More preps fall victim to tough economic times

27th March 2009 at 00:00
One to close and two will merge as rolls fall

Three schools in Leeds and Surrey are being forced to shut or merge, providing more evidence of the recession hitting independents.

The Pounds 4,575-a-year Alcuin School in Leeds, which teaches four to 11-year-olds, is set to close its doors at the end of the summer term in July, blaming the effects of the recession. A formal announcement on its future is due before Easter.

Leeds reinvented itself as a financial centre at the start of the 1990s, but it has been hit hard by the economic downturn in recent months.

Plans to build Europe's tallest apartment block in the city centre were shelved last summer after the developer ran out of money.

In Surrey, two prep schools will merge at the beginning of the next academic year.

Laverock and Hazelwood schools, both in Oxted, have signed an agreement to merge but will remain open until the summer.

Brenda Green, the head of Laverock School, which teaches children aged two to 11 and charges up to Pounds 9,450 a year, said the rolls had dropped below 100.

"We could have ridden it for a bit longer but the current financial environment has given us a hit," she said.

Parents thinking about putting their children forward for Years 7 and 8 were now having second thoughts, Mrs Green said.

"They're not coming in at the moment."

A spokeswoman for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers said it expected more schools to close in the coming months.

"It is tough out there for schools," she said. "While the economy was stable, people weren't planning for when it would get tough. There's been no crisis planning.

"Schools that might have hung on before just can't now. Parents are looking at primary and junior schools instead," she added.

The union has already warned that Easter - when staff planning for the new year begins - will be one of the key periods for independent schools this year.

The latest announcements follow other prep school closures, including Arley House School near Loughborough, Leicestershire, and Windmill House in Uppingham, Rutland. They will shut their doors at the end of the summer term.

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