A Northern Ireland school is facing the prospect of losing its voluntary grammar status, unless it finds £400,000 before the end of the month.
Earlier this year, it emerged Foyle College in Londonderry owed the Department of Education over £820,000.
The money was owed for the school’s move to a new-build campus. It has so far repaid half.
In a letter to past pupils in April, the school said it had until June 30, to repay the money or it risked losing its “independence”.
It was signed by principal, Mr Patrick Allen, chair of the board of governors, Mr Gavin Killeen and chair of the former pupils’ association, Mr Donald Bigger.
The department subsequently extended that deadline until October 30.
In a statement to the Belfast Telegraph, a spokesperson for the department said a “significant portion” had been repaid.
“The Department of Education continues to work closely with the school to agree a plan for repayment of the remaining £400k,” it said.
Asked about the potential ramifications should the school fail to repay the debt by the deadline, the department did not respond.
Foyle College is a co-educational voluntary grammar school which has been providing education for young people in Derry and surrounding areas for over 400 years.
In 2018 the historic school relocated 850 pupils from the Cityside to a new state-of-the-art campus on Limavady Road in the Waterside area.
At that time the school invested heavily in facilities to ensure that its pupils received a “first-class education”. The Department of Education purchased the site and building.
However, to allow pupils to attain the academic, athletic and artistic standards it has set, the local college invested in additional facilities including sports pitches and extra classrooms.
These enhanced facilities came at a cost of £2.4million.
Around £1m of that cost was covered by a fundraiser while the school awaited the final figures for the sale of its former campuses.
The department sold the original lands for £3.4m.
According to Foyle College, the department retained £2.8m of that for grants it previously awarded to the old school sites.
That meant £600,000 was available to the school, leaving a deficit of £821k, which has since been reduced to £400k.
In correspondence with alumni and friends of the school, the college said the department’s figures were based on “clawing back” money that has been spent on a school prior to its new build.
It read: “Because the school has received grants from DE over the past 50 years to fund capital items at Springtown and Duncreggan, legislation provides that DE claw back a proportion of these grants against any sale proceeds from land owned by the school.”
Foyle College was contacted for comment but none has been provided by time of publication.