A prep school once attended by Boris Johnson is to shut down as a result of the impact of the coronavirus.
Ashdown House preparatory school in East Sussex, established 180 years ago, will close its doors at the end of the academic year after a ruinous downturn in pupil numbers.
The independent schools sector in the UK has been severely affected by the coronavirus, which has seen many parents lose income and a significant drop in interest from overseas pupils. As a result, the school was expecting to be less than a third full from September.
The trustees of the boarding and day school, which caters for boys and girls aged five to 13, have concluded that closing the school “is the only remaining option”.
It comes after the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) heard that the school had a “spartan and unforgiving” culture, where the sexual abuse of pupils during the prime minister’s time there was not reported to authorities.
Announcing the closure, Tom Beardmore-Gray, chief executive of the Cothill trust, of which Ashdown is part, said: “When the trust first welcomed Ashdown into our family of schools over a decade ago, trustees did so knowing that there were some very significant challenges that needed to be addressed.
“They were united, however, in the belief that everything that could be done to keep the school open should be done. The harsh reality is that the impact of the coronavirus has changed everything.
“In recent years the trust has invested heavily in the school, and there has been a relentless drive to keep the school moving forward. Given the challenges the sector as a whole is now facing, it is not possible to maintain this support.”
He went on: “Ashdown is a prestigious school, rich with heritage and tradition. We take some solace from the fact that, while the school is unable to continue, Ashdown’s impact will be felt for generations to come.”
In September, a hearing of the IICSA was told that Ashdown House had an environment where “sexual touching was seen as acceptable” during almost 25 years of abuse from 1969.
Johnson attended the school in 1975, six years after the first allegations of sexual abuse of it pupils were made.