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Pupil 'devastated' as St Bees closes its doors

St Bees. Credit: ITV Border

As pupils at St Bees School, in West Cumbria, leave today, they know that the doors could be closing for good.

The school's governors announced it would be closing earlier on this year, because of falling pupil numbers.

A project team has been set up to analyse the options, and they say the school could re-open in 2017.

But it's been a difficult morning for many of the pupils there:

I'm completely devastated. It's been a really hard morning."

– Lydia Tuck, Pupil

St Bees School to close its doors on 'saddest day'

St Bees School. Credit: ITV Border

St Bees School will close this afternoon, following a lengthy battle between governors and people campaigning against the decision.

In March, the governors announced the 432-year-old school would have to close because of falling pupil numbers.

The Save St Bees Campaign was set up to reverse the decision, and a project team was then formed to look at the options.

They say the school could re-open in 2017, in a different form.

But today, the school's doors will close, and Save St Bees say it's "the saddest day in the 432-year history":

This is the saddest day in the 432 year history of our school. Many will have to look to themselves and live with what has happened.

Those who were entrusted with being guardians of our school and our children have failed miserably. They continue to hide from the shame.

Let them. We will learn from their failings. In going forward we will make sure when our school reopens, it will be run in an open and transparent way - engaging with all of its stakeholders.

For the sake of our children, today we are celebrating a school that for years brought great joy and harmony to pupils, parents, staff and the local community.

Someday soon, we will once again be celebrating our school's achievements and its magnificent pupils."

– Save St Bees Campaign

The school has 300 pupils, and employs 130 staff.


St Bees school likely to remain closed until 2017

Credit: ITV Border

A project team set up to look at options for St Bees School in West Cumbria say it could reopen in 2017.

The independent school closes to pupils on Friday because of falling student numbers.

Governors had originally hoped it would reopen next year, but that now looks unlikely.

Anthony Fox is leading the project team and told ITV Border:

The project team's aspiration is to have some form of education on site at St Bees at the start of academic year 2017/18.

"However none of us can give any guarantees that that will be the case because there are a range of factors and contingencies relevant to shaping the future.

"It should be clearly understood by all concerned that whatever it is that, hopefully, starts up again in 2017 will be a different institution from the current school."

– Anthony Fox

WATCH: interim injunction to save St Bees

Parents have applied for an interim injunction to halt the closure of St Bees School this summer.

Watch Kate Walby's report on the latests in the ongoing battle over the future of the 400-year-old school.

Campaigners apply for interim injunction to halt St Bees closure

Credit: ITV Border

A legal move to halt the closure of St Bees has been made as part of the ongoing battle to save the 400-year-old school.

Parents have applied for an interim injunction to prevent the school's closure this summer.

The school's governors had previously said they hope to re-open St Bees next year, but campaigners say by then its long history will be destroyed and confidence in the school lost forever.

St Bees parents 'angry' about school's 2016 plan

Parents campaigning to save St Bees school says they're "surprised and angry" about the governors' decision to re-open the school in 2016.

Parents say the school should stay open this summer rather than forcing children to go elsewhere for one year.

A spokesperson for the governors has told ITV Border it is no longer feasible to continue with the current school model. Katie Hunter reports:


Governors say St Bees School could re-open in 2016

St Bees School Credit: ITV Border

Governors of a 400-year-old independent school in west Cumbria set to close this summer say they have identified a number of opportunities that could see the school survive.

It was announced earlier this year that St Bees School would close at the end of the summer term as falling pupil numbers had made its financial position unsustainable.

However, parents of pupils at the school set up a Save St Bees School campaign and the governing body now says the school could re-open in September 2016.

"Over the past month the Governors have identified a number of opportunities for a sustainable future for St Bees School. This work has necessarily been undertaken discretely and without publicity so as not to cause further distraction to the school community.

"The identified opportunities include both independent and maintained school models. However, regardless of the model adopted, the Governors are determined that the outcome will retain the ethos, values and good name of St Bees School.

"As a next stage in the process of securing the future, the Governors have made arrangements for suitably qualified third parties to undertake feasibility and other studies to allow further consideration and more extensive exploration of the available opportunities with relevant parties.

"The Governors intend, as soon as it is practicable to do so and certainly no later than mid-June, to arrange for consultation with all stakeholders and, in particular, the local community.

"The Governors have arranged for the establishment of a small project team of suitably qualified individuals to lead this transition work and it is anticipated that this team will, over the summer, assume many of the incumbent Board’s responsibilities and will form the core of a new Board of Governors as St Bees moves on to a new phase in its development.

It would be premature to speculate on the final outcomes and timescales. However plans are being made for the security and maintenance of assets following the end of the current term and the aim of the Governors is that St Bees School will re-open in September 2016."

– St Bees School Governors

However, the Save St Bees School campaign group has accused the governing body of failing to explain exactly what they mean about the future of the school.

"Once again the Governors have failed in their duty to engage with parents and stakeholders of the school. They announced the school was to close without warning, and now they issue a statement which raises more questions than answers.

"When will the Governors realise they have lost all credibility with parents, pupils, staff and the wider community and how are they going to explain to these stakeholders what this latest statement actually means for the future of our school?"

– Save St Bees School campaign group

St Bees campaigners meet to consider injunction

St Bees.

Campaigners are meeting this afternoon to consider whether to pursue legal action against the governors of St Bees school.

The 400-year-old school is closing this year because of falling pupil numbers, and because the governors say it is not financially sustainable.

But campaigners say they don't feel the governors have considered all of the options, and this afternoon they will decide whether to seek an injunction, to stop the closure.

Save St Bees send petition to Archbishop of Canterbury

Credit: ITV Border

Campaigners fighting against the closure of a 400-year-old west Cumbrian Independent school have sent a petition to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Save St Bees Campaign are calling for Archbishop Justin Welby to support their plan for the existing governing body at the school to resign.

The group argues if this were to happen, they could look to continue providing education on the school site under different governors.

They claim their petition has more than a thousand signatures.

St Bees governors to meet Charity Commission

Credit: ITV Border

The Charity Commission says it is planning to meet the governors of a closure-threatened independent school in West Cumbria.

St Bees, which has charitable status, first announced on 13 March it would shut this summer because of falling pupil numbers.

About a thousand people have signed a petition calling for the school's governors to resign.

"We have recently received complaints informing us of the governors' plan to close the school.

"We have contacted the governors for information regarding the situation and the decisions that were taken, and to make them aware of the importance of reporting serious incidents to us.

"The governors have responded to us and we are currently planning a meeting with them."

– Spokesperson for the Charity Commission

A spokesperson for the school told ITV Border that St Bees contacted the Charity Commission after a public meeting in April:

"The Commission issues specific guidance about reporting serious incidents and the Charity would always observe such guidance, however none of the categories covered by that guidance has arisen.

"Nevertheless the Charity has been advised that following a decision to close St Bees School a notification should be made and that was done after the meeting of 16 April 2015 when the Governors confirmed the decision to proceed to an orderly closure."

– Spokesperson, St Bees School
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