Winterbourne independent school to close with loss of 55 jobs
AN independent school in Winterbourne is closing down, with the loss of more than 50 jobs.
The couple who run Silverhill School, Jenifer and Julian Capper, blamed the deteriorating economic outlook for their decision.
The preparatory school and day nursery were both given scathing reports after inspections from the schools regulator Ofsted, which rated them inadequate after a visit in February. The Cappers lodged formal complaints against the inspections, which followed a previous outstanding rating for the school and good rating for the nursery.
Mrs Capper, the school's headmistress and her husband, who is the principal and bursar, said they had tried for two years to find a new operator, without success, and would not now reopen for the start of the next academic year in September.
They said they had been “working tirelessly” to secure the future of the school, which has 220 children aged from three months to 11 years, but it reluctantly decided that it “cannot continue as a going concern.”
The school buildings, which sit on a 9.5 acre site off Swan Lane, will now be sold.
The Cappers (below), who have run the school for 14 years, say they are now working with other local schools and South Gloucestershire Council to find alternative provision for Silverhill pupils.
They say they are also helping the school’s 21 full-time and 34 part-time staff find new jobs after they are made redundant.
Mrs Capper said: “The school is operating with reduced pupil numbers across all year groups and the impact of Covid-19 means that there is no realistic prospect of recovery in the short or even medium term.
“For two years we have been working tirelessly to secure the future of the school and have held discussions with two potential school operators during the Covid-19 closure.
"We were hopeful up until very recently, but unfortunately the last of these discussions has ended and it is now clear that the school cannot continue as a going concern.
“We are sincerely sorry that this is the case and that we have had to make this announcement so close to the end of the school term.
"We appreciate this is not ideal but, whilst we have been open in respect of the challenges we face, we have sought to delay making any formal announcement regarding closure in the hope that we could find a solution.
“Weare working with South Gloucestershire Council and other independent schools in the area so that parents can make the right choices for their children.
"Meanwhile staff are being consulted and informed about the future and we are taking legal advice to ensure they are supported and that due processes are followed.”
The school has been operating on its current site since 1992, having opened in Rudgeway in 1949.
Ofsted's report on Silverhill, published shortly before lockdown in March, included criticisms of health and safety procedures, poor maintenance including "falling masonry", safeguarding procedures including "poor" recruitment processes, training and "unsafe" checks on staff for their suitability to work with children.
When the report was published Mr Capper described it as a "brutal, inhumane inspection" and a "catalogue of misrepresentation of the school", which had left staff in tears.
He had warned that the school was "now under significant threat", adding: "It could be the end of it.
“After years of being a high performing school, we are being thrown in the dustbin.”