Walden School accused of 'moral fraud' and deception by parents and suppliers as it goes into administration
PUBLISHED: 16:41 18 July 2017 | UPDATED: 10:09 19 July 2017
Furious parents and creditors, owed thousands in fees paid in advance and unpaid bills for supplies, have accused Walden School of "moral fraud" and deception.
They expressed their anger as it was announced that the 200-year-old school founded by Quakers is now in administration.
It has been confirmed by the administrators that school staff are also owed money and must join the creditors’ queue to claim it.
The Saffron Walden School owes parents tens of thousands in fees paid in advance and suppliers of fresh produce and meat are owed similar sums for goods supplied AFTER the school announced its closure.
Caterers were told to keep on supplying the school on the firm promise that bills would still be paid.
The mother of two children at the school told the Reporter she was owed £7,000 in fees and said dozens of others were in a similar situation.
She said these included parents whose children had recently joined the school and been offered a 10 per cent discount for paying the fees a year in advance. She had also spent £700 on school uniform when her children joined the school in January.
Not wishing to be named, she said: “It’s moral fraud. It’s a scandal. We have been told it will be at least a year before we can be paid back and only then if the school has sufficient assets. We were sent an email on Monday night (July 17) informing us of a meeting the following day at 6pm. A lot of parents will still be at work.”
She added; “This is typical of the short notice we have received. The day the summer uniform arrived, we were told the school was going to close. We were given just 12 hours notice to remove our children from school so that people from the charity Diagrama could inspect the site, with a view to taking it over. (A deal which fell through). The way we have been treated is very shabby.
“We have said please can we have our money back, but we have been completely ignored. Some of the parents are from overseas, they are working in Cambridge, their English might not be very good and they have been taken for a ride.”
Olivier Roe, managing director of Fisher and Woods, suppliers of fruit, vegetables and dairy produce, said they were owed £4,615.
Mr Roe said: “I’m furious, we were told by the bursar’s office on May 10, the day the school closure was announced, to keep supplying because we would be paid. Now I can’t speak to the person who gave me that reassurance and it is worth toffee.”
Saffron Walden butcher, Andrew Burton, is owed £3,000. He said: “We would have walked away but we were given assurance that the school was in controlled administration and could pay its bills.”
A spokesman for administrators, Grant Thornton confirmed that staff have not been paid. He said: “Staff were paid as usual on June 28 for the period up to June 30. The next payroll payment would have been due on July 28. This payment will not be made and staff will need to claim for their arrears of wages in the administration. Part payment of the arrears will come from the Insolvency Service, the remainder will be an unsecured claim in the administration. We anticipate that in due course all creditors will be paid in full with the addition of statutory interest at 8 per cent.”
He confirmed that 98 people have been made redundant with effect from today (Tuesday, July 18) and 27 Staff have been retained for the summer.
The spokesman added that the short notice of the parents’ meeting at the school was because the administrators were only appointed at appointed at 1.47pm on Monday, July 17 and wanted to provide information to parents at the earliest opportunity.
Hopes that the school would be taken over by the state have now faded. Kemi Badenoch, MP for Saffron Walden, said today (Tuesday, July 18): ““The £5million price tag plus the cost of refurbishing the buildings to national standards was unaffordable.”
She added: “I am naturally disappointed that a solution could not be found and that the Department of Education is unable to take over the school. I have been working non-stop on this since I was elected in June and every possible avenue was explored.”