The End of an Era

Closure of St Nicholas House Prep School & Nursery

St Nicholas House Prep School, North Walsham held meetings for staff and parents yesterday with the sad news it will be closing its doors for the final time this term, unless significant investment can be secured. The School has faced financial difficulties for several years now and in September 2015 was saved from closure by four sets of parents. Before this it had changed hands twice in two years.

The parent group wanted to see it thrive again as it had in its heyday. They worked extremely hard and, together with other shareholders, have committed a significant sum to support losses, improving the offering and the environment and trying to steady the financial management.

It is with a very heavy heart that this loss can no longer be supported. The business model is not viable, despite excellent provision. Fees and pupil numbers are too low against staff costs and other overheads. The School has not generated the pupil numbers and/or fee income required. The reported loss last year was £157k and a similar performance is anticipated for this year.

The Directors continued to support the business this Autumn with exhaustive efforts to pursue a sale of the business which ceased when a second potential buyer withdrew their interest last week. Consequently, the Directors had no option but to seek insolvency advice from Price Bailey. That advice recommended the Directors cease trading immediately given forecast ongoing losses and the current financial position. The Directors do not wish to do this under any circumstances but have legal responsibilities not to continue trading an insolvent business.

All involved are devastated but working closely together and with Price Bailey to protect the interests of creditors and staff and to keep the School trading until the end of term if at all possible, whilst looking for further investment.

The Local Authority are working with the School to ensure the smoothest transitions for pupils who wish to transfer to the state sector and the Headmaster is in close contact with other independent schools to ensure the same there.

St Nicks has been a very happy school where children have thrived. The pupils have all gone on to enjoy success wherever their educational journey has taken them, and parents have all been dedicated to the St Nicholas House ethos:

“St Nick’s has given our boys a fantastic early school experience. Both have thrived in its nurturing; familial environment and we are incredibly sad to see it closing. We thank all the staff for the care and hard work they have poured into our children and for creating this wonderful unique space.

We’d also like to thank the people who have kept it going against the odds during the last couple of years. We appreciate the sacrifices that have been made and understand why that now needs to come to an end.

As we look at new schools for our boys’ future, we are hoping to find some of the wonderful qualities we have had at St Nicholas House.”

Stephane Lustig, parent

“As a family, we are deeply saddened to hear of the closure of St. Nicks. The School’s ethos is what makes it special, creating an incredible learning environment for the children. The dedication of the staff has enabled our children to thrive and we will be terribly saddened to lose the St. Nicks community we have had the pleasure of being part of.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank the staff for their commitment and dedication towards our children’s education and to the shareholders for supporting it financially for so long.”

Geoff & Mandy Beck, parents

“Elaine and I have loved every minute of our time with St. Nick's. It has been a privilege to be involved with such a wonderful place. It is a marvellous school, as is witnessed by the happy and confident children who are and who have been there.

However, the financial implications, clearly, are such that the school is not sustainable. It is very sad but very realistic. No individual, or individuals, can reasonably be expected to keep the school afloat under such circumstances.”

Tony Richards, School Advisory Board

“We are extremely upset that despite our best efforts we have to deliver this sad news. We would like to take this opportunity to thank the parents for their encouragement, the staff for all their hard work, care and commitment and everybody involved with St Nicks for their unwavering support. From the bottom of our hearts we wish all of you the very best for the future.”
Andrew & Tessa Dewing, Directors of St Nicholas House Prep School Ltd