhere? A school with only 100 pupils in the senior school WILL have to close. It is not financially viable and cannot possibly offer a decent curriculum never mind sport, music and drama opportunities. If this school has had low numbers for years, due to the availability of other, more desirable schools, then it has been on a cliff edge for some time and it would not take much foresight to see it was going to be a problem whether they told you anything or not. Private schools can close at the drop of a hat if the Administrators are called in or the owners just close it down. There is no consultation.

Around here, the private schools push to recuit children who are just under the pass mark for the county wide 11 plus. They have forged a niche market and do well. No SEN and keep quite a lot of their prep children and just top up from those that don't fancy the grammar schools because they are "delicate" or just do not get into one.

In your position I would run a mile and dig deep financially to get something better.

teleport Thu 28-Apr-16 16:11:46

He's only 6 so no boarding!!

I know for sure that the seniors will close, it's just a matter of time.

I just can't tell if I'm naive to think they might try and save a good prep with nearly 140 kids and more on waiting lists and a good nursery with nearly the same. Or whether the 3 bits will be treated as a whole and close completely.

No other options except large / poor state primaries (which is why the prep does so well!)

LIZS Thu 28-Apr-16 16:48:10

I'd be surprised if 140 across 7 years would be sustainable long term. Unless they have a solid business plan, quickly, good teachers will leave and there will be a lack of investment in facilities and resources. Have you accessed the accounts if it is a charity?

teleport Thu 28-Apr-16 17:36:41

140 are the maximum numbers it can take. 20 children per year for 7 years. I guess it must have a plan for those numbers as that's how it was built and has always been for the last 30 years.

Prep has really static staffing. The music teacher and 1 TA has been there since it opened and are in the fabric of the place. It's a really lovely family prep that has thrived for a long time.

To be fair though, according to my friend, a lot of the senior teachers have been there for a very long time and are clinging on desperately as it's unlikely they will get another job in the local area. There is a lot of people leaving now through redundancy and cost cutting in seniors but not replacing them.

teleport Thu 28-Apr-16 17:41:42

Blearynweary - are there other parents leaving too? Is the school shitting or just a possibility? How did your children take it?

I'm dreading telling him...

Can I still do swimming there mummy - no
Can I still do forest school and computer and rugby club - no
Can I still go to prep 2 for extra maths lessons - unlikely
Can I still be in a small class with my friends - no there will be 60 kids, most of whom are being bullied apparently
Why am I leaving my school that I love and feel settled for the first time in years mummy......

mary21 Thu 28-Apr-16 17:43:20

One school I went to closed the senior school and kept the prep. However they were on two sites so the could sell the senior site without affecting the prep. I imagine its harder if all on one site.

LIZS Thu 28-Apr-16 18:02:50

But presumably they could use the Senior school capacity for additional junior classes. However if the ethos is to assume progression from junior to senior they will need new blood and direction to become more competitive at 11+.

Young children adapt and change quickly. If you don't jump soon others will take the better places first. If you then are faced with a rapid closure you could find it trickier to find an acceptable place. Alternatively you could rally the staff , governors and parents to create a free school.

teleport Thu 28-Apr-16 18:58:14

There 3 bits sort of form a triangle on the site but access the main buildings for essential things like catering. I'm guessing the bank would want to sell a big chunk if not all the land. I can't see them keeping all the buildings just for the under 11s but you never know. That's the problem, you never know what they are thinking until it's too late!

Very few prep children go to seniors. About 75% go to grammar and the others go to to the pretty good local comp in the town.

teleport Thu 28-Apr-16 19:00:12

LIZS do you have to know for sure a school is closing to consider free school as an option? Most parents have no idea of the budget problems. Can just imagine their faces if I turned up at a PTA talking about that!!!

Stillunexpected Thu 28-Apr-16 19:21:34

Most parents have no idea of the budget problems - they would have to be pretty dim not to appreciate that a senior school cannot function with 100 pupils and, given the shared access to facilities on this site, the knock-on effect on the rest of the school.

teleport Thu 28-Apr-16 19:53:10

Most parents in prep have no idea the senior schools numbers. They only publish the numbers from 3moths to 18 as a whole specifically so people can't see where those numbers come from. If you ask anyone they are deliberately evasive.

A fellow school mum was so shocked when I told her the senior numbers as she genuinely thought there was 300+ and she's got 3 kids in prep and has been there for years.....

bojorojo Fri 29-Apr-16 11:07:23

I am amazed that peope are so naive as to not actually see what is happening around them. Surely they are aware of lack of children? It must be obvious. Unless, of course, you do not want to know because it brings difficult decisins with it.

Loads of chidren change schools age 6. I really thought your child was older because you were worried about the senior school. Parents will start to jump though. It is inevitable. They do not care about the senior school or they would use it. It is clearly not distinctive or prestigious enough to attract people away from the state schools. How they pay the salaries out of such low fee income is a mystery to me. If it has has charitable status, look at the their returns to the charities commission. Could be interesting. It may be possible to sell buildings for redevelopment but keep the land for playing fields. Having said that, prep and pre prep with 140 is not exactly thriving. They should close the senior school and double the numbers at the lower school. It takes vision and good leadership to do that. Unfortunately, the schoold does not seem to have dynamic leadership.

teleport Fri 29-Apr-16 14:10:35

The three parts are kept very separate. I virtually never see senior school children - I've collected ds and am long gone before their bell rings. No joint social events etc. I'd have no idea the numbers unless I asked my friend.

I'm not bothered about seniors, I wouldn't send my son there anyway. I'm only thinking about it as a 'if that shuts, will all of it shut?'

Prep has about 140, pre prep has 60 and the rest of the nursery is full with another 40-50. That's those 2 buildings full. Seniors has 100ish as of September taking the full count in school to around 350 (which is the only published figure anyone can see)

lifesalongsong Fri 29-Apr-16 14:14:42

Not quite the same but I know someone who is having to move her child as her school is closing it's senior classes while keeping the primary ones. It's not near me so I don't know any further details but they must think it's financially viable to remain as a private primary feeder school.

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