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Friday, 25 April 2014

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Pledges pour in to help save Chetwynde

A BID to save a school is gathering pace, with pledges of donations of £187,000 being offered in under 24 hours.

In a shock announcement on Thursday, the governors of Chetwynde School said the only private school in Furness would be closing in July.

The board of governors for the Barrow school, in Rating Lane, said a decline in pupil numbers, and the present economic climate, meant the school is ‘no longer financially viable’ after the summer term.

Closure would affect 287 pupils and 78 full and part-time members of staff at the school which has some of the very best GCSE and A-Level results in Cumbria.

The decision initially sparked panic among families and there was a scramble to find places at other schools, but within hours parents had organised a meeting to rally support to devise a rescue plan to save the school.

Some 400 parents, pupils, ex-pupils and teachers gathered for a passionate meeting where the school community vowed to fight for Chetwynde and keep their children at the school.

A rescue package has been set with a target of raising £500,000 which would allow the school to stay open for the next academic year, buying the school time to develop a sustainable plan to increase its pupil numbers. Chetwynde said it needs 300 pupils to be viable.

As the school broke up for Easter yesterday, a cross section of the pupils stayed on with staff to speak to the Evening Mail to show solidarity for Chetwynde and their sense of hope for its future survival.

Headteacher, Russell Collier, said: “There is a positive feel, and there is hope. Having witnessed the emotion and passion at the meeting from the parents, staff and pupils, it tells us there is an enormous amount of hope that the school can be saved.

“Pledges started arriving on Thursday after the meeting and as of 4.30pm (Friday) we have pledges of £187,000. It shows people want the school to continue. Some of those payments are in five figures. We have had pledges, some cheques, and we have had people paying fees in advance, even beyond this year.

“There are pledges from parents, pupils, past students, grandparents, and businesses. Companies have pledged to help with the maintenance of the school, the offer of services with the grounds, legal advice, and building advice.

“There is a body of school parents who are meeting to help with the rescue plans.”

Fern Schofield, of Year 12, filled up with tears as she stood up at the meeting to explain why the school must be saved.

The 17-year-old, of Barrow, who wants to study business at university said: “Initially we were all really shocked and then the worry started to kick in because next year is a crucial year for us, we are halfway through our A-Levels. I have been here since Year Seven and I was speaking at the meeting on behalf of my whole year group to show just how much we care about the school. I wanted to express how devastated we all were and that we want to do all we can to keep it open.

“There was so much passion for the school. I’ve not seen anything like it, it was overwhelming, it filled us with hope. On Thursday the school was silent, today (Friday) we are all in much higher spirits, we are filled with hope. I don’t think anyone realised how many people were going to turn up at the meeting.

“I feel the target will be met, there is support from parents, pupils, ex-pupils and hopefully businesses.”

The board of governors are holding ongoing meetings with the school's bank to talk about taking the plans forward.

Have your say

"Parent" is being a little disingenuous.They seem to suggest that the chief motivation to send their kids to private school is some heroic philanthropic gesture,ie saving the government money.Even if that's true,it's merely an incidental consequence of doing so. You could use the same argument by saying all chain-smokers save the gov money by the revenue they pay. A few years ago it cost £6 billion to treat smoking -related diseases,yet raised £8 billion in revenue.People don't smoke to be generous the exchequer!

Posted by paul on 18 April 2012 at 15:41

I am actually torn on this issue of the merits of private education.
I think parents should have a choice, but I am not sure what this choice is based on.
If privately educated children were in state education then perhaps state education would be seen as a viable option. Why?
The obvious enthusiasm and devotion to their children’s education, by Chetwynde parents’, would have helped sort out some of the problems found in our local schools.

People send their children to private education for many reasons, but the underlying main reason seems to be the unbelievable fear some have of state education and of the types of children who are part of it.
I believe all those who are privately educated would undoubtedly do just as well in state education. Their parents are too committed and on the ball to allow them to fail. Whether a child gets into bad company and drops out is mostly down to the home situation not what school it attends. Fears about state education are exacerbated by listening to moans from other parents. These moans are warranted, but how many parents go into state schools and try to sort things out, not many. If they did try to sort things like the Chetwynde parents then they would find much improvement as teachers and Heads would surely listen.

Chetwynde is a good school. The league tables show this and so perpetuates the impression that all will come out with A’s. This is obviously not the case. I then wonder why this is not the case given the opportunities laid at the feet of these children, they have it all on a plate in comparison to those in state education. I know of a child who went to Chetwynde in year 7 and another who went to a local failing school in the same year. They left junior school with the same SATS scores. Chetwynde child scraped through with a few GCSE’s, Failing school child got 12 GCSE’s at A*s A’s and B’s.
It is because you cannot change a child’s attitude or brain power, whatever school it attends.
Chetwynde is also in the fortunate position of being able to shed children with special needs. I am led to believe they cannot accommodate anyone too special as they do not have the resources or staff to deal with these children. (I know of one child who was sent to state education due to this).

I still think Chetwynde is a good school and given the clientele, it would be quite ludicrous if it were not. No I don’t mean wealth or privilege, I mean the type of parent who sends their child there. Whether their reasons for using the school is backed up by unwarranted fear or not, you cannot deny their commitment and enthusiasm for their children’s education.
From a selfish viewpoint, I wish it would close and so help improve local state education (God only knows all the enthusiasm and money being ploughed into it would help other schools enormously) but from a charitable viewpoint I wish them all the best of luck and I hope they manage to create a stable school for the children’s sake.

Posted by Torn on 11 April 2012 at 12:02

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