Holiday-style bond may bale out private pupils

21st April 2006 at 01:00
Private schools could offer 'bonded' education to protect parents whose children's schools suddenly close, similar to the scheme offered to holidaymakers whose trips are cancelled.

Chris Waterman, executive director of the Confederation of Children's Services Managers (Confed), said: "If you've booked a holiday and your flight with a bucket-shop airline gets cancelled, you can get moved on to British Airways.

"It should be the same with private schools - if your daughter's school closes, it is not enough to get a refund for fees. You should get the money you need to pay for an equivalent education, even if it involves private tuition."

Steven King, Independent Schools Council spokesman, said the proposal was an "interesting idea we shall look at".

The call follows the announcements that Newlands school in Seaford, East Sussex, and Holy Cross Convent school in Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire, will be closing, leaving hundreds of pupils without a place.

Holy Cross, which charges annual fees of up to pound;8,200, has informed its 230 pupils that it will shut by the end of August. The Sisters of the Holy Cross, the school's trustees, said they would be withdrawing from the school to focus on international projects, despite an offer from a multi-millionaire parent to buy the school for pound;5 million.

Newlands school has already made its 200 staff redundant and failed to pay them for their final month of work.

The school closed at the start of the month because of debts which built up after it took out a loan to expand its facilities. The closure has left 450 pupils, many of whom are preparing for GCSEs and A-level exams, without places.

Parents were due to find out yesterday whether the pound;17,850-a-year school was to be replaced with a new private school called the Seaford academy.

"There is no guarantee we will get our money back," one disappointed father said. "I was disgusted when I heard they were closing, because they were getting between pound;3m to pound;6m in fees and should have seen the problems coming."

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