A 74-YEAR-OLD independent school in Furness facing closure this summer could be given a lifeline after parents launched a bid to save it.

Governors at Chetwynde School said falling pupil numbers since 2004 and the economic slump had made it financially ‘unviable’ beyond the end of the current term.

Some 278 youngsters aged from three to 18 from across the region would be displaced if the Barrow school closed.

Worried parents have rallied to form a Chetwynde Support Group, which consists of business leaders, educational advisors and people from the community.

In a statement, the group said early meetings had seen an ‘overwhelming response’ and added: “We firmly believe the school can be saved.

“We are working on a strategic plan to present to the Board of Governors for the long-term stability of the school.”

And at a ‘positive meeting’ between the group, governors and head teacher Russell Collier this week, it was agreed there was a ‘united desire to provide both a short term and long-term future for Chetwynde School’.

Chetwynde is consistently among Cumbria’s top-performing schools academi-cally and renowned for its sporting excellence. It celebrated record-breaking successes in 2011.

Dr Gerry Murray, chair of the governing body, said governors made the decision to close the school with ‘heavy hearts’.

“The governors are acutely aware of the impact that the closure will have upon staff, pupils and parents, however, this most difficult decision has been forced upon us,” explained Dr Murray.

“The loss of such a fine school will, of course, have far reaching effects in this area.”

Mr Collier, head since 2010, said: “It fills me with sadness that Chetwynde will close and I am desperately disappointed that such a successful school that has achieved so much is no longer financially viable.”

Last year, the school topped Cumbria’s school and college league table with 100 per cent of its previous Year 11 group achieving at least five A*-C GCSEs or equivalent, including English and maths.And it boasted an A-Level pass rate of 100 per cent.

A Cumbria County Council spokesman said it had received a number of calls from parents.

“We appreciate this is an anxious time for those involved and will work with local schools to ensure there are places available for those affected,” he said.

“We hope parents will appreciate that we may not be able to provide immediate answers to their queries, but we can reassure them that we are doing all we can to find a solution.”