Nuns reject deal to save a Catholic school in Bristol

A private Catholic school in Bristol has gone into administration after a bid by a Christian organisation to turn it into an academy was refused.

St Ursula's, which is run by Catholic nuns, the Sisters of Mercy, has struggled to remain financially viable due to falling pupil numbers.

Trustees called in administrators after the nuns rejected a rescue deal from Oasis Community Learning.

About 160 pupils must find new schools and 40 staff have lost their jobs.

St Ursula's school, which charges up to £2,900 a term, was started in Westbury-on-Trym by the Catholic order of nuns in 1896. The Sisters said they could only support a deal which would see the school remain Catholic.

'Financial difficulties'

In a statement, the Sisters of Mercy said: "The sisters of Mercy are not trying to force the closure of St Ursula's School.

"Over the last two years, since the trustees of St Ursula's first informed us of the financial difficulties of the school, we have been open with the school's trustees that we can only invest in any new plan for the school if it continues to be a Catholic school.

"Over the years we have talked to the school trustees about ways to save the school, but no viable plan for a Catholic school has been forthcoming.

"We are open to the use of the St Ursula's property as a non-denominational school but as of this moment, no one has come forward with sufficient funds to set up and ensure the long term viability of a new school."

Administrator Trevor O'Sullivan, from Grant Thornton, said: "Whilst the trustees have made every effort to find a potential purchaser capable of delivering a sustainable school operation, unfortunately this has not been achievable in the short time scale available.

"As a result, there is no available funding and the trust has been unable to meet July salary payments. Consequently, the school will close."

Bristol City Council released a joint statement with Oasis Community Learning, who already run two academies in the city, it said:

"Bristol City Council was deeply saddened to hear of the that St Ursula's independent school was put into administration.

'Elusive trustees'

"The council has been actively supporting recent efforts by Oasis to step in and safeguard a future for the school. Despite this news, we understand that Oasis will be continuing to search for a positive solution and we will continue to offer support to Oasis in their efforts."

Nina Franklin, from the National Union of Teachers, said: "The main difficulty for teachers has been the elusive nature of who the trustees they were unable to clarify anything with anyone in the school.

"I've had a lot of distressed phone calls because their mortgages haven't been paid this month."

Linda Hall, whose son is a pupil at the school, said: "A lot of parents have stayed incredibly faithful to the school.

"The staff have been exceptional, they've gone on teaching in an incredibly professional manner given the cloud that's been hanging over everybody."

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