School to close after 74 years

A SCHOOL that has been open for 74 years is  to close in the summer as it is “no longer financially viable”.

Gracefield School is an independent preparatory school for children aged four to 11, based in Overndale Road.

The school’s owners said in a statement that “falling pupil numbers, the challenging economic outlook and pressures from the cost-of-living crisis have meant that it is no longer financially viable for the school to operate”. 

The school will close at the end of the summer term, on July 12.

Gracefield opened in 1950, and has been run by the current owners, Elizabeth and Ivan Morgan, since 2002.

The school, which charges fees of £2,427 per pupil per term, has been rated ‘good’ by Ofsted in six consecutive reports, most recently last summer, when inspectors said many pupils “use the word ‘fun’ when they describe school”.

It has 65 children on its roll, with 18 members of staff.

Mr and Mrs Morgan said they had hoped to be able to find new owners for the school but had been “unable to find a viable option that could secure the school’s future”, despite years of efforts. 

Mr Morgan said: “It is widely recognised that the last few years have been very difficult for most independent schools across the UK.

“Navigating inflationary costs and continually reducing numbers of pupils is a significant challenge facing the entire education sector.

“The Covid pandemic put an additional burden on school budgets, however I am proud that  Gracefield remained open to pupils throughout, in addition to offering an excellent remote service to all its pupils.” 

Mr and Mrs Morgan say their main concern now is “ensuring that every child’s educational  journey continues as smoothly as possible”. 

Mrs Morgan said: “We are working with local authorities and other independent schools so that parents can make the right choices for their children and we will be liaising with parents throughout the process.

“We are also fully committed to supporting our dedicated staff members during this period of transition and will do our utmost to assist them in securing new roles where they will continue to make a positive impact on the lives of young learners.”

The owners said the schools’ senior leadership team would talk to pupils about the closure and look after them “with compassion and understanding over the next few months and beyond”.

Mrs Morgan said: “As we navigate this challenging time, we remain steadfast in our belief in the resilience of our school community.

“We are extremely proud of the countless students who have graced our classes and are immensely grateful to everyone who has been a part of Gracefield School’s 74-year journey.”