Parents of pupils at Old Palace – from nursery, through primary and into secondary – turned out in Shirley yesterday morning to protest at what they see as the arbitrary unfairness of the plans to close their school.
As first reported by Inside Croydon, the Whitgift Foundation, the property business that runs three independent schools in the borough, has determined that “the sustainability of the school beyond the short-term [is] impossible” and that it will close in 2025.
The Foundation announced its decision just seven days after it had publicised the 2023 Old Palace open day – even though the school is now no longer taking new pupils.
With their school open day duly, belatedly cancelled, Old Palace parents and pupils gathered outside the gates of Trinity School in Shirley, one of two boys’ schools run by the Foundation which are not under threat of closure. Trinity was staging its recruitment open day.
Another protest, which had been planned to be staged outside Whitgift School in South Croydon on Thursday evening, was cancelled out of respect for Elianne Andam, the schoolgirl murdered in the town centre earlier this week. Elianne, 15, was a pupil studying for her GCSEs at Old Palace.
Old Palace, which can trace its history to 1887, has its senior school based on a site in Old Town which includes several Listed buildings which date back to Tudor times. Old Palace has been a fee-paying independent school since 1975, where fees in the secondary school are now almost £20,000 per year.
Today, one of the protesters, from a newly formed organisation Old Palace Parents Alliance, told Inside Croydon, “Quite a few teachers from Trinity, including the head, came out to show support for saving Old Palace.
“Words like ‘sexist’, ‘unbelievable’ and ‘suspicious’ were used to describe the circumstances.
“We managed to speak with a lot of parents leaving the open day and they were very surprised to hear the Foundation was closing the only girls school in the group.
“Several were alarmed and I think were made to wonder if it was the right place to send their sons.
“There seems to be overwhelming support for keeping Old Palace School open. Several alumni showed up who also explained they don’t understand why the Foundation didn’t approach the alumni for donations to the school, as they are a large body of high-achieving, professional women.
“Several Trinity staff indicated that they would be happy to educate girls as well and wondered why a merger wasn’t in the works.”
The Old Palace campaigner said that staff from the girls’ school are increasingly concerned about the education of their own children – many of whom have been granted burseries at Foundation schools which are likely to be withdrawn once the Old Palace teachers lose their jobs.
“The Foundation can’t even be asked to answer their emails asking questions or seeking support,” the source said.
“The Foundation has claimed to have explored every possible option to keep the school viable, yet it feels that we are coming up with ideas that can work. So we doubt they put any real effort into saving the school.”
Read more: Old Palace head announced retirement days before new term
Read more: Old Palace closure brought on by shaky Foundation finances
Read more: Falling rolls and rising fees: how Old Palace got squeezed
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