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Fees cut for Barrow school explored by rescue group

A GROUP trying to save Chetwynde School is examining the prospect of slashing its fees by up to 25 per cent.

The measure is one of a number of options being explored in order to attract enough new students to ensure the school’s long-term viability.

Figures show it has shed more than 40 per cent of its students since 2004-05.

An increase in fees in the last five years could be a contributory factor, along with a declining local birth rate and the fragile UK economy, says Chetwynde Support Group (CSG).

A 25 per cent reduction in the private school’s annual fees would see the cost fall from the scale of £7,200 to £8,400 to between £5,400 and £6,300.

The school has 287 pupils on its roll. CSG member and local accountant John Keen said it was apparent from feedback at recent public meetings that Chetwynde had become too expensive. Basically the whole thing has become unaffordable for the sort of income levels around the town and around South Cumbria,” he said.

“But if you cut fees by 25 per cent and you increase pupil numbers by 40 per cent, then you actually generate an extra £400,000 to £500,000.

“That would take the school to its best capacity where it is socially inclusive, available to a lot more families and it starts to become financially viable.”

However, a spokesperson from the Chetwynde Board of Governors said such a dramatic drop in fees would see standards drop to an unacceptable level. Chetwynde’s fees are already some of the lowest of any independent school in the UK, the spokesperson said, adding: “The governors considered all reasonable options, including fee reduction, but considered the operation of the school, the diversity of the curriculum and maintaining the quality that is expected of an independent fee-paying school are not consistent with a major reduction in fees. The governors also have a duty not to jeopardise the school’s viability by gambling on a fee-reduction being more than compensated by an increase in pupil numbers.”

CSG will get a better idea of the school’s finances when members sign confidentiality agreements in the coming days giving them access to financial records.

Information on contractual obligations, supplier contracts and sources of income will be used to help the group draft a detailed business plan.

Mr Keen stressed that only CSG members dealing directly with the financial side of the campaign would be privy to the information and there would be no access to anything relating to parent or supplier debtors.

Have your say

Some other independent schools are trying out the lower fees/more pupils approach. It is worth exploring and shouldn't be dismissed out of hand. It may not be ideal for existing parents to see new starters paying less but infinitely preferable to your child/children no longer being able to attend the top performing school in Cumbria because it has closed due to low pupil numbers!!

Posted by Chet Parent on 16 May 2012 at 17:53

Apparently this 25% reduction is for new starters only, and existing parents are still required to pay the existing fee structure. If this is true then I cannot imagine any reason why an existing parent would wish to fund an unknown childs education. Not much thanks either to the parents who have stuck with the school. Sounds like the Fat Lady is warming up for her swan song.

Posted by Jamie on 30 April 2012 at 12:35

View all 8 comments on this article

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