An independent school in Bristol is closing after 73 years, citing the worsening economic outlook following the Covid-19 pandemic.
Silverhill School in the north-west Bristol suburb of Winterbourne has been run by husband-and-wife team Jenifer and Julian Capper for the past 14 years. Headmistress Jenifer said she was reluctantly announcing the school’s closure after “working tirelessly” with bursar Julian to secure Silverhill’s future.
The independent preparatory school and day nursery teaches around 220 children from three months up to the age of 11.
We were hopeful up until very recently, but unfortunately the last of these discussions has ended and it is now clear that the school cannot continue as a going concern
– Jenifer Capper, headmistress
The couple said they are now working with other local schools and South Gloucestershire Council to find alternatives for Silverhill’s pupils. The pair are also in consultation with the school’s now redundant 54 staff, with the view to helping them find new employment.
The school buildings sit on a 9.5-acre site that will now be sold. When first founded in 1947, the South Gloucestershire school was based in a house in Almondsbury, before it was renamed and moved to Silverhill Brake in Rudgeway two years later. It moved to its present site in Winterbourne when it merged with a neighbouring independent school in 1992.
Mrs Capper said the impact of the coronavirus pandemic meant “there is no realistic prospect of recovery in the short or even medium term”.
“For two years we have been working tirelessly to secure the future of the school and have held discussions with two potential school operators during the Covid-19 closure. We were hopeful up until very recently, but unfortunately the last of these discussions has ended and it is now clear that the school cannot continue as a going concern,” she continued.
“We are sincerely sorry that this is the case and that we have had to make this announcement so close to the end of the school term. We appreciate this is not ideal but, whilst we have been open in respect of the challenges we face, we have sought to delay making any formal announcement regarding closure in the hope that we could find a solution.
“We are working with South Gloucestershire Council and other independent schools in the area so that parents can make the right choices for their children. Meanwhile staff are being consulted and informed about the future and we are taking legal advice to ensure they are supported and that due processes are followed.”
In March 2020, Bristol Live reported that Silverhill had filed a complaint to Ofsted after an inspection by the regulator branded it inadequate, despite three separate ‘outstanding’ inspections since 2008. Ofsted said the school’s leaders had allowed the site to fall into disrepair and noted: “Leaders do not follow the school’s health and safety procedures rigorously enough. The building is poorly maintained.”
Inspectors concluded that Silverhill suffered from poor lighting, water damage, falling masonry and broken fire alarms. The inspectors also complained that adults working at the school had not undergone the correct recruitment checks and the school’s leader did not have a single central record.
The school described the report as “a catalogue of misrepresentation” and decried what they branded “a brutal, inhumane inspection”.
Mr Capper told the Local Democracy Reporting Service in March: “The school is now under significant threat. It could be the end of it.”
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