Devastated families want answers from Shelford Girls Grammar school board over closure


When students at Shelford Girls Grammar finish the 2023 school year today, there will be tears at the school gates.

The small, 125-year-old independent school in Melbourne announced on 16 November it would merge with the 3228-student Caulfield Grammar School in 2025 – and that announcement has already prompted many families to make the difficult decision to leave the school they love.

Many members of the Shelford community – both past and present – who were left shocked and angered by the news their school would soon cease to exist say they view the ‘merger’ as a takeover.

Parents at the school said they had been given until today – 4 December – to decide whether to stay for the school’s final year in 2024. One parent of a year 10 student told EducationDaily “terrible communication about the takeover” has caused “huge levels of distress” with students, their families – “and also teachers”.

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She says parents have felt unsupported and uninformed since the announcement was made.

“The result has been that a bunch of families have just jumped ship already,” she says. “I’ve spoken to families who are devastated and don’t want to leave the school – and their daughters definitely don’t want to – but they honestly don’t know if the school will last the full school year ahead, with so many people finding places for their girls at other girls’ schools.”

Students don’t know if they will be able to complete their VCE year

For the students who are looking ahead to Year 12 at Shelford in 2024, one student told media on Friday that the pending closure is “really devastating”.

“It’s our final year and half the school isn’t going to be there to even witness it,” she said – referring to her belief that some year levels have been decimated by departures, with student numbers in some classes predicted to be less than 10 students.

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“I’m just trying not to think about it as much as I can,” she said “If I do, it’s a spiral.”

Lack of clarity around scholarship deals – with many families led to believe their scholarships would not meet the Caulfield Grammar criteria when the takeover is finalised on 31 December – also fuelled panic to find places at schools that offered firm and immediate commitment to continue existing scholarship offers.

Although media attention on Friday saw revised communication hurriedly sent to the disgruntled school community – claiming that scholarships would now all be approved by Caulfield Grammar – families who are on other discounts and bursaries have been told their own financial arrangements will not be honoured. For families who chose to join the school community because of these previous offers, the unexpected financial strain is adding to the distress of seeing the school’s numbers dwindle and the school culture erode.

The revelation that the terms negotiated for the merger meant these financial arrangements were not included has been described by one former insider as “unconscionable”.

Taunts from Caulfield Grammar students

A reported altercation on public transport the morning after the merger saw Caulfield Grammar students tell some Shelford students: “we own you now”.

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Caulfield Grammar confirmed it had been notified of the public transport incident and the schools jointly told media on Friday that any behaviour not in the best interests of students was “concerning and will be treated seriously”.

For the girls left reeling from the news that their school is closing, the comment stung – but parents at the school say such interactions are far from isolated, with other allegations of similar taunts, including that a group of Caulfield Grammar students yelled “your school’s broke” at a recent rowing event.

But parents are pushing back against claims that the school’s finances were beyond repair and have accused the Shelford board of failing to act on any proposals put forward to save the campus.

Petition driven by concerns for student well-being and mental health

The families have launched an online petition, calling on the school’s board to “negotiate better outcomes” for the girls.

One mother of a student who is leaving the school to secure a stable educational environment for her daughter said that she believed the board’s merger negotiation was not “in the best interests of the students”.

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Another mother of a senior school students agrees – and told EducationDaily the school’s families deserve answers about “how a school with such a rich tradition and proud history was taken over without a fight”.

“Our daughter is gutted,” the parent says. “And she’s telling us all her friends are too. The board owes the school community answers about how they let this happen to our girls.”

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