PARENTS who were dealt the blow that St Mary's was set to close at the end of the academic year have started the frantic search for alternative education.

Anxious parents have already begun calling and taking tours of nearby independent schools as they try to find a suitable school for their daughters.

At an emotional meeting on Monday evening, parents were told RGS Worcester's three schools would be able to accommodate all pupils in September who could meet the entry criteria.

The news was said to have provided "some relief" to parents particularly those whose daughters were currently in year ten and 12 and were set to take exams next year.

Testing will be carried out next week and places must be accepted by Monday, July 7 with a spokesman saying it was vital both St Mary's girls and RGS staff were certain of their position well ahead of September.

She reassured existing RGS pupils extra resources would be provided across the three schools - RGS Worcester, The Grange and Springfield - wherever they are needed to keep current teacher/pupil ratios at the same level.

The co-educational school has already announced it hoped to employ some of the staff from St Mary's, which celebrated its 80th anniversary this year.

"It [the St Mary's meeting] was a very sad occasion for many people who have a strong affection for the school either as a parent, member of staff or ex-pupil themselves.

"The chair of governors explained that an arrangement had been made with RGS to allow as many pupils who wished to and who could meet the entry criteria to move to RGS Worcester in September.

"This announcement was met with much relief by parents of St Mary's girls who had feared that there would be no alternative arrangements available following the closure meeting."

Despite assurances that there would be a place at RGS, yesterday [Tuesday] was a busy day of phone calls from worried parents at both Dodderhill School, Droitwich, and King's School Worcester.

Catherine Mawston, head at Dodderhill, said she had received many of the phone calls had been from parents wishing for their daughters to remain in single-sex education.

"We've had phone calls constantly from 8am this morning.

"It's very, very sad news and a very difficult time for everyone.

"We're a small school like St Mary's so it should be a very easy transition but we will be very strict at keeping the class numbers small."

The school has fewer than 220 pupils between the ages of three and 16 but have no places in years six and seven and limited vacancies in year five.

Dodderhill would only be able to accommodate St Mary's pupils already halfway through their GCSEs if they were willing to repeat year ten.

"It was very short notice for everyone and what our school is trying to do is be as flexible as we can, we don't want to let anyone down.

"There is a real need for girls schools as they get really great results.

"We would encourage people to call and speak to us directly and arrange a visit if they can't make our open day.

"My focus is to get the right girls into the school who will thrive in a very special and nurturing environment."

Fiona Meredith, from Malvern St James Girls' School, said it was a sad loss not just for the girls and staff but also girls' single-sex education.

"Worcester’s last girls’ school is gone, and across the country the single-sex sector is presented as a shrinking one.

"This is a great shame as many girls reap huge reward from being in an all-girls’ environment, seeing their peers achieving at every level, older girls providing positive role models, and a mutually supportive environment of sisterly aspiration."

She added the school currently had a few remaining places for September in pre-prep, year seven and Sixth Form.

The school has two remaining assessment days before the end of term on Friday, July 4.

Mrs Meredith added: "This must be an extremely worrying time for parents, and in the past few weeks we have already had enquiries to Malvern St James Girls’ School from parents who were obviously fearful about the school’s position."

Staff at King's School Worcester said it had also been inundated with calls from worried parents hoping to find a place for their daughters next September.

King's, which has two junior and one senior school for children aged two to 18, said it had a few spaces in all years up to year nine but was full from year ten upwards.

A statement from the school said: "We are very sorry to hear of the closure of St Mary’s.

"It is always sad when financial pressures lead to a good school shutting down.

"It must be a worrying time for the families concerned and for the teachers.

"The King’s School is ready to respond quickly and supportively to any families who wish to approach us to consider King’s as an option at senior or junior level."

Open days and contact numbers:

RGS Worcester - 01905 613391

Today (Wednesday) and Friday

Springfield and Seniors - 9.30am to 11.30am

The Grange - 1.30pm to 3pm

Dodderhill School - 01905 778290

Today (Wednesday)

10am to 12pm and 1.30pm to 300pm

King's School Worcester - 01905 721700

Malvern St James - 01684 892288

Contact to arrange a visit before Tuesday, July 2.