CONTROVERSIAL plans to merge two private schools near Malvern have been abandoned.

The Elms and Downs schools in Colwall were set to merge on the site of the Elms from September this year.

If it had gone through, both schools would have come under the umbrella of the Malvern College family of schools.

However, following a backlash by parents, the Elms' board of governors has since voted to adopt a new business plan drawn up by a group of parents trying to save it.

Nearly 2,000 people signed a petition from the Parents Working Group, which was set up to save the school, with cash pledges of more than £700,000 being raised and a new plan for the future of the school being submitted to its governors earlier this week.

READ MORE: Plans to merge Elms and Downs schools in Colwall

The parents objected to the merger because they wanted to keep the Elms, which was founded in 1614, independent.

Elms parents felt joining Malvern College would have meant a loss of independence and control over the type of education their children receive.

And parents from the Downs, which is going to be part of the Malvern College group, were angry they had not been consulted about the merger.

At a meeting on June 12, governors voted to accept the new plan and abandon the merger.

James Rose, from the PWG, welcomed the decision, saying: "The Elms is a truly unique school with incredible staff and a magical setting.

"It was a real demonstration of the ethos of the Elms that an extended community came together as a parent working group, worked intensely and worked as a team.

"We are very grateful to the governors for being sufficiently open-minded as to consider our plans, which were presented late in the day.

"Ultimately, they have tested our plan and then voted to save the school to which they have given their service.

"We are delighted with the outcome, and excited about the future."

Responding to the news, Elms chair of governors Simon Townsend praised Mr Rose and the parents group for their efforts drawing up the plan, adding more still remains to be done to secure the long-term future of the school.

READ MORE: What next for the Downs School after merger collapses

He said: "This has clearly been a period of material uncertainty for everyone in our community, and I can only apologise for the discomfort and anxiety that this will have caused many of you.

"However the declining fortunes that we have experienced over a number of years required radical action to be taken and uncomfortable choices to be considered.

"Howsoever it materialised, the Elms community has been reinvigorated in support of the continued independence and location of our school, and the board would like to recognise, and pay tribute to, the extraordinary coalition that has been created by the Parent Working Group under the leadership of James Rose.

"That said, the market for independent prep school education will present very material challenges for the foreseeable future and I would therefore urge you to continue to build upon this new-found momentum in order to ensure that the future of the school in its current form can be best protected."