Walden School could be saved from closure after charity considers taking over the site

PUBLISHED: 09:47 03 July 2017 | UPDATED: 11:29 05 July 2017

Walden School has been saved from closure just days before it was due to shut. Picture: SAFFRON PHOTO

Walden School has been saved from closure just days before it was due to shut. Picture: SAFFRON PHOTO

Archant

A charity could save Walden School from closure – just days before it was due to shut its doors for good.

The announcement comes after talks between the school and the Diagrama Foundation – an organisation which, in principle, has agreed to take over the site and keep it open for existing and new pupils in September.

Susan Garratt, chair of governors, said: “Following a series of discussions, we are delighted to confirm that we have reached this agreement which should enable the school to remain open and supports the trust’s original aim of providing education in Saffron Walden.”

The school was supposed to close at the end of the summer term on July 7, after citing difficulties with a highly-competitive local market and economic downturn.

Now, the independent day and boarding school hopes to keep its 280 pupils and 140 staff members.

David McGuire, Diagrama’s chief executive, said: “Diagrama is dedicated to realising Walden School’s vision of creating the best school in the region with an environment in which students can become mindful, rounded individuals, who are an asset to society.

“We aim to ensure this happens as quickly as possible by working closely with all staff and parents every step of the way so that, as a community, we can all help shape the future for Walden School together, always mindful of respecting the school’s origins and ethos.”

The school was founded as a Quaker School more than 300 years ago, but settled at its current site, in Mount Pleasant Road, after a land donation by George Stacey Gibson.

Mrs Garratt added: “We received proposals from a number of other parties, each of which was closely scrutinised with the support of our business and financial advisors.

“Mindful of the vision of George Gibson when he donated the land, the needs of the local community, and our charitable aims and objectives of sustaining education on the site, we believe this proposal presents the most suitable option to save the school from closure.”

“The Board would like to express its full support for and sincere thanks to the current senior management team who continue to work extremely hard for the benefit for the school and the children, as well as our indebted gratitude to all the staff for their significant contribution.”

Since the announcement that the Diagrama Foundation could help save Walden School, questions have been raised about how this will affect the future of the site.

The charity, based in Kent, supports vulnerable people who are experiencing social difficulties.

It also promotes research, programmes and centres which help integrate these people or those at social risk.

This includes people with mental health issues, learning disabilities, and criminal behaviour.

One parent, whose two children are moving from Walden School, said she was worried about its future if the charity takes over.

She said: “Their background is not in mainstream schooling, but in young offenders.

“What the school becomes is going to be very different from the school we know and it’s not going to benefit children from the local community, but children who have got to go somewhere but who cannot be educated in a mainstream school.”

Diagrama said Walden School would remain fee-paying and not include any other services.

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