SHOCKED parents have been told that a 100-year-old independent school is to close due to a sharp drop in pupil numbers.

A letter has gone out from governors at the Old Malthouse School in Langton Matravers saying that both the main school and pre-prep will close its doors at the end of the summer term.

Chairman Dr Frank Spooner said the board of governors had decided the Old Malthouse could not continue as a viable school, either educationally or financially, and there was no realistic alternative to closure.

He told parents: "I do not need to say how reluctant the governors were to take this step. You may already be aware that pupil numbers have declined sharply in recent years. Now that we have a more accurate forecast of numbers for the autumn term and beyond, it is clear that this trend is not improving.

"It is our view that, were we to try to continue, the quality of all-round educational experience which we can offer to pupils would soon be seriously compromised."

The news has come as a shock for parents of youngsters at the independent day and boarding school, which celebrated its 100th anniversary only last year.

One parent said: "The school has such a wonderful history so it's very sad and unexpected."

Despite the school still being financially solvent, the governors blamed falling numbers of boarding pupils for the school's decline.

Last summer, there were just over 60 pupils at the school aged from three to 13 years, but only a third of those were boarders.

Fees for weekly boarders cost more than £5,200 a term.

Chairman Dr Spooner said: "In recent years there has been a marked national decline in demand for prep-school boarding, and it has become increasingly difficult to sustain the school on its day-pupil numbers alone."

He added that the governors and staff would do their best to ensure the final summer term was a happy one for pupils.

A new head teacher Dr Moira Laffey - the first female head in the school's history - only took over the post last September.