Kilgraston School, Scotland’s only Catholic boarding school, has announced it is to close on June 24, telling parents it was due to ‘cost pressures…compounded by the withdrawal of business rates relief’ the Perth Gazette reports.
The school, which was established in 1930 and provides co-educational schooling at primary level and girls’ only secondary education, will cease operations at the end of the current school term.
The closure also comes after the Scottish government removed business rates relief on independent schools last year, a move that has been criticised by heads, including Melvyn Roffe, headmaster of George Watson’s College in Edinburgh and chair of the HMC.
Hutcheson’s Grammar in Scotland, where teachers recently voted to take industrial action, has criticised the policy saying it was “integral to the fiscal drag we are experiencing.”
The news of Kilgraston’s closure also comes as debate rages around a Labour party plan to charge VAT on school fees in England, should they come to power.
Thomas Steuart Fothringham, chairman of the board of trustees at Kilgraston, said: “This has been an extremely challenging and heart-breaking decision. However, having considered and pursued all other alternatives we are, for reasons of financial viability, left with no alternative.
“The loss of income resulting from Covid-19 lockdowns; the effect of lengthy travel restrictions on the international boarding market; the resultant erosion of our cash reserves; and, finally, a number of pupil departures during the course of this year mean that we can no longer continue to trade responsibly beyond the end of this term.
“At this point, we have three priorities: the welfare of staff, the welfare of pupils; and assistance for parents in finding places for their children at other schools. We will do all we can to help ensure a smooth transition for all affected.
“We are very sorry not to be able to continue operating a school that is close to all our hearts.”
In an email to parents seen by ISMP, he said there had been ‘significantly increased cost pressures on independent schools in Scotland over the past four to five years, recently compounded by the withdrawal of business rates relief’.
A spokesperson for the Scottish Council of Independent Schools added: “The announcement of the closure of Kilgraston School is devastating news for the pupils, their families and staff who have worked so hard to create a world-class learning environment where girls have flourished since 1930.
“Kilgraston’s closure is a stark reminder of the financial pressure independent schools face, notwithstanding the impact of political measures – current and proposed – which treat independent schools separate from all other not-for-profit bodies.”
The school currently has 116 staff and has 217 registered pupils. Staff were expected to meet with leadership today (Friday, June 2)