TWO of Suffolk's best-known independent schools are to merge, it was announced last night .

From January next year, Finborough School, near Stowmarket, and Hillcroft Preparatory School, in Haughley Green, will join forces.

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‘GREATER STRENGTH’: From left, Gwyneth and Fred Rapsey, joint headmistress and headmaster of
Hillcroft School, with John and Sue Sinclair, principal and admissions officer at Finborough School

TWO of Suffolk's best-known independent schools are to merge, it was announced last night .

From January next year, Finborough School, near Stowmarket, and Hillcroft Preparatory School, in Haughley Green, will join forces.

They will combine on the Finborough School site, in Great Finborough, leaving Hillcroft open for re-development.

Finborough School has a total of 190 pupils, from age two-and-a-half through to 18, including boarding and day students. Hillcroft has 51 pupils, aged two-and-a-half to 13.

As a result of the merger, there will be 120 children in the prep school at Finborough and more than 240 in the whole school.

John Sinclair, principal of Finborough School, said: “We can see only positives; by combining forces, we will achieve greater strength and security for the future.

“We cannot escape the reality of the market - the birth rate has declined and there are fewer pupils out there, particularly in the lower prep school age range.

“The pupil numbers dovetail beautifully, giving us viable class sizes whilst still keeping the average class size below 12.”

Founded in 1911, Hillcroft is the longest-established co-educational day prep school in Suffolk. Its owners, joint headmaster and headmistress Fred and Gwyneth Rapsey, will continue their interests in the school.

Mrs Rapsey will become deputy head of Finborough and Hillcroft Prep School and continue as a special needs teacher, while Mr Rapsey will be a consultant and part-time teacher.

Mr Rapsey said: “We have been looking at the future for Hillcroft for the past 18 months because it was quite clear our numbers were gradually falling off.

“There have been many links between Hillcroft and Finborough over the years and we believe this merger is the best possible way forward.”

Teachers at both schools were informed of the merger yesterday . Some staff at Hillcroft may retire while others will be absorbed into the combined school. There will be no changes in the Finborough teaching staff.

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