Canterbury state school plan to rescue failed private school abandoned

Janet Downs's picture
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Head said private pupils could ‘benefit’ from state school’s facilities

Stuart Pywell, executive head of St Stephen’s Junior School, Canterbury, director and accounting officer for St Stephen’s Academy Canterbury Trust, devised a plan to rescue a failed private school, St Christopher’s, Canterbury, Peter’s Blog at Kent Independent Education Advice reports.  

St Christopher’s, owned by its head, David Evans (known as the Master) and his wife Alison. closed in the summer after failing two Ofsted inspections, the most recent being in April this year.  The school charged annual fees of nearly £10k but fell into financial difficulties following falling rolls.

Pywell told Kent Online   ‘It is a sad situation to see such a long-established school close and we just want to try and see if there is anything we can do for those parents and children to keep it going, using our experience and resources. There could also be opportunities for children from the new school to benefit from St Stephen's facilities.’

The plan to rescue St Christopher’s involved setting up a private company, Superbity Limited, to run the renamed school (temporarily called The New School).  Superbity Limited was registered with Companies House on 2 August 2018 and has one director, retired head Lyndon Terrence James.  Its service address in the same as St Christopher’s: 48 New Dover Road, Canterbury.

In March 2017, Pywell told the Guardian his school had made £300k a year fundraising. He said:

Schools have to look at themselves as businesses, the leaders as entrepreneurs who think creatively about what opportunities they can capitalise on…

But schools aren’t businesses, they are set up to deliver a valuable service: educating children.  That is their priority not being entrepreneurs.  Every hour spent chasing extra money is an hour taken from concentrating on education.

It’s debatable whether a state school rescuing a failed private school is an acceptable use of public funds.  It’s disruptive for pupils when schools close – fee-paying or not.  But the state’s responsibility is not to save inadequate private schools but to offer their pupils a place in a state school.

At 13.30 today, Peter’s Blog reported it had been told the rescue plan had been abandoned.  No reason was given.  

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