Teachers and parents band together to save historic Upper Beeding convent school

Parents, teachers and former pupils have banded together in an attempt to save an Upper Beeding school.

Earlier this month, The Towers Convent School in Henfield Road announced it could be forced to close at the end of the academic year.

The Towers focus group. Back: Andrea May, Jason May, James Nunn, Elaine Toohey, Jay Meaker, Becky Meaker, Richard Hobden'Front: Celine Lake, Kurt Lyall SUS-191219-125431001

The Towers focus group. Back: Andrea May, Jason May, James Nunn, Elaine Toohey, Jay Meaker, Becky Meaker, Richard Hobden'Front: Celine Lake, Kurt Lyall SUS-191219-125431001

A focus group of parents and staff has since been formed to put together a rescue effort.

One of the group’s founders, Elaine Toohey, has a daughter in year 11 at the school and said it was vital the ‘hidden gem’ be saved.

“Everyone who has been talks about that feeling of ‘The Towers magic’,” said the 44-year-old.

“I can’t explain enough how special the school is. To walk around there, you get the feeling everyone knows everybody, all the nuns know all of the pupils’ names. It’s about more than the results, which are outstanding – it’s about life skills and values that will stick with them for their whole lives.”

Elaine said under-subscription had left the independent school, which charges up to around £4,000 per term, struggling financially.

She also pointed to a neglected marketing strategy that had focused mainly on word of mouth. The focus group would be using its collective business and marketing experience, she said, to put together a sustainable business plan to be presented to trustees in January.

Adur district councillor and former student Joss Loader has backed the campaign.

She recalled fond memories of the ‘inspirational’ teachers who gave her and her daughter, Francesca, the confidence and grounding for successful careers.

“I am really sad to hear of the problems that The Towers is experiencing,” she said.

“It’s a first-class school, achieving high academic standards and it’s also renowned for its kind and caring atmosphere and excellent pastoral care.

“I have really fond memories of The Towers and Sister Mary Andrew was my English teacher. She gave me the grounding and the confidence to opt for a career in journalism and public relations and was a truly inspirational teacher.

“My daughter, aged 26, is also a former Towers’ girl. The excellent science and maths teaching at GCSE were instrumental in helping her to go on to qualify as a civil engineer.

“I really hope that this truly fantastic school can be saved from closure to enable it to continue its invaluable work within the community.”

During the recent general election campaign, Labour’s pledge to eradicate private schools sparked plenty of debate.

The perception among some people, including several commenters on the Herald’s Facebook page, was that money from wealthier private schools could be disseminated among state schools, providing a better, more balanced education system.

But Elaine said parents are willing to do ‘whatever they need to do’ for their children and, in come cases, that meant making sacrifices to send them to private school.

“People assume that people who go to private school have piles of money lying around,” she said.

“But most of the parents have made compromises in order to send their children to these schools.”

She added The Towers is one of few independent schools in the country which does not discriminate based on academic ability.