Closure-hit privates school owed thousands in fees


By Kirsty Topping


St Margaret's closed last June but some parents still owe thousands in fees

A TOP private school which was forced to close last year is still chasing parents for tens of thousands of pounds in outstanding school fees, it has been revealed.

One in three parents from the bankrupt St Margaret’s in Edinburgh owe money, more than a year after the school closed its doors.

The total is thought to be more than £137,000, with £20,000 alone owed by a foreign embassy for one pupil.

Other parents who paid up to £30,000 in advance fees are yet to get any of their money back.

The school went into administration in June last year with the loss of 85 jobs and 350 school places.

Liquidators KPMG said they would continue to chase the fee-dodgers through the courts.

The outstanding fees originally stood at £400,000 before KPMG successfully took a number of parents to court.

But teachers who are owed wages and those who paid their children’s fees in advance will have to wait for another year before they receive any payments.

Currently they are expected to get just 15p for every pound owed.

Several teachers are taking the school through employment tribunals as they await unpaid wages.

One parent, who asked not to be named, paid £10,000 in advance for her child’s fees and said those who had refused to pay up were “the lowest of the low”.

The woman, who lives in south Edinburgh, said: “The board of governors decided to pull the plug on the school without a word of warning and they were still encouraging parents to pay fees in advance until the last minute. They must have known that they were about to call in the liquidators.

“These parents that didn’t pay up when they received the school’s services are the lowest of the low. And the school had previously been very lax in following up debts that had existed for a very long time. If we get anything back it will be a bonus.”

KPMG recently announced they had sold all four of the school’s buildings for £4.3m but Blair Nimmo, head of the company’s Edinburgh office, said parents failing to pay had prolonged the liquidation process.

He said: “When we came along, there was quite a lot of debt (of school fees], some of which was quite old. A number of people have been pursued through the courts and we will continue to pursue the debtors until it is no longer cost efficient to do so.

“Unfortunately, a number of parents did pay in advance and they are now creditors. One parent in particular had paid around £30,000 in advance. There are also some arrears of wages for employees.

“Our target is to get some payments to unsecured creditors around 12 months from now. Sadly it will be a low fraction of what they are owed.”

Val Devlin, chairwoman of the school’s Parents and Friends Association, said she was still saddened and angered about the situation.

She said: “I’m sad that the buildings have sold for considerably higher than they were valued at because it was the low evaluation that meant we had to go into liquidation in the first place, as the assets were not worth the value of debt.

“I’m very angry with the parents who refused to pay up because they have cost us our school.”