PARENTS and teachers are caught in a race against time to prevent the closure of Rotherham’s last-remaining private school.
The future of the £2,000-a-term Rudston Preparatory School hangs in the balance due to a decline in pupil numbers in recent years, which governors have blamed on the economic downturn.
Fears are mounting that the 80 pupils will be unable to return to the classroom in September following the summer break. The closure would also spell the loss of around 40 jobs for staff at the nursery and primary.
Crunch talks between a newly-established board of trustees are underway in the bid to secure its long-term future. The joint committee will focus efforts on fundraising and generate new ideas to boost pupil numbers.
But with time running out, a petition is calling for assistance from Rotherham Council.
Teacher Sonya Dayson, who also has children at the Broom Road site, said: “Our clientele over the past few years has changed, and is now mainly constituted of the children of successful local businessmen and women or people in other professional jobs within the local community.
“However, due to the recent economic downturn, we have seen a steady decline in pupil numbers which means the future of the school beyond September is now unsure.
The board of trustees, parents and staff at the school are working hard to try and find a solution to this so that the school can continue to provide an independent education option for local people.
“We strongly believe that keeping the school open would be in the best interests of the local economy and community.”
Already the e-petition at website Change.org, entitled ‘Save Rudston School’ has collected 600 signatures.
The parents’ group has also approached children’s commissioners, education bosses MPs and other local stakeholders asking for their support.
A spokesman said: “The school has not only been a provider of outstanding education over the years, but through its charitable aims and objectives, it is a supporter of the wider local community. Rudston is so much more than a school; it is a close-knit family.
“Since the news was announced parents have been constantly in touch with the school to support staff and also to provide ideas for what the next step might be.
“Rudston is the only independent school in Rotherham and we think it provides a superb alternative for parents who wish to educate their children via this route.”
Further discussions with Ian Thomas, the newly-appointed director of children’s services at Rotherham Council, are due to take place to examine options for Rudston’s future.
He told The Yorkshire Post: “We acknowledge that Rudston School has historically held a valuable role in the education system in Rotherham.
“The current financial difficulties the school finds itself in are extremely regrettable and we sympathise with its current situation. We will continue to monitor the current situation at Rudston and will continue to provide support at this difficult time.”
Rudston has been educating children between the ages of three and 11 in South Yorkshire since 1948. In its last Ofsted inspection report in October 2013, it was given an ‘excellent’ score in six out of eight categories, and the remaining two were rated ‘good’.