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Gogglebox stars Steph and Dom Parker offer 'ray of hope' to save boarding section at historic school in Sandwich

Gogglebox stars Steph and Dom's multi-million pound B&B could become boarding accommodation for 30 kids facing possible eviction from their school lodgings.

The Salutation in Sandwich, which is owned by the Parkers, has been closed since January when John Fothergill who had a five-year lease to run the business declared bankruptcy.

The Salutation is owned by Steph and Dom Parker but was being leased to John Fothergill, who declared bankruptcy in January. Picture: Alan Langley
The Salutation is owned by Steph and Dom Parker but was being leased to John Fothergill, who declared bankruptcy in January. Picture: Alan Langley

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic means the swanky 21 bedroomed accommodation has been unable to reopen under new management and therefore remains empty.

Meanwhile, the town's historic Sir Roger Manwood's School - less than half a mile away - is proposing to close its boarding facility claiming the section has become financially unviable.

It leaves up to 55 children, excluding those preparing for GCSE and A-Levels who can be accommodated at Dover's Duke of York's School, with little alternative but to find new schools.

But savvy past pupils fighting to try and save the two homes contacted the TV personalities to see if a temporary agreement could be drawn up.

Within 24-hours they had agreed that the Grade I listed Salutation premises could be a base for 30 boarders for two full terms from September this year.

Sir Roger Manwood’s School in Sandwich is proposing to close its boarding provision Picture: Wayne McCabe
Sir Roger Manwood’s School in Sandwich is proposing to close its boarding provision Picture: Wayne McCabe

Mr Parker confirmed discussions had taken place, commenting: "We were approached and we are delighted to be of assistance where we can."

A spokesman for Friends of SRMS Boarding told KentOnline: "It was a long shot but this really has provided us with a ray of hope.

"We are excited and humbled that they have agreed to our proposal.

"We're looking forward to a response from the school and we hope that they are making plans off the back of this."

The proposal has been backed by parents and includes staff payments to four employees - a matron, two boarding parents and a cleaner.

The Salutation in Sandwich has remained empty since January when John Fothergill who had a five-year lease to run the business declared bankruptcy Picture: The Wow Factory
The Salutation in Sandwich has remained empty since January when John Fothergill who had a five-year lease to run the business declared bankruptcy Picture: The Wow Factory

It will buy the Friends of SRMS Boarding the time they have requested to explore long term options to save the boarding provision at the school.

The group of 14 alumni believe closure would destroy the ethos and traditions of the school, and feel strongly that alternatives, including converting the section into an independent or charitable organisation, need to be explored.

They said: “Without boarders, a large part of the cultural diversity that exists within the school will be gone.

"The strong feeling is that the boarders are very much at the heart of the school and what makes Manwood’s such a magical place. It is more than just a school; it is a community they were privileged to attend.”

Head teacher Lee Hunter says the reasons behind the proposed closure are not only financial but include the global coronavirus pandemic and difficulties around social distancing measures.

Head teacher at Sir Roger Manwood's School Lee Hunter is yet to respond to the temporary boarding proposal at The Salutation. Picture: Tony Flashman
Head teacher at Sir Roger Manwood's School Lee Hunter is yet to respond to the temporary boarding proposal at The Salutation. Picture: Tony Flashman

In a letter to parents, he also outlined changes to the new Immigration Act because of Brexit.

The Salutation proposal has been sent to Mr Hunter and the school bursar Paula Bunnell but no response has been received. Neither have responded to KentOnline's request for a comment.

A petition to save the boarding section has more than 1,100 signatures but more are needed. To sign it, click here.

The consultation on the proposals to close the provision ended yesterday (Sunday).

The consultation document can be found at manwoods.co.uk/boarding-consultation-2020.

Read more: All the latest news from Sandwich


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