York school unveils multi-million-pound plan to bounce back from cash woes

The Mount School, York, has unveiled ambitious multi-million-pound investment plans and vowed to bounce back from financial problems, The York Press reports

The Mount School lost more than a quarter of a million pounds last year, with further deficits expected this year and next year, The York Press reports.

But principal Adrienne Richmond says she is confident the school has a “carefully thought through strategic plan that allows The Mount a secure and flourishing future at the heart of the York community”.

She said the school was one of many experiencing financial pressures in the present climate.

“The state of the current economy in the UK and across the globe, uncertainty over Brexit, and a reduced number of pupils choosing to board in the UK are all factors affecting Independent Boarding Schools,” she said.

Speaking about the school’s plan to sell a small section of unused playing field land for housing development – recently strongly criticised by local residents – she said: “The freeing up of unused assets is also key to enabling us to invest in our sports facilities for both the school and the wider York community.

“We have exciting plans to create a Performing Arts Hub at the heart of the School campus. Phase one begins with the construction of a purpose-built dance and drama studio, adjoining the current hall creating a space for dance classes, drama lessons and small performances.

“The second and third phase will see the modernisation of the performance hall and the construction of a new atrium joining the new facilities with the current music block. This multimillion investment will create a 21st Century Performing Arts Venue.

“Over 45 clubs and activity providers currently use our site each week. Our swimming pool in particular has high public usage, including three local state schools who come weekly for swimming lessons as part of their PE curriculum and there is a huge demand in York for upgraded sports and performing arts facilities.

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“The Mount is a centre of excellence for girls’ education with a deep heritage and a reputation for taking bold steps to advance our pupils’ experiences, being one of the first places in the UK to educate girls and to train female teachers.

“Preserving the history of the school whilst moving forward into the future by developing our facilities and offer is extremely important.”

The financial problems have been revealed in reports from the governors’ committee and auditors BHP LLP, for the year ending August 31, 2017, which have been posted on the Charity Commission’s website.

The independent auditors warned of “the existence of a material uncertainty which may cast significant doubt about the charity’s ability to continue as a going concern”.

The reports say there was a fall of £590,000 in income from charitable activities due to a reduction in pupil numbers, and refer to making “imaginative use of our assets to restore our balance sheet and create investment headroom” and reveal that the school is set to receive about £3m for the playing field land.

They say this would allow it to “restore our net asset position to positive, to begin building a cash reserve in line with our policy and provide funding to improve the school’s educational and facilities offer”.

The reports add: “We are also taking this opportunity to review the buildings on the whole site, which stretches from Holgate Road to Driffield Terrace.”

News of the reports comes four months after The Press revealed the school was cutting fees in an attempt to be affordable to more families.

Ms Richmond said The Mount had always been a small school and had a successful record of managing to remain at the cutting edge of education, adding: “We are very much looking forward to the building of our new performing arts studio and the refurbishment of our current sports facilities.”

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