Two separate mergers of British independent schools have been announced this week, illustrating how profitable institutions are hoovering up schools whose financial pains have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
Charterhouse and Edgeborough Schools situated in Surrey will merge in September, their foundations announced on 24 February, when the latter will be acquired by the former.
Meanwhile, on the same day, North London’s Mill Hill School said it would bring Cobham Hall School in Kent under its umbrella, which encompasses four schools.
According to financial statements filed with the UK Charity Commission, Charterhouse School in 2019 – the year for which data is most recently available – was profitable. However, Edgeborough Education, the charity underpinning the eponymous school, recorded a loss for the year ended 31 August 2020.
Similarly, the Mill Hill School Foundation recorded a profit in 2019, while that year Cobham Hall School spent more money than it took in.
Both mergers are examples of how schools that have been able to weather the coronavirus crisis have found themselves in a position to acquire cash-strapped institutions, sparing them from insolvency in the process.
Such a narrative has become increasingly familiar amid Covid-19, which has constrained the finances of many private schools across the UK – especially smaller institutions, like prep schools, and those heavily reliant on international students.
Given that Edgeborough and Cobham Hall failed to turn a profit in 2019 – before the pandemic had struck – it is likely that both schools’ financial positions had been made worse by Covid-19.
Dr Alex Peterken, headmaster of Charterhouse, said: “Under the leadership of Dan Thornburn, Edgeborough is enjoying significant success and momentum, with record pupil numbers and growing interest in admissions. At the same time, Charterhouse is currently undergoing the most exciting transformation you will find in any independent school in the country, and we are delighted that Edgeborough can be part of that journey.
“For parents seeking a joined-up prep and senior school education for their child, we believe our offer will be exceptional; rooted in an academic yet all-round curriculum, with a real breadth of choice and delivered in beautiful, inspiring grounds and facilities.”
Elliot Lipton, chair of Governors at Mill Hill, commented: “This is a bringing together of like-minded schools that further strengthens the excellent education provided.”
Martin Pennell, chair of Governors at Cobham Hall, added: “Cobham Hall is delighted to be joining forces with Mill Hill and is confident of a strong future ahead.”
Date published: 25 February 2021