A PRIVATE school is under new ownership in a sudden and unexpected turn of events.

Sherfield School, a well-established educational institution in Sherfield-on-Loddon, has been sold by GEMS Bellevue to Education in Motion (EiM), sparking concerns and questions within a section of the school community.

Bellevue was previously managing the school on behalf of its owner, The Varkey Group.

The school confirmed that The Varkey Group made the 'difficult decision' to sell the school, and EiM was selected as the buyer following a rigorous process.

EiM is known for its ownership of several international schools, but it lacks a UK school portfolio.

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The transfer raised anxieties among parents who were informed of the sale only on Thursday, August 31, just three days before the start of a new term.

While EiM has expressed a desire to continue the school's existing ethos, parents are seeking clarity on the vision for Sherfield School moving forward.

A concerned parent, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: “EiM should realise that what parents want is what the school currently offers and any significant change to the ethos and accessibility of the school is likely to have an impact on parents’ decisions to remain at the school. The area is not short of private education establishments all which have something to offer. 

“Decisions to send a child to Sherfield include small class sizes, facilities, welcoming and supportive community, teaching, inclusion, accessible and attainable fee structure. Parents are now anxious and concerned at what changes will come that no longer make Sherfield the right setting for their child or affordable.”

Sherfield is renowned for its close-knit, family-focused community, and its popularity among parents has grown in recent years.

Part of Sherfield's appeal was attributed to the leadership of the recently departed head, Nick Brain.

He has been replaced by interim school head Neil Richards, as the search for a permanent head is ongoing.

Mr Richards said there will not be any changes at the school aside from his appointment as the interim head.

He said: “EiM is a family of schools with a clear purpose; to empower pupils with the knowledge, skills, and motivation to make a positive difference for people, society, and the planet. They recognised in Sherfield a school with a mission aligned to theirs. Sherfield's school motto, ‘ad vitam paramus’, is a natural fit with EiM’s vision to inspire generations of learners to ‘live worldwise’.

“Sherfield’s commitment to creating an outstanding, all-round academic, active and creative school where learners thrive, and flourish will remain unchanged. There are no planned changes to the curriculum nor to day-to-day school life for pupils. Aside from my appointment to take over leadership as the interim head of school, there are no planned changes to staffing at the school.”

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Mr Richards added that the search process for a long-term permanent head of school is ongoing.

“We expect the position to be highly sought-after and will run a rigorous selection process,” Mr Richards said.

“I am honoured to serve the school as its interim leader, and I am committed to maintaining the values that Sherfield School holds dear. However, I also recognise the importance of listening to our community and evolving in response to its needs and aspirations. We are dedicated to fostering a culture of open communication with parents and the broader school community.”

EiM’s chief education officer, Lesley Meyer, has been appointed chair of the Sherfield governing body.

She said in a statement on the school website: “In Sherfield’s commitment to be an outstanding, all-round academic, active, and creative school, we recognised a school with a mission aligned with EiM. Sherfield's school motto, ad vitam paramus, is a natural fit with EiM’s vision to inspire generations of learners to Live Worldwise. We are excited to work with Sherfield and its community, and to build on the school's many strengths."

Fraser White, founder, chairman and chief executive officer at EiM, said: “As EiM’s first school in the UK, this marks a milestone for us and reflects our commitment and ambition in continuing to expand our global presence with mission-aligned schools. Our dedication to delivering exceptional educational experiences continues to be our guiding principle, and we look forward to welcoming Sherfield into our growing and dynamic network of schools.”