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SOS I know I'm BU but Independent school board thwarting chance to save our school. What can we do?

39 replies

BengalGal · 05/07/2017 23:44

My girls attend an independent Quaker school that has a focus on good teaching and a nurturing and inclusive environment. Lately The board of governors have done a bad job of running the school. They recently announced to the world and the parents, that they would be closing in a few weeks forever. Because of finances and falling enrollment. It's a 300 year old school on beautiful grounds in England. Kids are heartbroken. The community also uses the facilities and quite a few kids have bursaries. Since the announcement kids have found new schools, but many or most wanted to stay. Teachers and parents and alumni are heartbroken too.

There is evidence of something dodgy, two bursars left suddenly. The accounts don't seem to be available to anyone. (I thought the were legally required to make them available to anyone interested?)

Parents tried to come up with solutions but the board or senior manage were not encouraging. There was a mandatory review period you see.

Then a wonderful nonprofit made an offer and it looked like the school would be saved. (They gave them the offer 3 weeks ago, last week the school said they would accept it).

The nonprofit found the board a bit secretive, but the board today said they would give them the documents required for due diligence. However, they also said at the end of the 3 to 4 week due diligence period the board might decide not to go forward with the partnership. (A merger was envisioned, maintaining the character of the school)

With that degree of uncertainty the nonprofit would not be able to offer kids places for September. And they would incur a lot of time and expense in the due diligence process without a commitment from the board So they had to withdraw their offer.

I want to personally yell at these board members. I hate them. I want to shake them. One of them doesn't even believe independent schools should exist.

Is there any way to fire them? They just want to sabatoge the school after running it down. I suspect something dodgy.

What would be a reasonable thing to do?

Any experts? Any experience? And press most welcome!

This school can and should be saved. A parent found the savior. Now the board of governors is stopping it !!! Arrrggghhh!!!!

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ElizabethFrancis · 06/07/2017 00:52

I recognise this - the town is SW? Go to the local papers. They were reporting last week that the school was saved. Could it be due to the value of the land the school is on? I heard it's worth quite a few million and prime development land

VulvalHeadMistress · 06/07/2017 05:52

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

2015newstart · 06/07/2017 06:17

Does the school have charitable status? Would the charities commission be able to advise or do anything?

Supermagicsmile · 06/07/2017 06:33

I agree...gonto the press!

PovertyJetset · 06/07/2017 06:39

Can you make a request to see financials through the freedom of information act?

BengalGal · 06/07/2017 07:08

Yes, it is SW. Fine if we all know. I won't put names in case someone tries to sue me.
The amazing parent who found the wonderful nonprofit and others will certainly be onto the press.
Is it possible it is not a charity? That would explain why no one can see the do we find out?
Freedom of information I don't think works for an independent school but will check.
Parents will be calling the charities commission. That will be my first move.
Yes, the land is worth at least 10 Million by their own admission but I think more.

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WinifredAtwellsOtherPiano · 06/07/2017 07:17

It is a registered charity - its accounts for last year are a week late to the Charities Commission.

Str4ngedaysindeed · 06/07/2017 07:22

I know that school too. It's beautiful and I was shocked. No advice but I do hope something can be done 😔

meditrina · 06/07/2017 07:23

Look it up on the Charity Commission website.

If it is not a charity, then the accounts will be in Companies House.

If they have not been making enrolments for September (normally made around Feb/March) then it sounds as if the potential merger was doomed before it started as it happened just too late.

meditrina · 06/07/2017 07:26

x-post (slow typing)

As it is a charity, then some other charities are going to get a huge windfall. Because a charity can close only in accordance with the law on charity closures, which means all assets have to be sold at full market value and then that has to be donated in its entirety to a similarly aimed charity.

ShinyGirl · 06/07/2017 07:31

How horrible for current pupils and staff. Definitely go to the press

BengalGal · 06/07/2017 07:33

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

BengalGal · 06/07/2017 07:34

The nonprofit is a large one and they were ok with the numbers, the senior school was going to be very small. So it wasn't doomed due to them.

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MagicMarkers · 06/07/2017 07:35

I had a look at the news stories on this. They say the school had 140 staff and 280 pupils. One member of staff for every two pupils! That would be hard to sustain.

If you look them up on the charity commission website they are late in submitting their accounts.

MagicMarkers · 06/07/2017 07:36
BengalGal · 06/07/2017 09:13

Ok it is a charity. #1000981

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Balaboosteh · 06/07/2017 09:26

On one level I feel that if you send your children to private school you have to accept that this is a risk you run. They are businesses, they are opaque and it's been happening to too many schools to ignore. On the other hand, I feel your pain and anger at having your DC's school pulled out from under you. I am now following this story with interest and am pleased you raised it here. I think the more noise you can make about it the better. Interestingly the school's website still says that the new deal is going through. Do you have a handle on this? Surely if they tell you the school is going to continue and then retract that, there may be some breach of contract implied, so that could be a legal angle?

AHedgehogCanNeverBeBuggered · 06/07/2017 09:31

Definitely go to the papers, your local MP and local councillors. This smells really fishy. Sad

Iamastonished · 06/07/2017 09:31

I'm surprised the police aren't involved. It sounds like someone or some people have committed fraud.

Balaboosteh · 06/07/2017 09:38

I agree about fraud. But also know that this is not an isolated case. Loads of independent schools are closing. Just because it's 300 years old, doesn't mean it's inviolable or there forever. Everyone is having to do things differently, wake up and smell the coffee. These are hard times.

Balaboosteh · 06/07/2017 09:40

State schools suffering huge cuts. Austerity has chopped the bottom branches off and is now biting further and further up the tree.

Balaboosteh · 06/07/2017 09:43

Please do keep this thread updated. You need to get chatter going about this. Any comeback about the website announcement? What about parents buying out the school?

AnotherNewt · 06/07/2017 09:52

There are a handful of closures of independent schools every year and the figure hasn't much changed in the last couple of decades. unkess you are aware if specific features which have led to the falling roll at this specific school, it can't just be tagged onto 'austerity')

One press article suggested the site was being offered to the state sector to house both a primary and a secondary state school, both of which, they said, are needed. This could be a good arrangement for the town, but that's cold comfort for current parents.

BengalGal · 06/07/2017 10:15

Parents made various proposals that were rejected I think but they said yes to Diagrama's proposal. Diagrama is afraid they won't commit, the board said as much, so they can't guarantee kids places that way. This is what we just received from the board:
The Governors note, with regret, that The Diagrama Foundation has announced it has pulled out of discussions to merge the Charities and take over the running of the school. We arranged access, so far as possible, to Parents, Staff, and Governors in order for them to gauge the level of interest in their proposal.

At the start of yesterday’s talks Diagrama set out demands that they required the Governors to accept during their Due Diligence phase. However our legal advice indicated that Board was not permitted to agree to several of these requirements, including acceptance of an offer that had not yet been submitted, until Due Diligence had been completed and legal agreements had been signed and exchanged. Therefore, we were unable to satisfy their demands.

Given these circumstances, we anticipate the school will not reopen in September 2017.

We are continuing to review options for the school premises with our advisers.

Susan Garratt

Clerk of Governors

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BengalGal · 06/07/2017 10:18

Also someone very senior resigned last night, and the parent who got Diagrama on board then said they (the nonprofit)are still interested so not to give up just yet....
I now have the list of governors, the board, should I publish it and encourage anyone who knows them to contact them ?

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