An independent super-school will be created by the merger of two long-established private schools in Worcestershire, highlighting a growing trend towards amalgamations.
From September, the co-educational Royal Grammar School Worcester – where Pakistan cricket star Imran Khan studied - and the all-girls Alice Ottley School, will form a single entity with 1,500 pupils.
The move will create one of the biggest schools in the sector and is designed to widen the educational opportunities to students by combining resources across the two sites.
Earlier this year, Malvern Girls’ College and St James’ School also in Worcestershire, merged to form Malvern St James School.
The new school, called The Royal Grammar School Worcester and The Alice Ottley School, will occupy a 20-acre site which, it claims, will provide "one of the best educational facilities in the country".
Andrew Rattue, current head of The Royal Grammar who will lead the amalgamated school, said: "This is a logical progression for two neighbouring schools, each of which has a proud history and strong record of success, having stood side by side over the years.
"It provides economies of scale and enables us to offer the widest curriculum to the young people at the school."
Mr Rattue said the merger was also the result of a declining trend to teach youngsters in single sex environments.
Smaller independent schools have been under increased pressure in recent years due to a decline in the birthrate and parents demanding more for their money in the face of pay hikes.
At the same time, billions of pounds extra have been pumped into state schools which, in the wake of a range of reforms including specialist schools, academies and trusts, are starting to behave more like independents.
Mr Rattue said mergers have been "the pattern of the last few years" among private schools.
"There is always going to be a market for smaller independent schools which take a very broad range of academic ability and provide a very supportive environment for children.
"But on the other hand if you want an academic day school which offers a broad curriculum then it needs to be a certain size."
The merged school will cater for about 950 secondary age pupils and nearly 400 in the junior school.
Morag Champman, head of The Alice Ottley School where the composer Sir Edward Elgar was once a teacher, will help see through the merger of the two schools before leaving in July next year.
She said: "What we are doing is creating a new school capable of meeting the most demanding needs of the parents and pupils of our time, whilst preserving the heritage and excellence of all that has gone before."
Henry Briggs, senior partner of Birmingham accountants Haines Watts who will be vice-chairman of the new school’s governing body, said there were likely to be more mergers of independent schools in the region. "This merger is following that trend," he said. "The pressure to compete is particularly felt in independent schools with sixth forms in that there are sixth forms in the state sector that are well funded and are tempting to people who may have educated children privately."
ROYAL WORCESTER The Royal Grammar School Worcester was founded in 1291 and is the oldest of its type in the country. It was granted its Elizabethan charter in 1561 and moved to its present site, north of the city centre, in 1868.
With the return to independence in 1983 the rate of change increased with new buildings and facilities added to the traditional red-brick quadrangle associated with many grammar schools.
In 1996 RGS The Grange, the junior school for boys and girls, was opened and its rapid expansion enabled the School as a whole to exceed 1000 pupils for the first time. In 2002, after 700 years of boys only education, 24 girls joined the sixth form as the school moved to co-education.
ALICE OTTLEY The Alice Ottley School was founded in 1883 by a group of forward-thinking men who realised the importance of girls receiving an education on a par with that of boys.
The first headmistress of the school, then known as Worcester High School for Girls, was Alice Ottley. Over the years, there has been extensive building on the original site and the programme of development has continued throughout the history of the school. Alice Ottley prides itself on providing an education that will enable pupils "to take advantage of all the opportunities open to them".