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Ofsted-hit private school sold to new operator

Old White Bear pub not part of Heathside takeover

12 July, 2019 — By Dan Carrier

HEATHSIDE Prep, the Hampstead based private school which faced a series of poor Ofsted reports, rumours of staff disaffection and financial issues in recent months, has been sold to a new operator, it was confirmed today (Friday).

Last week, the New Journal reported how two companies associated with the school’s founder and former headteacher Melissa Remus filed papers at Bristol County Court with a notice to appoint administrators.

Now the owners of the Hampstead Fine Arts College, based in Belsize Park and specialising in arts education for 13 to 19 year olds, have bought the school and appointed educationalist Kate Vintiner as the new head. A board of governors will be chaired by the chairman and founder of parent firm Dukes Education, Aatif Hassan.

Mr Hassan said: “I am delighted to announce that Dukes Education has acquired Heathside, securing its long-term future. This will give the school much-needed financial stability and security, backed by strategic direction, strong governance, and educational support. We will be retaining the school’s education-led culture and ethos, ensuring its pupils remain at the heart of everything we do.”

Heathside, based over six sites in Hampstead, will be added to Dukes Education’s portfolio which includes three boarding and day colleges, three secondary schools, five preparatory schools and 10 nurseries with over 3,000 pupils and employing over 1,000 staff.

The £18,000 a year school was criticised by Ofsted inspectors over safeguarding and record keeping, and had repeat inspections that were also highly critical of the school’s management. More recent inspections this year reported improvements.

Mr Hassan added: “Our schools all have very different identities and ways of doing things, but all of them are absolutely committed to the provision of outstanding teaching and learning. Above all, we’re here to provide the strongest foundations for young people to go on to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives. I love what we do in our schools and the focus we have on developing the children in our care.”

Ms Remus will be given a role as ‘founder’ at the school, maintaining her 25 year link with a business she set up.

A press release from Dukes Education added that it would be meeting with staff and parents to outline what the takeover would mean for them.

It is not clear yet what the future holds for the Old White Bear pub, which was bought by a firm linked to the school and has not been included in the takeover deal.

Ms Remus won planning permission to use the first floor for the school as part of an application that stated the ground floor, protected as an ‘Asset of Community Value’ would re-open as a pub managed by licensee Daniel Brod.

He has said he is ready to get started but three years after classes started upstairs, the pub still lies empty with no lease signed despite lengthy negotiations. A large community campaign has called for the 300-year-old pub to start trading again.

Ms Remus said: “I am delighted that Dukes Education are stepping in to support Heathside going forward. Aatif and the team share my commitment to putting education and the pupil at the heart of everything at the school. This will allow the unique character and ethos of Heathside to thrive. With Dukes, I’m confident the school has a wonderful future ahead.”

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