The Herbert Baker architecture of the Bishop Bavin School. Picture: SUPPLIED
The Herbert Baker architecture of the Bishop Bavin School. Picture: SUPPLIED

One of Johannesburg’s most prestigious independent education institutions, Bishop Bavin school has been forced to close its doors due to a debilitating financial crisis.

The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown further complicated attempts to rescue the 29-year-old school, which has a deficit of R31.5m and also owes the diocese R15m. “But in the final analysis, the diocese had no other option” as the school faced ever-mounting debt without matching income.

Established in 1991, the co-education school was named after a former Bishop of Johannesburg, the Right Reverend Timothy Bavin. It occupied premises previously run as the St George’s Home for Boys, which was established in 1915, and is owned by the Anglican church. It is situated in Bedfordview, east of Johannesburg.

To secure a place at the school, applicants paid a R500 application fee and, once accepted, an additional non-refundable fee of  R10,000 for Grades 8 to 12 and R6,000 for the early learning centre (ELC) to Grade 7 “to secure a place”.

Annual fees for the ELC school ranged from R37,640 for one-year-olds to R80,770 for Grade 0, according to its website.

Tuition fees at the school ranged from R73,290 (R6,107.50 a month) for Grade 1 to R113,550 (R11,355 a month) for Grade 12.

Weekly boarders paid an extra R25,420 a term while full boarding was R95,400. In addition the school charged R1,302 per month to parents who placed their children in after care. All these fees excluded camps, outings and what it called “sundry” expenses.

It is not yet clear how many pupils, teachers and staff are affected by the closure, and how much parents were paying in tuition fees. But the decision to close the school could adversely affect the school's candidate classes.  

Right Reverend Steve Moreo, in a letter to parents, learners, teachers and other school staff on Thursday evening, said the decision to terminate the school's operations had not been taken lightly by either himself, the trustees of the diocese or the board of the school. He said the school was holding meetings with staff “to discuss the future, and a meeting with creditors to discuss options and the way forward is planned”.

Moreo did not respond to further queries with his statement saying he was “indisposed”. He directed all  media queries to the dean of St Mary's Cathedral, the Very Reverend Xolani Dlwathi, who did not immediately respond to questions sent to him.

In his statement, Moreo said three attempts to enter into arrangements with other educational institutions during the past year had “come to naught” as the terms and conditions had been prejudicial to the church.   

“The advent of the coronavirus and the lockdown in SA further complicated negotiations with interested parties to rescue the school.”

On Thursday, Moreo said unless the Bishop Bavin school received a capital injection of about R25m “from an angel investor who will require no return, there appears to be no way forward to save the school”.

“Sadly, Bishop Bavin School will therefore not be in a position to open its doors for the rest of the year,” said Moreo.

He said plans are already in progress to accommodate learners for the rest of the academic year, including Grade 12 pupils who are preparing for their final examinations.

Contact has been made with other diocesan schools asking them to “favourably consider” taking on Bishop Bavin learners in the middle of the year.

“The board is working on a programme that will match a learner to possible schools for their placement, taking into account costs and fit. Each learner and parent will be invited to a scheduled meeting to discuss the options.”

Moreo said they were saddened by the failure to be able to continue to provide the “quality schooling at Bishop Bavin for which our diocesan schools in Johannesburg are famous”.

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