AECC University College steps in to save educational site after St Thomas Garnet’s School set to close

AECC University College has just announced they have purchased the St Thomas Garnet’s School site that lies opposite their campus in Parkwood Road in Boscombe.

At the beginning of May, the private school announced it would be closing its doors for the final time at the end of the summer term. Following the announcement, staff at AECC University College started discussions with the School’s Board of Trustees about its future, and the sale was finalised this week. The School is directly across the road from AECC University College and will become a second campus for the growing specialist Higher Education provider.

In the short-term, the school will provide additional social distancing teaching capacity for new and returning students when the new academic year starts in September.

Professor Lesley Haig, Vice-Chancellor of AECC University College said: “We at AECC University College acknowledge the closure of St Thomas Garnet’s School will be a very sad day for everyone concerned and our thoughts are with the parents, students, staff and the team at St Thomas Garnet’s.”

Professor Haig said she hoped the community would feel reassured knowing that the establishment would continue to be an educational provider and would continue to help the community through AECC University College’s services and outreach work, including MRI, ultrasound and X-ray imaging facilities, and Europe’s largest chiropractic clinic helping over 50,000 patients a year.

She added: “When we heard about the news of the closure, we began a conversation with the School’s Trustees. We are delighted to say the sale was finalised this week. For us, this was a once in a generation opportunity and it gives us the chance to expand our site to a second campus within 30 yards of the first. With the current Coronavirus situation, this acquisition will give us extra capacity to spread out across the two sites, providing greater social distancing when we start our new academic year in September - creating the safest possible scenario for our students and staff.”

The new site means that in the future there will be a second campus directly across the road from the current AECC University College Parkwood Campus. This year, new courses will be offered in physiotherapy, radiography, sport rehabilitation and sport psychology, with more courses and developments planned.

Professor Haig said: “For us, it’s about quality over quantity. We see ourselves very much as part of the community and we feel very strongly about our role in supporting the health and wellbeing of our community. Our mission is to support a ‘healthier society through education, research and clinical care’. At the heart of our work is our drive to ‘help people to live well for longer’ and we are very passionate about that. In the short term, this acquisition is about expanding so we have extra capacity for social distancing, as we develop a longer-term strategic plan, which will incorporate the new site. We look forward to including all our stakeholders in that process including our students, staff, and neighbours in the community as we move forward.”

A spokesperson for the Board of Trustees at St Thomas Garnet’s School said they were very sad to be closing but were pleased that the site would continue to be used for education. “We know the closure will be extremely upsetting for everyone who has been involved in our School community – it’s the end of an era. We want to thank everyone for their support during what has been a very challenging year. We are very pleased that the sale to AECC University College will secure the site as an educational establishment. The school was a gift from the convent originally and so the building is going back to its roots, re-joining the former Boscombe Convent site, which now houses AECC University College. We know that the community greatly benefits from the services provided by AECC University College and we are delighted the school building will continue to help the local community, but in a different way.”

St Thomas Garnet’s School will close its doors for the final time on 10th July 2020 and will reopen as an AECC University Campus on 14th September.