Charity watchdog to investigate closure of Craigholme private school following 'merger concerns'

Scotland's charity watchdog is investigating the closure of one of the country's last private secondaries for girls - after a merger with a former rival school.
Craigholme School in Glasgow shut at the end of the last term.Craigholme School in Glasgow shut at the end of the last term.
Craigholme School in Glasgow shut at the end of the last term.

Craigholme School in Glasgow shut at the end of the last term after entering into a partnership with one-time rival Kelvinside Academy.

The Office of the Scottish Charities Regulator (OSCR) has declined to say exactly what or why it is investigating.

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A spokesman said: "We have an open inquiry into the charity.

"In line with our inquiry policy, we cannot discuss an ongoing case as this may prejudice the work of the charity or the work of OSCR."

• READ MORE: Scottish private schools to hike fees as tax relief set to endCraigholme School, a registered charity, still exists and runs a primary and a nursery.

However, it does so with the "educational and managerial support" of Kelvinside.

The primary and the nursery are this summer moving into the Pollokshields building of the former secondary and will act as feeders for Kelvinside, which is a co-educational private school in Glasgow's West End.

However, concerns remain among some in the wider Craigholme community about events leading up to the closure announcement in February.

The Craigholme closure came at a difficult time for private schools with steadily falling pupil rolls across the sector following the financial crash of 2008.

Since then fees have risen by more than 30 per cent, from £11,000 to its current figure of around £15,000.

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Fees at Craigholme top £13,000 a year and its roll has halved since 2008-2009, to 223 in 2018-2019.

In March of 2018, Craigholme and Kelvinside announced a "strategic partnership".

The two schools said they were establishing a new corporate umbrella, called 'The Glasgow Schools Trust', to oversee them both.

However, the trust, which is not a registered charity, has made no meaningful filings at Companies House, Britain's corporate register, The Herald reported.

The ownership of the new body, which is registered at a Glasgow firm of solicitors, is unclear.

A source familiar with the issue suggested it is effectively dormant.

Craigholme School last month issued its most recent annual accounts, showing a deficit of £937,000 as of the year to June 2018.

The charity insisted it was still a going concern with net assets worth more than £2m but said it had been forced to make substantial cost savings.

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In its statement, which was dated June 14, it blamed the closure of the secondary on the loss of business rates relief for private schools, and rises in teachers' pay and pensions costs.

It added: "Kelvinside Academy will continue to provide educational and managerial support to Craigholme School in conjunction with the Royal Bank of Scotland."

There have been dramatic changes in personnel at both Craigholme and Kelvinside since the strategic partnership between the two was announced in March 2019.

At that point, parents were told that the new trust would "take immediate responsibility for the oversight and co-ordination of both schools".

There were five resignations from Craigholme's board and six appointments in April 2018, and in December Craigholme's principal, June Gilliland, died.

At the time of the February 2018 "merger" announcement, the rector of Kelvinside Academy, Ian Munro, was described as the executive headmaster of the new umbrella trust.

Mr Munro announced he would step down as rector of Kelvinside in February of this year, a few weeks before the closure of Craigholme Secondary was confirmed.

He had been the youngest private school head in Britain and he now leads Dollar Academy in Clackmannanshire.

His deputy Daniel Wyatt will take over as both rector of Kelvinside and headteacher of The Glasgow Schools Trust.

Kelvinside Academy has been approached for comment.

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