Proposals for new school to rise from ashes of closed Walden School
A group of former governors, parents and staff from the Walden School, which went into administration this summer, have put forward a proposal to re-open the site.
The independent Gibson House School would run a Quaker-based curriculum from ages 3-18, with the first aspect – a nursery and prep school – opening in September next year if the scheme comes to fruition.
The team behind the plans says it is commercially viable, and crucially the site’s sale would allow people owed money after the last school went into administration to be paid. A creditors’ report revealed debts of £3.5million.
• Walden School goes into administration
Enabling development of housing would not be needed, and the sports facilities at the Mount Pleasant Road site would also be available for community groups such as the town’s rugby and triathlon clubs.
Behind the proposals are Charlotte Phillips and Andrew Law, parents of pupils at Walden School, former teacher Richard Smith, and Douglas Kent, a past pupil and governor there – who head up a wider team.
A prospective headteacher has been identified and is working with the leadership team.
Mr Kent said: “I resigned my position in April at the way things were going, having been on the board for ten years. I got involved with a group which wanted to save the site for education, and it has been a roller coaster of twists and turns.
“We understand the previous school failed for a reason, and the team was doing the best it could with the resources it had. But we have a detailed marketing plan and we feel it’s important the school offers a holistic approach that is not just focused on exams – and feel it is viable.
“Our scheme would cover all the costs incurred previously – there should not be creditors left out of pocket.
“The big concern is there are developers who want to get in with a housing estate.
• Call to list Walden School site
“We don’t believe there’s a need for housing as enabling development – that would be killing the goose that lays the golden egg, and would seriously compromise use of the site for the sports curriculum and the local community.”
In all the school would include a day nursery, prep school, secondary school and sixth form, with boarding options for pupils. The senior school could open in September 2019 as part of the proposals.
The proposals are being presented to a full meeting of Saffron Walden Town Council on Monday evening.