By Tara O’Connor, Local Democracy Reporter
A pair of private schools are set to open up on the site of Virgo Fidelis Convent School, which is set to close for good in August.
But the struggling school’s £2.5 million debt is still expected to be handed back to the Croydon Council and will be funded by Croydon taxpayers.
Debts at the school spiralled as fewer pupils enrolled at the school, affecting its funding and the majority of the buildings at the school in Central Hill are unfit for purpose according to the council.
But from September the buildings are set to be taken over by boys’ school The Cedars, Lloyd Park, Croydon, and girls’ school The Laurels based at Chelsea Embankment.
Both are Catholic schools run by the Parents, Children and Teachers in Partnership (PACT).
A statement on The Cedars School website said: “Our new school site is on the estate of the Sisters of Our Lady of Fidelity, a school building currently occupied by Virgo Fidelis Convent School.
“The site will be shared between The Cedars and our sister school, The Laurels, although both schools will retain their independence and, except for a shared sports hall, will occupy different sections of the school site. The Cedars will be based predominantly in a large Gothic building and the newer St Edward’s Wing.
“Over the years, parts of the building have fallen into disrepair and we will be undertaking a significant building programme to allow us to welcome pupils in September 2021.”
The closure of Virgo Fidelis and transfer of debt to the council was discussed at a council meeting last week with some asking whether anything can be done to stop Croydon taxpayers having to foot the bill.
Local councillor Stephen Mann said: “This is a secular local authority picking up the costs of a religious order, all residents will have to pay for these costs because the trustees haven’t been able to mange their money properly.”
The land and buildings are owned by the religious order Our Lady of Fidelity.
Legally this order is separate from the Archdiocese of Southwark meaning it can give the buildings over to whoever it wants.
The decision to close the school was made by Croydon Council and the Archdiocese of Southwark, which had influence over the running of the school but did not own the buildings.
At the same meeting, schools commissioner for the Archdiocese, Simon Hughes, revealed that the school had previously refused to sell off land to reduce the debt despite being asked to by the Archdiocese of Southwark.
He said: “One of the things that I picked up was concerns about its spiralling debt, there have been concerns of mine that the debt would get even bigger if we did not take this decision.”
He said he raised this idea of selling off some land ‘persistently’ with the school to no avail.
Girls currently in Years 8 and 9 will be offered places at other schools.
While Year 10s will be enrolled as St Mary’s pupils for Year 11, remaining in a single-sex location away from the rest of the school – they have been based here this academic year due to unfit buildings at Virgo Fidelis.
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