Financial troubles and declining enrolments threaten Macedon Grammar School

Macedon Grammar School. Picture: THE AGE
Macedon Grammar School. Picture: THE AGE

A PRIVATE Christian school in the Macedon Ranges may be forced to close next month as it grapples with financial troubles and declining enrolments.

Parents at Macedon Grammar School were called to an emergency meeting on Friday night after it was revealed the school had been issued with a "show cause notice" by the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority (VRQA).

The school has three weeks to demonstrate its viability, or risk closure, leaving 150 primary and secondary students finding new schools to attend next year.

Worried parents are already seeking alternative arrangements. However some senior students could be forced out of the region altogether, as the school is believed to be the only provider of the International Baccalaureate program near the Macedon Ranges.

The school community has been abuzz with speculation and rumour about the alleged financial and governance issues clouding the school.

Fairfax Media has confirmed a small group of parents had this year sought to transition the school "into its own ownership", pushing for a new board to be voted in by the school community.

The non-denominational Christian school was founded in 1979 by Dr Alan Rose, who remains its current landlord and chairman. Dr Rose said he could not expand on the exact nature of the finance and governance issues. "It's better I don't comment," he said. "We're doing the best for the school."

Many parents have been unwilling to speak on-the-record about their concerns.

One father said he had lost confidence in the administration and planned to send his three children to a school in Ballarat next year.

"It's a lovely environment, it's a nice school …. and I'd love to spend the next 15 years here," he said. "But there's a lack of confidence."

VRQA has requested that the school open a trust account to protect prepaid fees and staff entitlements, but the authority's director Lynn Glover said "it's important to note that no decisions had been made".

Outgoing principal Mark Smith said despite strong academic results – with an average ATAR score of 86 - enrolment forecasts for next year had fallen short.

Mr Smith said they needed at least 60 students in the senior school and 10 in each year level, a target they were yet to meet.

In 2012 another Victorian International baccalaureate school, Mowbray College, collapsed under a multi-million-dollar debt.

If  Macedon Grammar does not survive, a new state government will be tasked with handling the fallout. The seat Macedon is marginal, currently held by Labor by 2.3 per cent.

- with The Age


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