Published: 15:23, 01 June 2021
| Updated: 16:43, 01 June 2021
An independent school in Maidstone, which has been running for 86 years, has announced it will be closing for good at the end of the summer term.
The parents and staff of Shernold Preparatory School have been informed and it means 28 jobs will be lost.
The co-educational school which took three to 11-year-olds in Hill Place off Queens Avenue has been a family-run business since 1986, but was first established in 1935.
It received a “Good” Ofsted rating in its last inspection in 2018.
In a statement, the proprietor Valerie Waite said: "We have looked into many possible alternatives, but unfortunately with no success.
"The reason for the school's closure is that it requires long-term investment to secure its future."
The pandemic hit the school hard, with many families being affected and having to leave Shernold. It has also caused a lack of interest in new families joining.
Although the school can accommodate 160 pupils, it had only 101 at the last Ofsted inspection.
With such low numbers and consequent lack of funds, the school has been unable to update facilities which it said would disadvantage the current pupils, and additionally put the school in a less likely position of gaining new pupils.
The owners have been trying to fight closure for some time, and hung on in the hope that there would be more interest from families wishing to join the school in September.
Fees at the school are around £8,000 a year, depending on the pupil's age.
The school prided itself on its small class size, with a strict maximum of 20 pupils per class enforced.
Mrs Waite said: "We understand the dramatic effect it will have on our pupils and staff.
"We will do everything possible to help find new school places for the children and try to enable the transition to their new schools to run as smoothly as achievable.
"Our doors will close to our pupils at the end of July. This will be an incredibly sad day for us all, and one we never envisaged happening."