Old boys fail in bid to resurrect school

SUPPORTERS of a private school which closed in the summer due to falling numbers and insurmountable debts have failed in a last-ditch effort to revive it after receivers accepted an offer from an English property developer.

Rannoch School, in Perthshire, closed in June with the loss of 56 jobs despite rescue attempts by parents, former pupils and teachers.

The boarding school - comprising a B-listed Scots baronial mansion, dating back to 1855, and various buildings within 89 acres of parkland - has been in receivership since the end of September, after failing to reach the asking price of 1.9 million.

Bruce Cartwright and Iain Bennet, the receivers, confirmed that the sale of the estate - with loch frontage, fishing rights and a private jetty - had been agreed with a preferred bidder and was expected to be completed by the end of the month.

The new owner, Malcolm James, a property developer from Cornwall, confirmed he had bought the estate but declined to say for exactly how much, saying only that it was more than 1.3 million.

However, members of the syndicate of former pupils claimed his final bid was around 1.3 million, lower than their 1.4 million offer.

Mr James said: "We plan to revert the main school building to its original state and turn it into a family home.

"As for our plans for the other buildings and the rest of the land, I don’t want to make any comment until the sale is finalised.

"However, I will say that we will be consulting with the community and hope to use local labour for some of the work."

Sources claim Mr James plans to sell off 18 houses on the estate which previously accommodated staff in order to finance renovation of the main school building. Most of the school equipment, including classroom desks and chairs, has already been sold off.

Mr Cartwright added: "It was a requirement of the sale that bidders had to have proof of their funding position and had to put down a deposit on the estate."

The sale of Rannoch, near Pitlochry, has not run smoothly. The syndicate of supporters, backed by the three founders of the school and headed by its former bursar, Dudley Ells, submitted a proposal to the receivers at the end of September.

They had hoped to reopen the school and run it using fees and additional income generated by associated businesses and projects. The group also planned to create a small management college catering for up to 70 students by September 2004.

Until its closure, in June, Rannoch was among the most prestigious public schools in Scotland, with fees of up to 15,000 a year. The closure cost 56 jobs, removing an estimated 1 million in salaries from the local economy.

Mr Ells was suspended by the school in the summer, pending disciplinary proceedings, on the grounds that he had, contrary to instructions, contacted two members of the syndicate of former pupils which had been trying to save Rannoch.

Martin Hunt, the managing director of Tartan Silk, a public relations firm, and a former Rannoch pupil, said he was upset the school would not be reopening. He added: "The plans for the new school were so exciting. There is no other school in Scotland similar to what was being planned."