Inner-city primaries stand to profit from closure of country prep

11th September 2009 at 01:00
In a move that could catch on as more private school closures loom, #163;3 million sale proceeds will help to fund London academies

Primary children in inner-city London are to benefit after a historic rural prep school was forced to close when boarding for younger children fell out of favour.

Temple Grove School near Uckfield in East Sussex shut up shop in 2004 and the elegant Victorian mansion that housed it was sold off for luxury apartments.

But the #163;3 million proceeds have now been put into a charitable trust to help fund a trio of new all-through academies in London. The move is unusual as schools with charitable status that close down usually merge their assets with other schools.

But experts say it could become more common if independent schools that fail the new public benefit test decide to close rather than conform with new Charity Commission guidelines.

The aim of the Temple Grove project is for primary-age children in very deprived areas to have some of the same extra-curricular activities and facilities enjoyed by pupils at the renowned 200-year-old prep.

Trustees are also hoping to transfer some of the traditions of the old school into the inner-city setting.

The first of the primaries, Hatcham Temple Grove, opened last year as the primary section of Haberdashers' Aske's Hatcham College, an academy in Lewisham which is part of the Haberdashers' Aske's Federation.

The school received a #163;500,000 endowment from the Temple Grove Trust, which pays for activities such as music lessons and provides a bursary fund for school trips.

The primary has also introduced many traditions of Temple Grove, such as a strict uniform policy and speech day. The school, which is a stone's throw from Millwall football ground, has even introduced rugby. A trophy, named after the polar explorer and former Temple Grove pupil Pen Hadow, is awarded to the house with the best manners.

The school has also introduced specialist subject teaching, modern languages and doubled PE sessions.

The school it replaced, Monson Primary, could barely fill a reception class, but this September the new primary had 120 applications for 60 places.

This term, the trust is to support its second primary school, Crayford Temple Grove, as part of the planned new Crayford Academy in Bexley, south-east London.

At Crayford, the school houses have been named after Temple Grove alumni, who include Montague Rhodes James, a well-known writer of ghost stories. One has been named after Mary Walker, the housekeeper who was a surrogate mother to the boys during the Second World War.

Another primary is due to be launched as part of Knights Academy in Bromley, but it is not yet clear which primary it will replace.

The endowment should generate #163;20,000-#163;25,000 a year, depending on the stock market and interest rates.

David Lough, chairman of the trust and the son of a former Temple Grove headmaster, said: "We want to bring the kind of facilities and experiences to state schools, such as academic trips and music tuition, but do it in a sustained way.

"The sort of ethos we are seen to support is a sense of responsibility, tradition, respect and independence."

Haberdashers' Aske's Federation consists of three sister academies, Haberdashers' Aske's Hatcham College, Haberdashers' Aske's Knights Academy and Haberdashers' Aske's Crayford Academy.

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