MORRISON’S Academy in Crieff and Beaconhurst School in Bridge of Allan are to create one independent school from the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year.

The process will see the management and financial ownership of the new organisation falling to Morrison’s Academy. The decision has been taken due to a decline in senior pupil numbers at Beaconhurst, in line with a broader trend facing the whole independent sector in Scotland.

The existing Beaconhurst Nursery and Junior School, which together currently serve 176 pupils, will continue to use the facilities at Beaconhurst, which has become synonymous with Bridge of Allan for the last century.

The Nursery and Junior School at Morrison’s Academy are unaffected, though provision to share learning opportunities and best practice with Beaconhurst will be explored.

Senior School pupils at Beaconhurst will join those at Morrison’s Academy. The new, enlarged Secondary School at Morrison’s Academy has the capacity for all 122 pupils currently attending Beaconhurst Senior School.

Through a process of consolidation, there will be significant improvements in the resources available across the two sites for pupils both in the Junior and Secondary Schools and an expected increase in choice and breadth of the curriculum offered.

Affected Beaconhurst staff will have the opportunity to apply for a number of new jobs at Morrison’s Academy pending consultation and the eventual structure of the enlarged school next term.

Landel Johnston, chairman of the board of governors at Morrison’s Academy, said: “We have been working very closely with the Governors of Beaconhurst and their senior staff over recent days to identify what help and offering we, at Morrison’s Academy, can make to assist Beaconhurst’s pupils and parents with some reassurance of how we can provide continuity in education in a similar or complementary environment to their current offering.

“This decision will create a substantial and wide-ranging independent school for the whole region.

"The values of our schools focus on ambition and integrity and both are renowned for their commitment to excellence. Once the idea became a possibility, there was a real excitement about what a larger school could mean, and a determination from both Boards to see the idea through.”

In an effort to minimise the impact on Beaconhurst parents and pupils, places will be offered at Morrison’s Academy alongside arrangements to support the transition.

Part of the Beaconhurst Senior School campus is likely to be sold whilst retaining a high-quality environment for the Nursery and Junior School.

Any outstanding funds from this process will be reinvested in the Nursery and Junior School in Bridge of Allan and in the development of sports and outdoor education across both Schools.

A transition team has been established to manage the usual activities for Beaconhurst pupils over the summer including exam result consultation and Duke of Edinburgh Awards.

Tom Preston, Chairman of the Board of Governors at Beaconhurst School, said: “It is no secret that the affordability of a private education in Scotland has been increasingly problematic for families and schools alike. Our priority throughout this whole process has been on creating a sustainable solution to secure the best schooling for our pupils.

“While the Beaconhurst Board has explored a variety of alternative options to joining forces with Morrison’s Academy, we unanimously agreed this was both sustainable and the option with the greatest potential.

"However, this is also a very difficult and uncertain time for our Senior School staff as we go through the process of establishing how the transfer of pupils to Morrison’s Academy will affect them. We will be giving them as much support as we can and we are committed to keeping redundancies to a minimum.

“While we fully appreciate and acknowledge that moving schools is often difficult for pupils, our first priority was to safeguard their long-term future. We will be doing all we can to support each and every pupil moving to a new school location and will not rest until they are all ready for the new school term in August.”

A dedicated hotline to Morrison’s Academy has been provided to Beaconhurst parents for those wishing to discuss their options and to arrange a visit.

Mid-Scotland and Fife MSP, Liz Smith said: “This move makes good sense given the current economic climate in Scotland and l am sure it will also bring substantial educational benefit to all the pupils involved.

“Morrison’s Academy and Beaconhurst share a common ethos and also a determination to ensure that the educational provision in any school meets the highest standards both inside and outside the classroom.

“The transition period will inevitably be challenging for pupils, parents and staff, most especially those who have been teaching at Beaconhurst, but l am confident this is the right move for the longer term and l wish the combined school every success in the future.”