Chinese investors save Staffordshire school from oblivion

Shaanxi Junzi, an education investment group, has agreed to take the reins

A 145-year-old school in Staffordshire will reopen in September 2020 after a group of parents fought a long campaign against its closure.

Abbots Bromley School closed its doors in July 2019 after a three-year plan to reverse the school’s foundering finances came up short.

The coeducational day and boarding school has occupied the same site on the High Street in Abbots Bromley since it was founded in 1874 by Canon Nathanial Woodard.

When the school closed, 87 teachers and 271 students faced an uncertain future. Chairman of governors Pauline Norvall commented at the time: “A three-year plan was put in place with a view to steering the school to profitability, but after the latest figures, it became clear that this was not achievable.”

The rescued institution will open its doors this autumn after an uncertain year-long search for a new owner ended in success. A previous search for a new owner before the school closed last year ended in failure, but now education investment group Shaanxi Junzi has agreed to take the reins.

The school’s furniture and equipment were auctioned off last November, including several antique pieces.

We aim to return the school to its former glory by investing in its infrastructure, people and technology

Junzi describes itself as a specialist in education technology and hopes to invest in “new state-of-the-art facilities” at the West Midland’s campus. The Abbots Bromley School Parents Group, which organised the search for a new financial backer, said the Junzi chiefs were impressed by the village’s beauty and the school’s academic record.

The historic village is six miles from nearby Rugeley and is home to a high number of listed red-brick buildings. The school teaches children from ages eight to 18 and is situated on a 50-acre campus. The school has a strong Christian ethos and hosts regular services in its chapel.

The association hopes Abbots Bromley School can reopen in September, but this date might have to be pushed back until lockdown measures are lifted.

Helen Han, general manager of Junzi UK, said: “Abbots Bromley School is unique, has a rich history spanning 145 years, and has produced great results as a non-selective school. We aim to return the school to its former glory by investing in its infrastructure, people and technology.”

Several other English independent schools have been rescued by Chinese investors in recent years. St Bees in Cumbria closed in 2015 but reopened in September 2018 after it was bought by Full Circle Education, a Hong Kong-based provider.

Last year, Chinese-based Bright Scholar, a multi-national operator, bought a network of schools in Cambridge, London and Canterbury. It also owns Bournemouth Collegiate, St Michael’s School in Llanelli and Bosworth Independent College in Northampton.

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