A CAMPAIGN was launched in west Cumbria this week to save a
historic Church of England school, St Bees (above),
founded in 1583 by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Edmund Grindal. St
Bees is due to close at the end of the summer term because of
financial pressures. A "stay of execution" petition to the
governors attracted 3000 signatures within days.
The Archdeacon of West Cumberland, the Ven. Richard Pratt, said
that closing St Bees - which currently employs 120 people - would
be a huge loss to the area and to the diocese.
Last week, in a letter from the chairman of governors, Emeritus
Professor Frank Wood, parents were told that the school was
financially unsustainable. Along with other independent schools in
the north-west, St Bees had been badly hit by the recession and
declining pupil numbers, the letter said. Joining the state system
as a free school was not a viable option, it said.
But, in a letter sent on Tuesday to the Secretary of State for
Education, Nicky Morgan, the local MP, Jamie Reed, asked for direct
assistance from the Department for Education to secure St Bees's
future by conversion to an academy or free school. Because of
industrial development planned for the area, there was an
increasing need for school places, the letter said.
Archbishop Grindal established St Bees as a free grammar school.
The school later became fee-paying, but retained strong C of E
connections. The Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Revd James Newcome, is
a governor, and the Vicar of St Bees, the Revd Clifford Swartz, is
the school chaplain.
Among several clergymen educated at St Bees were the 18th-
century parson-painter the Revd William Gilpin, who coined the term
"picturesque"; and the Bishop of Rangoon from 1935-51, the Rt Revd
During the First World War, three former pupils were awarded the
Victoria Cross; in the Second World War, another old boy, Air Vice
Marshall Sir Augustus Walker, lost an arm while attempting to
rescue crew from a crashed Lancaster bomber. Probably the best
known old boy is the actor Rowan Atkinson.