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Campaigners 'can't prevent closure of St Bees school in July but still working on plan for future'

A rescue team trying to help save one of Britain's oldest independent schools says it can't prevent it closing in the summer but is still working on a plan for its future

Earlier this month, Governors at the 400 year old St Bees school in west Cumbria announced it will shut because of falling pupil numbers.

Parents and members of the community are trying to come up with a rescue package but, in a statement released on Saturday 21st March, say they only received necessary business information yesterday. The group says there is a possibility education could continue at the school, either as an independent school or some other model. They're meeting on Monday night.

As you know, with your support, the Rescue Group and its many supporters has worked hard all week in accordance with our commitment to you at Monday’s Community Meeting – to have a look at what might be done to save the school but without any guarantees as to success. The reason for choosing a week is that we are very conscious that, if we were unable to find a guaranteed way to save the school, students need to look for places at other schools and the staff, teaching and support, need to look for alternative employment.

We have only had a week and much of the business information about the school could not be supplied to us until Friday. We hope you understand that under these circumstances we cannot develop a business plan with the underpinning that is needed to allow us to confirm that we have found a way to save the school.

From what we have seen there is the possibility that a business model can be developed which will allow continuation of the educational tradition at St Bees as an independent public school or maybe in some other model. However, we must not mislead you that such a model could be implemented to prevent closure of the school at the end of the summer term”

– Rescue St Bees

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England rugby boss hopes former school can be saved

The England Head Coach Stuart Lancaster told ITV News that he is "absolutely gutted" about the proposed closure of his former school. He also said he first developed his love of rugby at St Bees School on the West Cumbrian coast.

Since Friday's shock announcement that the school is to shut because of dwindling pupil numbers, a huge campaign has been started to save it.

Last night parents and governors met for the first time since the news was announced last week. Hannah McNulty has this report:

Stuart Lancaster 'absolutely gutted' over St Bees school closure

Stuart Lancaster has told ITV News he's 'absolutely gutted' about the closure of his former school. The England rugby coach developed his love of the game at St Bees school on the west Cumbrian coast.

Governors announced on Friday the independent school in west Cumbria will close in the summer due to falling students numbers.

Hundreds of parents and local community members attend meeting

St Bees School Credit: ITV Border News

A 'rescue team' has been formed to try and help save the historic St Bees school from closure.

It was created at a meeting on Monday night of hundreds of parents and local community members. The team of 12 intends to carry out a viability study as its first task. One parent, Hillary Carter, whose son is at the school, estimated 700 people were at the meeting.

Governors announced on Friday the independent school in west Cumbria is set to close in the summer due to dwindling students numbers. They say the school's financial position is "unsustainable".

A Parents and Governors meeting is being held on Wednesday when more details will be discussed.

Public meeting organised in a bid to save St Bees School

A public meeting is being held tonight in a bid to save St Bees School from closure.

It follows the announcement that the 400-year-old school will close.

The 300 pupils, their parents and staff were told the news on Friday. The school governors says that declining numbers since the economic crisis of 2008 have made the school's financial position unsustainable.

Parents, former teachers and members of the community are among those attending the meeting at the school's Memorial Hall at 7.30 pm.

"We are very sad to hear of the impending closure of St Bees School. It has a long and distinguished history of providing education in west Cumbria – and has close links with the Church. The Bishop of Carlisle, who is away on sabbatical at the moment, is one of the Governors, and the Vicar at St Bees is also the chaplain at the school.

"The school has over the years educated the children of many church people, including the children of clergy, and all that it has offered has been greatly appreciated.

"We want to pay particular tribute to the Headmaster, Mr James Davies, and the all the staff – teaching and non-teaching – for their work. The Headmaster especially has worked tirelessly to turn the school around, and had made great strides.

"Sadly the background of comparatively small numbers in the wider and local catchment areas, hard pressed family finances, and a complex global situation making it difficult to recruit international boarders, all mean that the school has proved in the end not to be financially sustainable.

"We know that the School will do all it can for all those affected by the closure. Many in the county will keep them in their prayers over the coming weeks."

– Dave Roberts, Carlisle Diocese

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Four-hundred year-old West Cumbrian school to close

The school is to close at the end of the summer term. Credit: St Bees School

A West Cumbrian school that's been open for more than 400 years is to close.

St Bees School offers boarding and day education. It will shut at the end of the 2015 summer term, the governors have announced.

That's because of declining recruitment, particularly since the economic crisis in 2008, and the school's financial position is now untenable.

“The governors have considered every possible solution. They wish to acknowledge publicly the untiring effort the Headmaster and his team have put into our recent recruitment campaigns, both day and boarding. We also recognise the financial and other support the school has received from a number of sources, most notably the Old St Beghians. Without that support, it is likely that we would have reached this point much earlier.

“We examined carefully the possibility of converting the school to a non-fee-charging Free School. However, the funding formula available from central government would not be sufficient to sustain a feasible business plan for the school, even assuming that the government were to approve our application

“We have concluded, however, that the only practical option left open to us is, while there are still the resources to do so, to close the school in as orderly and considerate a manner as possible.

– Chairman of Governors, Emeritus Professor Frank Woods

“This is a desperately sad day for all of us. We have worked extremely hard to try to avoid this outcome but what matters now, the governors’ decision having been made, is to ensure that our pupils and staff suffer as little as possible.

“All my efforts for the next four months will be to ensure that pupils continue to receive top-quality education and pastoral care, that examination candidates are not distracted, that parents receive help and support in trying to place their children in other schools and that we do everything possible to support our exceptional staff.”

– Headmaster James Davies

On the court for cancer cash

A 24 hour netball challenge has started at St Bees school today.

Both primary and secondary schools are taking part in the event throughout the day which runs through to Saturday morning.

St Bees School Credit: ITV Border News

The 24 hour challenge will have a staff game as well as local netballers from all over Cumbria playing during the night.

The event is part of Pink Netball fortnight which aims to raise money and awareness for Cancer Research UK.

24 hour netball challenge Credit: ITV Border News

The bee's knees: Cumbrian village most family friendly

St Bees came top of the Family Hotspots report. Credit: ITV Border

A Cumbrian village has been named the best place in Britain to raise a family.

St Bees, which has a population of less than 2,000 people, came top of the Family Hotspots report, which found it had a low crime rate, and strong community spirit.

Crime per capital in the village was 0.11, well below the national average of 0.25.

And another Cumbrian village, Moor Row, also came sixth in the report.

Hopes new beach will bring in tourists

The beach is a great place when you're on holiday but as anyone who's had small children will know, the best sandy bits can all too easily disappear when the tide comes in, leaving the youngsters with nowhere to play.

Well, in one West Cumbrian community, they've come up with a solution - a new play park.

It's hoped the park at St Bees will attract more visitors and prevent the resort being at the mercy of the sea. Fiona Marley Paterson reports.

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