By Citra Sidhu
DOUAI ABBEY, the Benedictine boarding school, has closed due to a lack of pupils and revenue, in spite of a last ditch attempt by parents and supporters to raise the funds needed to save it.
The school is one of a number of Catholic independent schools forced to close in recent years. The closure comes as a further blow to Cabolic public schools, which have been hit recently by a decline in attendance, financial crises and allegations of sexual abuse by teachers.
Fr Oliver Holt, a housemaster at Douai, said that reg ardless of their impeccable reputations, the smaller Catholic boarding schools were losing out to the excellence and convenience of grant-maintained schools.
He said: "The problem is that there is a growing reluctance among Catholic parents looking for boarding schools for their children to send them any distance. They tend to choose schools nearer to them, and that it's Catholic is not a priority."
Douai Abey was founded in 1615 in Paris and moved to Berkshire in 1903 after the community was expelled by the French government. John Badham, headmaster of Moor Park Preperatory School in Shropshire, said: "You must remember that traditionally these schools served an intense ghetto-like market.
"They were founded in the 19th century as alternatives to the Anglican schools.
"We are no longer the `persecuted minority' and so Catholic parents do not feel obliged to look for a Catholic independent school when places like Eton are grabbing Catholic children.
"Seventy per cent of Catholic marriages are now mixed and in my experience the compromise between parents is, Catholic prep school and then, for example, Eton."
Sr Francis Orchard, secretary to the Catholic Independant Schools' Conference, said: "It is frustrating when closures have been due to a lack of planning.
"Good Catholic schools are always oversubscribed including the independents."