NEARLY 200 years of education for girls has come to an end with parents, pupils and staff bidding an emotional farewell to Casterton School.

The independent boarding school, near Kirkby Lonsdale, merged with Sedbergh School in March with the amalgamation kicking in from September.

On Saturday, British yachtswoman Dee Caffari was guest speaker at a special assembly, which formed part of the annual speech day and prize-giving ceremony.

There were tears as the occasion marked not only the end of term, but the end of an era – the last full day of the 190-year-old school whose first pupils included the Brontë sisters.

The girls were given paper cut-outs of the school’s badge, which were pinned to a tree at the front of the building, parent David Strawbridge said.

He was among those who attended the historic day and was full of praise for the school’s staff.

“There was a lot of emotion but the school dealt with it very well,” he said.

“They had various events, such as walking up Casterton fell, and various social activities and a barbecue.

“They made the girls last few days together quite fun. It was very nicely done with some of the staff talking about their experiences over the years. There was lots of tears from the girls.

“They were saying ‘don’t be sad about leaving, just be glad you came’. Their maturity is a credit to the staff.”

Mr Strawbridge’s two daughters would have continued their education at Casterton in September, but he remains unhappy at the governors’ decision to merge, so has made alternative arrangements.

His 16-year-old daughter Sarah is joining Queen Margaret’s, an all-girl boarding school in York, while 14-year-old Emily is moving out to Zimbabwe to join him.

Mr Strawbridge is a diplomat in the African nation.

“We had plans in place for our children’s education but they have been ripped apart by this,” he continued.

“Sedbergh isn’t Casterton - it’s a different beast - the merger came as a bolt out of the blue.”

The merger, which has resulted in 49 job losses, was announced amid falling pupil numbers at Casterton and Sedbergh’s wish to expand its junior school.

Since 2011, the number of boarding pupils at Casterton has dropped 25 per cent, causing a 14 per cent fall in income.

Senior pupils at Casterton are transferring to Sedbergh and Sedbergh Junior School children are moving to a new preparatory school, which will be based at Casterton.

When the merger was announced, 160 girls were on the register, but it is unclear how many of these will make the switch to Sedbergh.

A group of parents launched an unsuccessful campaign to save the historic school, which was founded in 1823.