Ungentlemanly Gordonstoun?

24th October 2003 at 01:00
I object in the strongest terms to North Foreland Lodge being described as a "failing girls' school" ("Royals' alma mater in the red", TES, October 3).

North Foreland Lodge came 11th nationally in the "value added" league tables in 2002 and its GCSE results this year were better than ever before, with 94 per cent of GCSEs at grade C or above and 92 per cent of GCSE candidates gaining five or more A*-C passes.

The real issue is that Gordonstoun appears to have become involved with North Foreland Lodge in 2002 because buying the school was seen by the governors of Gordonstoun as a quick way of making some money to improve their school's financial position.

The purchase agreement included a clause which supposedly safeguarded the provision of girls' secondary boarding education for at least five years.

However, from the moment Gordonstoun took over, it seems it sought to exploit a loop-hole which referred to a situation in which changing market conditions might allow them not to honour such an undertaking.

Your article stated that pupil numbers fell "to a handful of exam-year girls" - what it did not say was that this was the direct result of Gordonstoun telling parents of girls not in exam years that they could not guarantee the continuation of education at the school beyond one year.

For the record, break-even for the school had varied over the years between 150 and 190 pupils and, had Gordonstoun allowed the proper marketing of the school, I am confident that the roll would, in fact, have risen to exceed this number.

Unfortunately, after a number of meetings at the beginning of the school year, some parents removed their children from the school - children who were happy and settled, and who subsequently suffered enormous emotional distress.

It is true that, like many small independent boarding schools, North Foreland Lodge was not in a financially healthy state when Gordonstoun bought it. However, under new and committed management pupils, parents and staff sincerely believe it could have flourished.

That a school with such a reputation as Gordonstoun should, it seems, deliberately seek to asset-strip another educational institution in this way is one thing, that they should be allowed to label North Foreland Lodge as a "failing" school and indicate it as a cause of their financial ills in a national newspaper is quite another. Therefore, I know I speak for past pupils, parents and staff in asking you to set the record straight.

J Bowden Acting deputy head (20023) North Foreland Lodge school Sherfield-on-Loddon Hook Hampshire

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