Whitgift Foundation to close Old Palace School

  • 27th September 2023

The Old Palace of John Whitgift School, a selective independent girls’ school in Croydon, London is to close in August 2025, Inside Croydon has reported.

The school consists of a pre-school for pupils aged three to four, a preparatory department for pupils aged four to 11, and a senior school for pupils aged 11 to18. The school is operated by the Whitgift Foundation, along with Whitgift School and Trinity School of John Whitgift.

The Whitgift Foundation has sent out a letter to parents and carers saying that there is “no viable alternative” to closure as “the school has been struggling financially for many years”.

Inside Croydon speculated that the closure was due to a mishandled £1billion property deal over the redevelopment of the Whitgift Centre, a shopping centre and office blocks that were owned by the Foundation, which it announced almost 12 years ago was to be rebuilt by Westfield. The redevelopment never took place.

Old Palace School has been a school since 1887, becoming a state grammar school in 1945 before going independent in 1975. It joined the Whitgift Foundation’s roster of in 1993.

In his letter Christopher Houlding, chair of the Whitgift Foundation, wrote that hr had “some very unwelcome news, about which I am desperately sorry. It is with deep sadness and regret that we have to share with you the news that the Foundation intends to close Old Palace of John Whitgift School in August 2025.

“I know that this will come to you as a tremendous shock. We ourselves are distraught at the thought of closing a school that was founded 134 years ago and which has enjoyed a finely deserved reputation for excellence in girls’ education ever since.

“We have done everything we can to avoid this outcome, but we have been left with no viable alternative, and I want to explain why we have reached this point.

“The background is that the school has been struggling financially for many years, and the Foundation has supported the school from its general reserves in the expectation that the financial situation would improve at some point.

“However, in recent years compounding factors such as the cost-of-living crisis, increased costs, the growth in expense for necessary capital investment projects as well as anticipated demographic changes have made the sustainability of the school beyond the short-term impossible.

“There is also the broader national context, with upheaval in the independent sector at the moment leading to a number of school closures as well as forced sales or defensive mergers.

“After a great deal of consideration – including exploring options such as a potential relocation and investing in a whole new school – the very regrettable position is that the Court of the Foundation has been left with no alternative but to announce its intention to close the school in August 2025.

“All the analysis and evidence suggest that the school’s finances will only deteriorate, making the sustainability of the school beyond the short-term impossible.

“We will need to formally consult with staff, and their representatives, and inform the [Department for Education] and other stakeholders.

“Ultimately, the view of the Foundation is that – however distressing it is for everyone involved – the option which brings the most certainty and clarity will be to close the school in an ordered way, giving families up to two years’ notice so they can make other plans in as considered a way as possible.

“We remain committed to providing a high-quality educational experience until Summer 2025 and so your daughter can remain at Old Palace until this time.

“The most important consideration is of course your daughter’s continuing education, and it is for this reason that as of today Mrs Burton [headteacher Jane Burton] will be contacting local independent schools and relevant local authorities to explain the situation. Our existing close contact with these other schools in the area will mean that a full and open discussion can be had with their headteachers about the availability of places at their schools.

“Our aim is to ensure the impact on your daughter’s education is minimal and we will remain in close touch with you as things develop in order to do what we can to support you.”


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