A Perthshire school specialising in the education of children with additional support needs is to close this week.
Parents were told in an email on Monday that the New School at Butterstone will shut its doors on Friday, blaming “increased costs and a reduction of income”.
However, the moves comes just days after a damning Care Inspectorate report which threatened to remove the school’s registration unless it urgently addressed child protection failings.
It also gave the school until Wednesday to take steps to ensure “children using the service must be kept safe from inappropriate behaviour and by members of staff”.
The Courier has asked for further comment on the Care Inspectorate report and is awaiting a response from the chairman of the school’s board of governors.
Since it opened 25 years ago, the independent school has specialised in education for young people with autistic spectrum conditions, or other conditions that require a therapeutic approach to learning.
In the email sent to parents and carers, Sir Andrew Cubie, chairman of the school’s board of governors, said: “It is with the heaviest heart that I write to advise you that after 25 years The New School Butterstone is to close.
“I realise that this will be a deep disappointment to you and your family. Unfortunately in recent years the increasingly onerous requirements of operating in the care sector and the associated costs and resources has had a significant detrimental effect on the school finances and, as a small independent charitable institution, the financial impact has been particularly acute.
“Regrettably the combination of increased costs and a reduction of income exacerbated an already uncertain financial position and has left the school in a situation that is now financially unviable.”
Sir Andrew said “all options” were investigated in an attempt to keep the school open.
He added: “Our overriding priority now is to work closely with parents, the Care Inspectorate, Education Scotland, the Regulator of Independent Schools and all relevant local authorities, particularly Perth and Kinross Council, to secure suitable placements for pupils at the New School.”
Shocked parents took to social media to ask where the 24 pupils will be educated from next week, while Perthshire politicians vowed to help.
John Swinney, Perthshire North MSP, said: “I will be working with the school and public authorities to support pupils and staff affected by this decision.”
Perth and North Perthshire MP Pete Wishart said: “The news that the school is to close with such immediacy is devastating and will be a huge worry for parents and carers.
“The educational environment that the school has provided to many vulnerable young people over the years will be very hard to replicate and I will do whatever I can to help anyone affected by this news.”
Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Murdo Fraser said the school will “leave a gap which will be hard to fill”.
He added: “I visited several times (and) the care for sometimes troubled youngsters with complex needs was exemplary.”
A council spokesperson said: “We will be working with parents and pupils to review their individual needs and understand the best alternative option for them.”