Parent-led campaign to save Walden School launched

PUBLISHED: 10:10 25 May 2017 | UPDATED: 10:10 25 May 2017

Walden School, previously known as Friends' School. Picture: SAFFRON PHOTO

Walden School, previously known as Friends' School. Picture: SAFFRON PHOTO

SaffronPhoto 2016

A parent-led campaign to save a Saffron Walden private school has been launched in the wake of the announcement it would be closing at the end of the academic year.

Walden School, previously known as Friends’ School, announced last week that challenging economic decisions – caused by a lack of student numbers – had led to the decision to close at the end of the summer term on July 7.

Parents have already put wheels in motion in an attempt to find a solution to save the independent school and a meeting was held last week – with governors attending in a listening capacity – with a view to putting forward a proposal.

But Susan Garrett, chairman of governors, warned the primary issue was a lack of student numbers at critical entry points – with a potential intake of seven into Year 7 and five into the lower sixth (Year 12).

She said: “The school has faced increasing competition for pupils in the area in recent years and its roll at critical entry points has been falling.

“Numbers for the coming academic year are very low with a potential intake of seven into Year 7 and five into the Lower Sixth.

“The Post-16 environment has changed a great deal with more places available locally than pupils to fill them. The recent economic downturn has hit parents hard and fees are very expensive and not affordable for many.”

The Reporter has been contacted by parents, teachers and ex-pupils since the announcement and understands that parents are close to putting forward a proposal to governors.

A petition has also been launched to keep the school’s buildings and site as an educational base following the closure announcement.

More than 1,000 people have already signed the 38 Degrees petition, started by Caroline Edmunds, which urges the Department of Education (DfE) to act promptly.

The petition reads: “As sad as it is to see Walden School close, the council has a responsibility to ensure that the town’s schooling needs are met. It is the perfect solution to an ongoing problem.”

Residents for Uttlesford (R4U) has also written to Essex County Council (ECC) to urge the authority to convert the school into a state institution if it closes.

Councillor Paul Fairhurst said: “A new secondary school is needed in Uttlesford and buying an existing school site is more efficient to local tax-payers than funding the £40m cost of a brand-new school.

“But time is of the essence. If ECC fails to act quickly this unique site would likely be lost to new housing, and many staff-members will have lost their jobs.”

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