A SPECIALIST independent school in Somerset is closing permanently after 45 years.

Over the years Shapwick School near Bridgwater has educated thousands of pupils aged between eight and 18 with dyslexia and other related learning difficulties such as dyscalculia and language impairment.

It is understood the school's demise has come after protracted financial difficulties and at a point when it was facing the likelihood of losing fee income as a result of the coronavirus.

Somerset County Council said it was aware of the closure, and said the news had come as a shock.

An SCC spokesman said: “We were made aware that the school trustees had taken the decision to close the school permanently at the end of this term. 

“We appreciate this must be a shock for parents and pupils, as it is to the Local Authority. 

"Over the next  few weeks we will be talking to families and through the required statutory processes will identify suitable new school places for these children.”

MP Ian Liddell-Grainger paid tribute to the achievements of Shapwick School, saying thousands of ex-pupils in all parts of the world will look back on their time there with gratitude.

Mr Liddell-Grainger, Conservative member for Bridgwater and West Somerset, said Shapwick had gained an international reputation during its near half-century existence.

“It really set a benchmark for the education of young people with a whole range of learning difficulties and was regarded as a true centre of excellence,” he said.

“There are many, many ex-pupils holding down responsible positions today because Shapwick helped them overcome difficulties which in the past were either ignored or belittled by mainstream schools.

“Its closure is a loss that is going to be deeply felt by former pupils on whose lives it had a truly transformational effect.”

It was originally set up as the Chalice School in Glastonbury in 1974 by Colin Atkinson, the former head of Millfield, with a senior school added a year later.

Did you go to Shapwick School? Share your memories and reaction to the closure with us by emailing steven.salter@nqsw.co.uk.