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When did head know St Hilda's in Westcliff was doomed?
SENIOR staff at a private school that suddenly closed last week stepped down as directors more than two months ago, it has emerged.
St Hilda’s School headteacher Susan O’Riordan, 53, and finance director Steven Gorridge, 50, resigned as directors of the limited company which ran it on April 30 this year, according to documents filed at Companies House.
Their resignations, ten weeks before news broke last Friday that it would not re-open for the new term in September, have fuelled speculation among parents that they may have known well in advance of the announcement.
Several parents are angry at how they found out. Staff were informed last Thursday at the end of the academic year, but parents only discovered the news when it appeared on the Facebook page of rival Thorpe Hall School.
It has led to the formation of a Facebook group Friends of St Hilda’s on July 11 where members are speculating as to what the pair knew.
A parent who asked not to be named told the Echo: “There must have been a reason why they both chose to step down as directors on the same day at the end of April. It makes you wonder what they knew and when. If they did know it was going to close back in April then the whole thing should have been handled a lot better and people should have been told sooner.”
Companies House records show Mrs O’Riordan, from St Georges Park Avenue, Westcliff, set up a new company two weeks later on May 15.
New venture: Susan O'Riordan
Cyrene Consultancy has been registered to an accountants address in Leigh and she is its sole director.
The Echo tried to contact Mrs O’Riordan at the school to ask about the new company and her resignation, but she referred all questions to DKF Insolvency, which is handling the liquidation.
However, Darren Wilson, director of DKF, referred them back to her saying: “Those are personal questions for the former directors and are not for me to answer.”
Mr Wilson said: “The company will now go down the voluntary liquidation route. I am waiting for a statement of affairs on the finances, but have been chosen as the preferred liquidator. Only two parents had paid their fees in advance and these have already been refunded, so we do not expect to see any parents left owed any money by the school.”
St Hilda’s School may have closed due to soaring levels of debt in its final years, the Echo can reveal.
The amount the school owed to creditors soared by more than five times over the past six years.
Company accounts for the school show that in 2009 it owed £41,236 to creditors including tax and trade creditors.
By 2011 this figure had doubled to £81,265.
However, a year later it nearly doubled to £131,482.
The last set of accounts filed by the school in May this year for the period 12 months up to August 2013 show it rose again to more than £200,000.
There are no details on who this money was owed to as the school was allowed to filed “abbreviated” accounts to Companies House which include just the briefest details.
Darren Wilson, director of DKF Insolvency, which is handling the liquidation, said: “may come.”
Accounts for the firm for 2001 also show that headteacher Susan O’Riordan got her two daughters taught at the school without having to pay fees, although she did have to cover additional expenses.