The new private high school that is abruptly closing its doors

A brand new Anglican secondary school has abruptly announced that it will close its doors next year,leaving shocked parents and students searching for answers from the school’s governing council just months after it opened.

St Peter’s Anglican Grammar in Campbelltown - previously a K-6 school - started taking year 7 students this year and as recently as July publicly maintained there was high parent demand. The school said it was progressively adding year levels to include year 12 by 2027 and had even changed its name from St Peter’s Anglican Primary School.

St Peter’s Anglican Grammar announced it would close its high school just months after opening.

St Peter’s Anglican Grammar announced it would close its high school just months after opening.Kate Geraghty

But the Campbelltown Anglican Schools Council,which administers the school and Broughton Anglican College,informed parents on July 22 via email that the high school at St Peter’s would close at the end of 2023 after deciding it was “not viable”.

“This will come as a shock and deep disappointment to many in the St Peter’s community,but is a step that is necessary for the continued viability of the council,including St Peter’s[primary school],Broughton and[specialist school] St Peter’s Heart,” chair Peter White said.

The Archbishop of Sydney has since appointed a bishop to investigate some parents’ concerns,while the council says it is reviewing the projections that led it to open the school.

Mention of the high school - which was previously heavily promoted - has been wiped from the school’s website.

Parents were shocked by the announcement and have been given no further explanation.

In a statement to theHerald on Monday,White said the high school’s enrolments were less than half the number of students needed to continue.

“Unfortunately,a review soon after the opening of the high school,which included input from external experts,signalled that the projections of enrolments and fees raised serious questions about its future viability,” he said.

“The quick growth we expected in the student community didn’t materialise and we made the disappointing,but necessary,decision to close the high school operation to avoid endangering vital work for the primary school.”

St Peter’s Anglican Grammar Year 7 student Evangeline Cooke,13,(right) with her mum Erica Parcio-Cooke.

St Peter’s Anglican Grammar Year 7 student Evangeline Cooke,13,(right) with her mum Erica Parcio-Cooke.Kate Geraghty

White said portable classrooms which served as initial infrastructure for the high school can now be redeployed for the primary school and no staff have lost their jobs.

“We have communicated in the clearest possible terms with parents,the Association of Independent Schools,and the minister for education,the reasons for our decision,” he said.

“We regret that we have been unable to expand in this way and we apologise for the disappointment this has caused.”

The school’s closure means the first cohort of 21 students,and pupils already enrolled for 2023 in year 7 and 8,will have to find alternative schools. The primary school will remain open.

Students have been offered places at affiliated school Broughton Anglican College as well as a free uniform.

Parent Todd Rowley said he was angry at the lack of transparency from the school’s governing body,with no communication or further explanation from the council since the original email was sent out.

He said the email came out of the blue and his daughter,a current Year 7 student,was left devastated by the closure.

“Six months and all of a sudden,it’s not financially viable? To me,that’s complete disbelief,” Rowley said.

St Peter’s Anglican Grammar will close its high school.

St Peter’s Anglican Grammar will close its high school.Kate Geraghty

“All the students were enjoying it,we all thought it was a fantastic school.”

While his daughter has been offered a place at Broughton for next year,he said it was not the family’s preferred choice. But after losing a spot on another school’s waiting list when enrolling at the new St Peter’s high school,they’ve been left with little option.

Rowley has sent multiple emails to the school council seeking further information about the closure,but said he has never received a response.

He has been told via email from the Archbishop of Sydney’s office that a bishop is investigating his concerns.

Parent Erica Parcio-Cooke said the school council gave no indication there were any problems before the sudden email.

“The school opened,they changed name,implemented new uniforms - there was no signal there was any concern with finances,” she said. “I’d been told they already had two classes for each year level next year - going from one stream to two streams.

“If it wasn’t viable,why was it determined it was not viable halfway through the year and not when it opened?”

Parcio-Cooke said she now felt uncomfortable about the prospect of sending her daughter to another school run by the same school council.

“I think if there would have been more transparency we would have been more accepting and understanding of this decision,” she said.

In an advertising feature printed in theHerald on July 23,principal Brendan Gorman said the school was expanding into secondary years to meet demand from parents who wanted their children to attend the same school.

White said the council was now reviewing the “information,processes and projections” that led to the decision to start the high school at St Peter’s.

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Daniella White is the education reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.

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