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New owners of collapsed Hampstead private school will honour some of £2m owed to parents

PUBLISHED: 15:11 29 April 2020 | UPDATED: 15:50 29 April 2020

Heathside School's building in West Heath Road, which it will vacate later this year, following a planning dispute with Barnet Council. Picture: Polly Hancock

Heathside School's building in West Heath Road, which it will vacate later this year, following a planning dispute with Barnet Council. Picture: Polly Hancock

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Heathside owner went bust after bad Ofsted reports caused pupil and staff exodus

Administrators reported that Heathside's former owner folded when a series of negative reports about the school led to a pupil exodus. Picture: Polly HancockAdministrators reported that Heathside's former owner folded when a series of negative reports about the school led to a pupil exodus. Picture: Polly Hancock

Parents who lost £2m in deposits to a private school will get some of their money back, the new owners said today.

Around 500 parents who paid deposits for their children’s education at Heathside School, in Hampstead, were listed as ‘unsecured creditors’ owed more than £2million, after the company which ran the school went into administration last year.

The Ham & High has previously reported on an exodus of staff and pupils over a two-year period, prompted by two highly critical Ofsted reports and a series of safeguarding concerns.

The school was also found to have signed children up for GCSE studies, even though it was not authorised to teach at GCSE level.

Heathside Prep School's main offices in New End, as they looked in April 2019. Picture: Polly HancockHeathside Prep School's main offices in New End, as they looked in April 2019. Picture: Polly Hancock

In July 2019, Remus White Ltd, the company running the school, and two associated companies, went into administration, owing £4.7m to the bank and £3.5m to other creditors, including parents.

A company called Dukes Education purchased the business and assets of the school in July 2019 for £5.5million.

But a report by the administrator - written in February and since published by Companies House – said that after paying off the bank, there would not be enough money left over to pay some creditors, including parents who paid deposits.

However, new owner Dukes Education issued a statement this week saying some parents would have their deposits honoured, if they fell into two categories.

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It said: “Dukes Education acquired the trade and assets of Heathside School in July 2019 from the administrator, effectively saving the school from collapse.

“The legal entity was not acquired and all liabilities before that date remain the responsibility of Remus White Ltd.

“However, as a gesture of goodwill to Heathside families, Dukes Education agreed to honour the deposits of existing families, and families who left and gave the appropriate notice.

“In addition, Dukes Education have paid many charities and local suppliers who were owed monies. “We are delighted to say that under the headship of Ms Kate Vintiner, the school is thriving and now regulatory compliant following a successful Ofsted inspection in September 2019.”

But when asked how many of the circa 500 parents did not fall into the category of either remaining at Heathside or being considered to have given appropriate notice, a spokesperson told the Ham & High: “I’m afraid we wouldn’t want to get into the detail of that.”

A spokesperson for the administrator said they were aware of the new owner’s “goodwill gesture” but that as far as the legal administration process was concerned, the unsecured creditors were not being reimbursed.

Melissa Remus, the school’s headteacher and director of Remus White, said: “While the price obtained by the administrators on their prepack sale to Dukes Education was disappointing, as part of the deal Dukes have honoured the company’s obligations to many of the creditors.

“In addition, they paid off many of the debts owed to the trade suppliers as well as continuing to work with them, and they continued the employment of the outstanding Heathside staff.

“I am pleased that the school is on a strong footing and that it continues to thrive.”

When asked if it had determined what happened to the parents’ £2million in deposits after they paid, the administrator said it continued to investigate the conduct of Remus White.

Administrator Philip Watkins said: “The joint administrators are continuing to assess the historic financial situation of the companies and any further information will be included in the next joint administrators’ progress report... It is mandatory to report to the Insolvency Service in all Administrations and this is an ongoing matter.”


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