Anger as RBS pulls plug on girls’ school

128 pupils given nine days to find new places after bank refuses to lend more money
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The Independent Online

A £3,000-a-year independent girls school has been given nine days to close after its bankers, the Royal Bank of Scotland, refused to lend it any more money.

Governors ruled that the recession-hit Brantwood Independent School for Girls in Nether Edge, Sheffield, would have to shut its doors from next Friday after RBS refused to extend its line of credit following a difference of opinion over the value of the school's 108-year-old buildings.

The governors had originally planned to wind up the struggling school in the summer using loans from RBS which would be secured against its premises, which had been independently valued at £1m. But RBS estimated the property to be worth just £600,000, leaving governors with little choice but to call for an emergency closure.

The move leaves the school's 128 pupils, some of whom are set to take their GCSEs this summer, scrambling to find places elsewhere during the upcoming half-term break.

Brantwood's governors said they had originally been "cautiously optimistic" that RBS would extend them sufficient finances to keep the school running until the end of the academic year. But the situation changed abruptly on Monday when they were introduced to new staff members at the bank who appeared less enthusiastic about the situation.

John Boyington, chairman of the school's governors, said: "We have been shocked by [RBS's] aggressive and unhelpful approach. All we need is a little more time on behalf of the girls at the school." A statement from the board of governors on the school's website added: "The level of support that they were willing to extend left us with no option but to close the school in a pre-emptory manner. This is a bitter disappointment to all who have worked so hard over many years to add such value to the lives of many girls across Sheffield, South Yorkshire and Derbyshire."

Headteacher Lynn Marriot, who is facing redundancy alongside 30 staff, said the bank's actions were "completely and utterly cruel", particularly with pupils preparing for exams. "It's like something out of a Dickensian novel - we are all heartbroken," she said. "They are effectively throwing us out on the street."

A spokesman for RBS – which is 84 per cent owned by the taxpayer – said that the decision to close the school had been made by the governors not by the bank, pointing out that the school was asking for credit that, in its opinion, exceeded the value of the assets.

"Whilst this is deeply regrettable, it would be irresponsible to risk further losses to a business that isn't viable. Such losses would not be in the interest of the school, the governors or the bank," he said.

He added: "Over the past three years, the bank has been hugely supportive of Brantwood school. RBS has actually increased actual support to the school despite their business deteriorating during the same period."

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