Walden School set to close at the end of summer term this year
PUBLISHED: 08:44 11 May 2017 | UPDATED: 12:04 11 May 2017
A Saffron Walden private school which has been based in the town since 1879 is set to close at the end of the summer term this year.
Walden School, previously known as Friends’ School, announced yesterday its proposal to close on July 7, and staff and parents were informed of the news via meetings and in writing.
The independent day and boarding school, which currently has 280 pupils and employs 140 staff, blamed the economic downturn and a highly competitive local market for a “continued decline in student numbers”.
The school said it will now begin a consultation period with all its staff and during this time will continue to consider its options, but if no viable solution is found, then the school will close.
Susan Garratt, chair of governors, said: “It is with great sadness that we announce the proposed closure of Walden School.
“Like many independent schools across the country, especially smaller ones, we have found conditions to be extremely challenging over recent years due to a highly competitive local market.
“This has been compounded by the recent economic downturn resulting in a continued decline in pupil numbers.
“Before taking this very difficult decision we looked at a range of options to try to keep the school open but unfortunately none were achievable.
“The education and welfare of our pupils has always been our primary concern and we will be working with the Local Authority and other schools in the area to help find alternative options for the children.
“We would like to thank all parents, staff and trustees who have supported the school over many years.”
Rebecca Cox, who has two children at the school, said the news came as a shock to parents.
She said: “I’m saddened by the closure, the news came completely out of the blue. I hadn’t heard anything about a possible closure before this announcement.
“All parents are looking at a full range of options for their children. Some will remain in private education, but others, whose children were on scholarships for example, won’t be able to do that.
“My children loved it and had a great experience. It was such a safe and caring atmosphere and I think that’s what parents are most worried about – that they won’t be able to find that ethos elsewhere.”
Walden School was originally set up as Quaker School 315 years ago and has occupied its current site on Mount Pleasant Road since 1879.
In September last year, the school went through a rebranding exercise and changed its name from Friends’ School to its current title.
Mrs Garratt said the school has made an approach to the Department for Education regarding the future of the school buildings and site.
She said: “The original aim set out for the school at its inception was to provide education in Saffron Walden.
“To honour this commitment, we have made an approach to the Department for Education as to the future of the school building and site.
“It is testament to the fantastic teachers and staff at Walden School that we have been able to provide such a high quality of education over recent years.
“This is underlined in the most recent Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) assessment and high achievement of our pupils.
“We ask that people consider the strain and emotions that the current pupils, their families and the staff of Walden School will be experiencing at this challenging time.”
The school added that the board of governors and senior management team will be holding meetings with parents and staff to provide advice and support.
The Walden School May Fair, which was scheduled for this Saturday, May 13, from 1pm-4pm has been cancelled.