Around 15 schools run by religious communities have closed during the past 12 years, according to figures from the Independent Schools Information Service.
Wanda Nash is head of St Mary's Hampstead, the prep school IBVM nuns had intended to close but which was rescued by parents eight years ago. The nuns, she says, underestimated how passionately parents felt about the school, and learnt many lessons from that experience. The school has since more than trebled in size, and now has 300 pupils aged three to 11.
With a background as a deputy in state primary and middle schools, Mrs Nash had a difficult path to tread. Parents looked back to their own schooling, asking for regular recital of prayers and the Catechism, even though the nuns had moved on from that long ago.
Mrs Nash says: "Your Catholicity is questioned at every end and turn and you have to be sensitive to all points of view - the Order, the parents, staff. But it is possible to go forward with something new and vibrant and Catholic."