TWO of Craven's independent schools are to join forces.

The governors of Malsis School, near Glusburn, and Giggleswick School, near Settle, have announced their intention to merge from November.

As result, Malsis is expected to become an independent day school for children aged three to 11 from the summer of 2015.

The move is subject to legal and financial checks.

Recently approved plans for 50 new homes on the Malsis site will go ahead.

Councillors had been told the scheme would safeguard the school's future, with the money made from the sale of the land being used to make urgent repairs to the listed buildings and to upgrade the school's sports facilities,

Robert Austin, governor and chairman of the finance committee at Malsis School, said: “The decline in pupil numbers in recent years has put at risk the financial sustainability of Malsis School.

"The proposed merger with Giggleswick is the best option to secure education on the Malsis site, the name, jobs and services provided to the local community. The new school year will start, as planned, on September 3.”

And Heather Hancock, chairman of governors at Giggleswick, said: “We are confident that this is the right direction for Malsis School. It offers the best chance of a settled and sustainable future and it allows Giggleswick School to extend our 500-year track record of delivering an excellent and broad education to young people.

"Giggleswick and Malsis have a shared heritage reaching back almost a century. We look forward to welcoming the pupils, parents and staff of Malsis to the Giggleswick family and to working with them to ensure a flourishing and successful school for the future.”

Headmaster of Giggleswick School, Mark Turnbull, said: “Over the next few weeks, our priority is to give all the Malsis pupils a strong start to the new academic year. Our plan is for Malsis to become an independent day school for children aged three to 11 from the summer of 2015 and we want to ensure a smooth transition to this new structure.

"The school needs significant investment: capital receipts from the planned residential developments at Malsis are absolutely essential to meet the school’s debts and to repair the fabric of the building, setting Malsis on the path to growth.”

Malsis governors have appointed Mark Brotherton as interim headmaster during the pre-merger period. He will be seconded from his current job as headmaster of Giggleswick Junior School. He is the chairman of the Independent Association of Prep Schools.

On completion of the merger, Mr Brotherton will spearhead the transition of Malsis School for the next 12 months.

The previous Malsis head, Marcus Peel, has resigned.