Failed merger with Whiteley’s alma mater leads to prep school closure

A planned merger between two schools will not go ahead, it has been announced, because of cost concerns in a move that will lead to the closure of a prep school.

Richard Whiteley

The governors of Malsis Prep school, near Cross Hills and Giggleswick School, near Settle, an independent school whose previous students include Richard Whiteley and past teachers include broadcaster Russell Harty, had announced their intention to merge but yesterday it was announced the talks had stalled.

In a statement Malsis School said: “The merger will not now take place and as a result Malsis School will close at the end of the Autumn Term 2014.”

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Last year members of Craven Council’s planning committee granted outline planning permission to build homes on two sites at the school. Chartree Developments (Malsis) Ltd indicated at the time it envisaged building 41 homes on one site and five on the other.

Richard Whiteley at Giggleswick School in 1960.

The school’s statement said governors at Malsis would now liaise with Craven Council: “..with regard to the impact of this news on the two on-site developments which have received outline planning permission.”

Yesterday Giggleswick School said its decision to pull the plug on the project had been motivated by escalating costs.

In a statement the school said it would need to provide a minimum of £1.5m of funding to enable Malsis to continue to operate. This is £1m over and above the amount the school planned to invest in Malsis, and on top of the cash that may be generated from proposed housing developments.

Heather Hancock, Chairman of Governors at Giggleswick School, said yesterday: “These unexpected extra costs simply mean it is too late to deliver a viable turn-around for Malsis, even though the market demand is clear.

“We know that the demise of Malsis will cause deep disappointment to pupils, parents and staff, who have been so loyal to the school through its recent difficulties.

“We remain convinced that it was right to try to save Malsis, and will continue to support pupils and staff over the rest of this term by extending the secondment of our own junior school headmaster,” she added.

Giggleswick School is an independent co-educational boarding and day school founded in 1512, while Malsis School is a preparatory school situated in Cross Hills which teaches children aged between three and thirteen years.

Robert Austin, governor and chairman of the finance committee at Malsis School said: “Malsis is a school with a fine history and a proud record, so it is with very great regret and sadness that we make this announcement as this means that the school is now faced with closure.

“We would like to thank staff and parents (past and present) and the local community for their help and support over the last few very challenging years,” Mr Austin added.

The school said Mark Brotherton, which has been seconded from his role as head of Giggleswick Junior School, will continue as interim headmaster while the next steps for the school are finalised.

Governors at Malsis School will work to support Mr Brotherton in his leadership of the school and in particular in his work to assist parents place their children in new schools.

Help will also be given to staff in finding new posts.