Turmoil as closure leaves children without a school

Children from Francis House School may be in trouble
Children from Francis House School may be in trouble

Parents are in turmoil as they frantically hunt for new school places for their children after being told that the one they now go to will close in December.

Weeks of rumours that had been circulating among parents about the impending closure of Tring’s Francis House Preparatory School were confirmed by this website recently

Parents have now set up the Savours of Francis House to fight the closure, and the group released a lengthy statement on Monday night.

The incendiary document claims that developers are already eying up the school, so that they can convert it into housing after it has closed.

Francis House chair of governors Ronald Busby has already been approached by one of them, he is alleged to have told one parent. A second developer is also said to be interested in buying the school site.

When Mr Busby was asked if he felt responsibility to the school’s parents, staff and children, he is reported to have said: “What about me?”

Rumours circulating among parents suggest governors plan to sell the school to the highest bidder, but Mr Busby has said this is not a ‘going concern’, the statement reports.

A parent – who is identified only as Steve in the statement – says his son was one of many to be accepted to Francis House only two weeks ago.

The parents deny governors have taken ‘every sensible, legal and practical option available to them’ to keep the school open, as they told the Gazette last week.

The Saviours of Francis House statement says: “Parents received a letter by post the day after an article in the Gazette was published announcing the closure.

“The timing of the announcement by the proprietors of the school has left parents and staff floundering to find school places and jobs for September.

“Despite assurances by the proprietors that the school will remain open until December of this year, most parents are acutely aware of the unsettling nature of children starting a new school midway through an academic year.

“The main admissions process for Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire schools closed before Easter of this year and alternative independent schools are only offering very limited places.

“In addition to this, a dedicated body of over 40 teaching and support staff will be made redundant.

“They have been told not to discuss the closure of the school with parents, which they are concerned is hampering their efforts to assist those parents with the closure process.”

There are 126 children at Francis House, and there has been a school on the site – between Aylesbury Road and Longfield Road – for 78 years.

The Oblate Order of St Francis de Sales – the original founders of the first school there – always intended for the site to remain an educational establishment, parents say.

‘Steve’ said: “I would like to know why the proprietors of the school chose this most inappropriate time of year to announce their plan and why parents have not been consulted at any point in time before this announcement.

“This is not an orderly closure of a school but a devastating blow to pupils and staff who have been left to fumble in the dark amid speculation at the real reasons behind the school closure. There are just too many unanswered questions.”

Fees to attend Tring’s Francis House range from £890 to £3,040.

Saviours of Francis House spokesman Robert Mayson said: “It’s possible that sympathy in the town and surrounding villages may not be high for the closure of a small private school.

“But imagine how your child would feel being told just before the end of term that their school wasn’t going to be there for them anymore.

“They need to be educated somewhere and as parents been informed by the Local Education Authorities and other independent schools, places are tight to say the least.

“Parents now have a matter of weeks to find new school places for the 126 children at the school.

“Many are facing the possibility of families being split up or travelling many miles for a school place.”