Former governor of Walden School claims colleague said school sale would be ‘no bad thing’

PUBLISHED: 16:03 09 August 2018

Waldlen School

Waldlen School

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A former governor of Walden School, previously Friends’ School, has revealed that one fellow governor on the board told him “it would be no bad thing” if the school closed so that any money raised “could be spent on another cause”.

Douglas Kent, who resigned in opposition to decisions being made by the board of governors in April last year, presented a report to the Friends’ School Saffron Walden Old Scholars’ Association special general meeting in May, outlining his view of the school’s demise.

In the report, Mr Kent said the governors’ decision to accept the Department for Education’s (DfE) offer to acquire the school in a vacant state “made absolutely no sense”.

The offer from the DfE came about after consultancy firm Grant Thornton, already appointed in an advisory capacity to the school, was engaged to market the school discreetly to potential purchasers.

Mr Kent said he was “extremely uncomfortable” with the DfE offer because it was “merely tentative” and for the acquisition of the school in a vacant state.

He added: “In trying to understand the board’s preference, perhaps it has to be accepted that Quakers as a whole have long been ambivalent about independent schools.

“We had a strong Quaker element on the board but an under-representation of governors with business experience.

“One Quaker governor had said to me a while back that it would be no bad thing if the school closed so that the money could be spent on another cause.

“The decision by the board to support the DfE offer was also swayed by the view of the senior management team, who, we were told, would resign en masse were another option pursued.

“The fact is that more than one entirely credible bid to purchase the school as a going concern was rejected by the governors in favour of what was, even at that time, merely a tentative offer by the DfE to acquire the premises in a vacant state.”

After bids to purchase the school failed, Grant Thornton was engaged as the school’s administrators.

A spokesman for Grant Thornton said: “Throughout our accelerated sale assignment we did not provide any recommendations to the governors and we were subsequently engaged to assist with the wind-down of the school’s operations after the governor’s had made the decision to close the school.

“As such, the closure of the school and its eventual insolvency was not based on any work or decisions made by Grant Thornton.”

“Our engagement was only with Walden School - we were not engaged with nor did we provide advice to the governors or senior management in a personal capacity.”

The board of governors could not be reached for comment.

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