A private school in Caversham will close after 165 years due to ‘falling student numbers’.

Hemdean House School, in Hemdean Road, is a mixed independent prep school for children aged five to 11.

Founded in 1859, thousands of young people were taught there over the decades , with notable alumni including Elsie Smith, a nurse and missionary, and actress Lizbeth Webb.

In a statement made this month, it was announced that the school will be closing this summer after revealing its business was ‘no longer sustainable’.

The head of the chair of governors said: “After 165 years of wonderful education at Hemdean House School it is with a very heavy heart that I write to you today to inform you that we will be closing the school on July 12th 2024.

“As you know, the school recently achieved an excellent inspection report, which amply reflected the strong educational offer and unique pastoral qualities of our excellent school.

“However, with ever-falling numbers, and few prospective pupils, the business model is no-longer sustainable, and it would be remiss of the governing body not to take action. I hope you can appreciate what a very difficult decision this has been.

“Our role now is to support you and your child during this difficult time.

“As a school we will be here to support you as you make decisions regarding your child’s future.”

The school’s headteacher is Helen Chalmers.

The chair of the governors will be in the school from 6.30pm on Tuesday, April 23 to speak with parents and support them in finding new schools.

The chair’s statement said: “Mrs Chalmers will be in contact with other independent schools as well as state schools to ascertain where they have capacity to accommodate your child from September 2024. We are happy to organise one-to-one discussions with individual families.

“We appreciate that this news is a shock for you all – and as a individual families you will decide when is best for your children to be informed.

“Although this term will finish on a sad note the education and opportunities that your children will receive will be of the same high standard that our staff have always delivered.

“Trips, clubs and special days – such as the den day; sports day, the music concert and prize giving will still be delivered.

“In time, we will also take the opportunity to celebrate our wonderful school. Hemdean House School was established in 1859 and it is important that we do justice to its rich and vibrant history.

“I know you will want to join us on June 29 in commemorating the incredible legacy we leave behind.”

The school is entirely separate from the PlayDay Nursery run by Jan Day, its director, which is still open.

The nursery at the Hemdean House site caters for children aged three months to 5. You can find out more on the PlayDay Caversham website.

This January, the council’s traffic management sub-committee received a petition calling for speed bumps to be installed outside the school and the speed limit to be reduced to 20mph.

The petition received approximately 120 signatures.