SEDBERGH School headmaster Andrew Fleck insists the merger with nearby Casterton has gone ‘better than expected’.

Mr Fleck was speaking as the first anniversary of the announcement of the controversial merger nears.

“Given the emotional response we might have expected problems and difficulties, but in reality it has exceeded all my hopes,” he said.

“You always wonder how it might turn out and often set a benchmark, and it’s relatively unusual that things turn out better than had been hoped.

“I saw the level of distress and anger and that made me very sad, but now I’ve got a very happy school with brilliant kids.”

In September, 45 out of 123 senior pupils from the all-girls school at Casterton transferred to Sedbergh.

Moving in the opposite direction to a newly-founded Casterton, Sedbergh Preparatory School were 129 pupils from Sedbergh Junior School.

The merger, which saw 49 jobs axed, caused outrage with Casterton parents who launched an unsuccessful High Court bid to halt its progress.

“We ran a fortnightly induction programme to help with the transition but that stopped after eight weeks – the parents were happy with the direction we were heading and how their children had settled,” said Mr Fleck.

To accommodate the extra girls at Sedbergh, £870,000 was spent on a new sixth form centre, upgrading and expanding boarding accommodation for girls – including the purchase of new properties and investment in IT.

Plans are also in place to spend a further £1.2m on a new dining facility at Carus House, the newest of the three girls’ boarding houses.

“We’ve seen the change in Sedbergh,” he added.

“It’s not a case of Sedbergh gobbling up Casterton. Staff who moved from Casterton have brought in new ideas and experiences which have enhanced the curriculum.”

Paul Fairclough, head of Sixth Form, was one of 54 staff, including 17 teachers, who made the move to Sedbergh.

“Like anyone when you move to a new job you have to get to know new colleagues and procedures,” he said.

“It’s tempting to see it as an event that ended in September but it’s more of a process of evolution.”

And Year 13 pupil Charlotte Ridsdale, who was at Casterton and is now deputy head of school at Sedbergh, said of the merger: “It was very emotional, a sense of loss of history. It was a bit of a shock for the first month and took a while to adjust.

“Some lost confidence but now there are no problems.”

Scott Carnochan, headteacher of the Casterton, Sedbergh Prep School, said: “It was a lot of hard work over the summer to make it ready and as expected there were a few teething problems to address with a merger the size of this.

“But after a month it was difficult to tell which function of the school the pupils had come from.”