02:33PM, Thursday 25 February 2021
A Maidenhead drama and dance school and a group of parents are locked in a dispute over fees.
Redroofs School for the Performing Arts, in Bath Road, has sent letters threatening to take some parents to court after they took their children out of the school during the COVID-19 crisis.
The parents believed they could trigger a force majeure clause in their contracts which stated they could be cancelled in the event of ‘an epidemic or pandemic’.
But the school, which counts Kate Winslet among its alumni, rejects that the COVID-19 outbreak constitutes a force majeure event and is demanding that parents pay up the outstanding fees, which are £5,000 per term.
When the first lockdown began and the school was forced to shut its doors, some parents called for the fees to be reduced as they felt the children were not able to get the equivalent standard of dancing, singing and acting education at home.
But they said Redroofs insisted that parents needed to pay their full fees .
Parent Sarah Townsend claims she ‘struggled massively’ when she and her partner both lost their jobs because of the pandemic and were not able to pay the school fees for the upcoming summer term, so she took her daughter out of school.
She said: “It’s a dance school, you have to be there in person, you are paying a lot of money for school and if you aren’t getting the lessons a reduction should be made.
“At the time we had no income and we said we could not pay it, we had to pay all our bills, our car finance.
“We were struggling massively with depression, trying to get government help and getting food parcels.”
In a statement, the school said: “At the beginning of the pandemic, we sought legal advice pertaining to whether or not the COVID -19 outbreak constituted a force majeure.
“We were advised both by lawyers and our insurance company this was not the case.”
It added: “It would have been wholly inappropriate as a private school with no charitable status to permit a handful of parents to opt out or renegotiate their remission of fees due, leaving other parents with a potentially reduced service and giving the school no time to replan its curriculum based on vastly reduced class roll.
“Our organisation must of course pay our staff and suppliers and fulfil our ongoing financial obligations in a legal and dutiful manner.
“With our small roll of full-time pupils, we were unable to make discounts particularly in this unique situation where the online tuition was supported by a technical team at considerable cost to the management.
“As the school did not provide hot lunches, coaches, sports fixtures etc we could not offer to make discounts on tuition fees in the way some other local schools had done to justify offering a reduction.”
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