Shock closure of award-winning school

Parents and pupils of a school founded 61 years ago in Midhurst have been shocked this week by an announcement it is closing.

Wispers, an independent girls' secondary school which has been in Haslemere for the last 40 years, will cease to exist from the end of this term.

Increasing costs and a falling school roll have been blamed for the governors' unanimous decision to close.

Eighty pupils, a number of them from the Midhurst area, will now be seeking places at other schools. Fourteen full-time and 15 part-time teaching staff face redundancy. Seventeen support staff involved in the running of the school and its 26-acre site will also lose their jobs.

The site and its buildings will be sold. The governors intend to use the school's assets to establish a Wispers Education Trust, providing bursaries for girls who would otherwise be unable to benefit from independent education.

Wispers, a school for 11-18 year olds, moved from Midhurst to West Dean before settling at its Haslemere site which was found for it by business giant Ken Wood, who founded the Kenwood kitchen equipment empire and was chairman of Wispers' governors.

News of the closure comes on the heels of a glowing Ofsted report and the school being chosen as the most pro-active business in the community in this year's Haslemere Chamber of Trade and Commerce awards.

Credit was given to its record of supporting a variety of outside organisations and statements from seven former mayors of Haslemere telling of its active backing for their charity appeals.