Fears have risen that private schools will suffer a series of closures and mergers as the financial crisis takes hold, after news this week that two more prep schools will close at the end of this term.
Both schools have suffered a recent decline in their pupil numbers, which has forced them to make the decision. The move will leave many school staff facing an uncertain future.
David Hanson, chief executive of the Independent Association of Prep Schools, said more schools would follow suit as they prepare for what is widely believed to be a severe recession.
"We have had a significant increase in the number of schools coming to us for advice on mergers," said Mr Hanson. "The situation two years from now is going to be very tough and it would be foolish for schools not to be ready for that.
"Now is the time for schools to make strategic decisions about whether they should merge so that they are best placed to cope with the recession."
The two schools closing are Bramcote Lorne Prep School in Retford, Nottinghamshire, and Brigg Prep School in Hull. Both are members of the United Church Schools Trust and will now officially merge with other schools in the group.
Sir Ewan Harper, chief executive of the trust, said: "Had either of them been stand-alone independent schools, their prospects for the future would have been grave."
Full story, page 6.