Virgo Fidelis Convent School in Croydon facing closure from financial problems and buildings “not fit for purpose”

By Tara O’Connor

Opposition to the closure of Virgo Fidelis Convent School was expressed by more than half of the residents, staff and pupils that responded to an initial consultation.

The Catholic girls’ school in Upper Norwood is facing closure due to financial problems and buildings ‘not fit for purpose’.

In response to a consultation, that ran in October, one former student wrote: “It has been with great sadness over recent years to see the school where I had been so happy change so totally.”

She was one of seven concerned about the future of the historic Gothic building, adding: “The church, the convent and the school are locally listed and the school is in a conservation area which is surrounding the convent.”

Another respondent expressed concern about losing the faith school, writing: “Virgo Fidelis was and is an excellent Catholic school. I truly hope that the borough is not seeking to start up a non Christian school so as to keep Labour in the Borough.”

While the school is funded by the council, as a voluntary-aided school the Archdiocese of Southwark contributes to running costs and has influence over how the school is run.

Now a formal consultation on a proposal to close the school for good is open – an option supported by both the council and the archdiocese.

A total of 60 people responded to a pre-publication consultation with some concerned that the closure would be disruptive to current pupils while others were worried about the loss of a Catholic and single-sex school in the area.

If the school is closed down, it would happen as soon as August 2021. Children currently in Year 8 and Year 9 would be offered a place at other schools while Year 10 pupils would be enrolled at St Mary’s where they have been based since September.

It is hoped that the majority of staff could be redeployed elsewhere at local schools.

The buildings would remain with the Trustees of Our Lady of Fidelity Established at Upper Norwood, which will look to maintain the historic buildings where possible.

The proposal to close the school was put forward as the school buildings are “unfit for purpose” and falling pupil numbers means it has also fallen into debt.

In the summer, a decision was made not to accept Year 7 pupils for this school year and Year 10 pupils were moved to St Mary’s Catholic High School as a result of unfit buildings.

A pre-publication consultation which took place in October received 60 responses, with more than half saying they do not support the proposed closure.

The latest consultation runs until December 10 with responses submitted to the council’s cabinet in January.

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