Girls’ school in Wanstead closes after a century
- Credit: Ellie Hoskins
A 100-year-old Wanstead school which has seen generations of girls from the same family attending is closing.
St Joseph’s Convent School for Girls in Cambridge Park, which celebrated its centenary in 2018, informed staff and parents this week that the school will close on Wednesday (July 15) after failing to find an investor who could save it.
Today (Friday, July 10) was the last day of classes for the girls, and teachers have been told to vacate the premises on Wednesday.
The Institute of Our Lady of Mercy, based in Leeds, runs the school along with its sister site St Josephs in Burnley.
The trustees of the institute were exploring two options in recent weeks to save the school; transferring ownership to a new charity or finding a new investor.
The charity option was dismissed in June, as the school would need to increase the number of pupils and fees, reduce staff and consider bringing staff out of the Teachers Pension Scheme to make it financially viable.
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The trustees projected that even with those drastic measures in place, it would remain in deficit for the next three school years.
In a letter sent to parents on June 24, seen by the Recorder, institute leader Sister Colette Cronin said: “The time to consider a transfer to a new charity would have been at a point when the school was on a steady financial footing.
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“Until the coronavirus pandemic arrived earlier this year, the Trustees’ intention had been to continue to subsidise the school for the time being, subject to close monitoring and in the expectation that it would succeed in reversing the recent decline in pupil numbers so that it could once again be financially sustainable.”
The option of an investment company saving the school also fell through last week.
Sarah Isaac, of Woodford, attended the school as a child along with her two sisters and her daughter joined the school in September.
The 40-year-old said all the parents and teachers she has spoken to are emotionally exhausted and disappointed from the whole ordeal.
One of the teaching assistants who is losing her job was at the school in 1984 when Sarah attended.
A letter sent to parents on Thursday said: “We had all hoped for a bright future for St Joseph’s and we acknowledge the pain and disappointment that you will have been experiencing at the prospect of the school having to close.
“Your daughters are the reason the school has existed, and we are sorry that they will have to move on to other schools.
“We wish them every success as they do so, and they go with our prayers for a bright future beyond St Joseph’s.”
Sarah said her daughter was very emotional from the thought of having to change schools and not be around her friends anymore, particularly in the anxiety-ridden pandemic.
She added: “I had really fond memories of that school growing up and wanted my daughter to have the same.”