Crowstone Preparatory School in Westcliff will close its doors on Wednesday 6th July 2016 after 70 years. Despite recently being rated as one of the top 100 independent schools in the country, two years running, the school has become the latest casualty in the independent sector. Small, independent schools struggle to meet both the economic and administrative pressures, whilst keeping class sizes low and giving the individual attention that so many children need. Mr J P Thayer, Headmaster says ‘It is with a heavy heart that I announce the closure of our school in July. We have seen over 3,000 pupils pass through our doors, all of whom have gone on to do great things and are a credit their parents and the school.'
Headmaster's Letter To Parents:
26th May 2016
Dear Parents, Colleagues, Friends,
I write to you with a heavy heart. The last few months have been very testing for any number of reasons. I have received letters from a growing number of parents giving the required period of notice of withdrawal of a pupil. They all begin, “We have carefully considered our options but...” or, “We love the School but...” and so on. Each pupil who has left, citing too small a class, sadly perpetuates the conundrum.
I have carefully considered our options and have, sadly, concluded that the school is unable to continue with pupil numbers as they are. Regrettably, following lengthy discussions and much soul searching, the School cannot reopen in September for the 2016/17 Academic Year and will close its doors for the final time on Wednesday 6th July 2016. I am aware that a number of you have already researched options at other schools and I urge to put these options into action. I will make every endeavour to assist those who have not considered this outcome to find and gain entry to their next school. I am desperately working to find funds to meet payroll; a shortfall which is the direct result of a number of parents who left without notice and/or without payment of fees-due or fees-in-lieu of notice who did not recognise their legal and moral obligation to the school and its tight community. I am bitterly disappointed that the school should close on a sour note.
It is true that every academic year sees pupil transfers, both in to and out of the school. This year we saw a significant number of pupils leave for perfectly legitimate reasons; changes in admissions criteria, new homes, new jobs, relocations. We did not see the same influx resulting in a net loss. Therefore class sizes were reduced for protracted periods and remaining parents became concerned that our “small classes” were, ironically, too small. Previously these places have been filled and equilibrium restored. Recent interest from the reduced fees, new website and 70th Anniversary Fete has been encouraging but is insufficient to make the school viable in the time we have – we apologise to our most recent registrations, we will be unable to process their admissions.
In my view the school has suffered for a number of reasons. It can be said, that the business of Schools and Education was changing whilst we got on with the practice of educating. This was harshly reflected in the written Ofsted report which highlighted our failings in compliance with the many new and constantly updating Standards - whilst our SATs results placed us in the Top 100 Independent Schools for two years. I am confident that we shall also see excellent results in this years SATs, following the new National Curriculum. It is also widely accepted that the report does not reflect the family values and ethos of the school nor the hard work and dedication given by the staff.
Another factor has been the increase in gossip at and around the School Gate and anonymous inaccuracies and gross exaggerations on social media, which has unsettled otherwise loyal parents. Rumours that “the school is closing” have therefore become self-fulling - when we had no plans to close even just a few months ago.
However, I have never experienced such a period of loss of confidence in me or in the School as I have witnessed in the last few months. I therefore feel that I should retire and relieve myself and my family of the immense pressure and stress of running this, our school and our home, Crowstone Preparatory School. We feel we can no longer manage due to the increased pressure, issues with health, especially that of Mrs Thayer and of course, falling numbers.
I was pleased that our Fete enabled us to celebrate our 70th Anniversary. It seemed right and proper, despite everything, to mark such an achievement. The success of the day was due to a small group of parents (some of whom are family) who expressed total support for the school and a determination that such an event should take place. My thanks also to Sir David Amess for his kind words on the day, but also his support over many, many years. My thanks to a number of families who have willingly given assistance during the last few months. Your loyalty has been greatly appreciated and will not be forgotten.
I do not know how many children I have taught during my career, which started in 1964 at Hullbridge Primary. I do know that it has been a pleasure to have tutored them all and to have been a brief guiding force in their lives. The last 36 years have been particularly pleasing as this has been my school, my vision for their future. Those I have met, in later life, seem to have grown into fine adults who have secured a solid future for themselves. They are a credit to their parents and to themselves. To current pupils I can only wish the same self-confidence in themselves and success for their futures. I hope you will take fond memories of your time here at Crowstone.
My thanks to staff, past and present for their hard work and dedication to the school for so many years. I could not have wished for a more committed workforce and I wish them a positive future.
Crowstone Preparatory School (Sept. 1980 – July 2016)