Parents seek advice in dispute over St Margaret's School fees
LEGAL action could be taken against the company which runs a city school due to close later this year.
The Echo has been told a class action is being considered by a number of parents of children attending St Margaret's School in St Leonard's as part of a row over fees.
It comes as campaigners, who were hoping to prevent the school from closing in August, announced that their efforts have failed.
Governors and owners Woodard Group said the closure decision had been made because it is no longer "financially viable".
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The school, which is currently ranked fourth in the GCSE result league tables in Devon, has blamed low forecasts for new pupils.
Parents, as well as former and current pupils, expressed concerns about the move, which came after the launch of a three-year recovery plan.
And there is anger that the announcement came a few weeks into the spring term. With parents having to give a full terms' notice in order to send their children elsewhere, it means they have to pay fees – listed as £1,783 per term in reception to £3,548 in years eight to 11 – for the spring and summer term even if they were to change schools ahead of the closure.
One parent told the Echo: "A number of parents have spoken about trying to launch a class action and are looking for a lawyer.
"They don't feel it is fair that the school expects parents to pay for education while staff are going through a redundancy process, their children are facing uncertainty, and they just want to find them a new school."
On this issue, acting headteacher Lee Bergin said: "The school has committed resources with the help of Woodard to ensure that the school remains open until August 31 in order to give all parents the best chance of finding alternative places for their children.
"In return, the school expects parents to honour their obligations in respect of notice periods.
"We regret that in fairness to all we cannot make exceptions to this."
A group of parents, and former pupils, had been hoping to put together a rescue plan to ensure the school could stay open.
It is understood that this involved potentially selling part of the site to fund keeping it open until an application to turn it into a free school – which would be state-funded – was accepted.
But in a letter sent to parents, staff and alumnae of St Margaret's School, a committee which got together to try and find a way to ensure its survival, said they have been "unable to identify a rescue strategy".
Campaign group spokesman John Fowler said: "We identified a wide range of options and began to research their viability.
"Four of us recently met with representatives of Woodard and discussed with them our ideas.
"We now understand how much work has been done over the last four years to try to sustain the school and that most of our options have already been considered.
"It is unrealistic to believe that we can achieve what they have been unable to do and especially since we would be starting from a much weaker position. For confidentiality reasons we are unable to share the details of these discussions, but we are convinced of the honesty and openness with which they have shared their information, and the thoroughness and comprehensiveness of their endeavours.
"Subsequently all of us met to review what we had learnt. Regretfully we have come to the conclusion that we are unable to identify a rescue strategy that we can recommend.
"The process we have gone through has helped us come to terms with the reality of the situation we all face, and we would like to think that our efforts and our conclusions will assist at least some others in their journey down the same path.
"We want to thank all those who have offered support and encouragement."