More independents fall victim to recession

14th May 2010 at 01:00
New raft hit by economic downturn and falling numbers despite advice to beat nationwide slump by offering 'no frills' education

The school attended by Paddington Bear author Michael Bond and music pioneer Mike Oldfield is among the latest independents to announce closure because of the recession.

Elvian School in Reading, formerly Presentation College, will close its doors on July 9 after its owner's rebuilding plans collapsed.

The Licensed Trade Charity, which rescued the school from administration in 2004, said plans to generate cash fell through after a fall in land values and the developers' withdrawal from plans to use part of the site for housing and a sports centre.

Co-educational Elvian, formerly a boys' school, also includes football manager Lawrie Sanchez and former Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor among its alumni.

The school's director of marketing, Liz Gaffer, said: "Pupil numbers were rising, but at the end of the day the building was not up to the standard expected of an independent school."

Elvian is just one of four private schools to announce closure in recent weeks.

In Norfolk, unpaid fees and falling numbers were blamed for the demise of the tiny Wood Dene School near Cromer.

The two-to-17 school, which had 18 staff and 41 pupils, had won a temporary reprieve via a group of parents and grandparents, but this could only be sustained for a matter of months.

Elsewhere, St Andrew's prep in Wantage, Oxfordshire, announced closure at the end of the summer term after numbers fell from 100 to 50 in two years.

Stowford College, in Sutton, south London, which specialises in provision for autistic children, is to close at the end of the year after "significant financial losses".

Job losses among the 26 staff are expected, but owners Eagle House Group, which acquired the school 18 months ago, said it is to expand its provision for autistic pupils at Eagle House School, with which it shares a site.

Financial experts have warned that the worst is yet to come.

David Verey, Eton College governor and former head of blue-chip banking firm Lazard Brothers, recently told the Independent Schools Council (ISC) annual conference that the full effects of the recession would not be felt until as late as September 2011.

But he claimed that private education was "the last thing parents would give up, after fine wines and holidays, but before cigarettes".

Mr Verey advised independent schools to offer "no frills" education for cash-strapped parents.

A recent census by the ISC suggested that the "facilities arms race" in private education is over, as spending on building projects had fallen in every area except boarding.

AMONG THE FALLEN: CLOSURES AND MERGERS

Since January 2009

1. Alcuin School, Leeds

2. Arley House, Nottinghamshire

3. Attenborough Prep, Nottinghamshire

4. Arundale, West Sussex

5. Baston School, Kent

6. Belcanto London Academy Theatre, London

7. Brantwood School, Sheffield

8. Cliff School, Wakefield

9. Elvian School, Reading

10. Morley Hall Preparatory, Derbyshire

11. St Andrew's School, Wantage

12. St Margaret's, West Sussex

13. Stoke Brunswick School, West Sussex

14. Stowford College, Sutton

15. Windmill House, Leicestershire

16. Wood Dene, Aylmerton, Norfolk.

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