TWO private schools in Ayrshire are to join forces.

Wellington School in Ayr and Drumley House in Mossblown will merge next year to form the only independent co-educational school in Ayrshire with a roll of between 400 and 500 pupils.

Wellington School was established in 1836 and is in only its second year catering for both girls and boys. Drumley House began the preparatory education of boys and girls aged between three and 13 in 1960, and now has a roll of 100.

Mr Bill Mowat, chairman of Wellington's board of governors, said: ``Such a decision is not reached lightly, but the two school boards are unanimous that the provision of a single, strong and vibrant independent school provides the most sensible and secure future for private-sector education in Ayrshire.''

It is envisaged that the current Drumley House campus will eventually close and the merged school will operate from two centres in Ayr.

Drumley House headteacher Charles Robinson said of the merger: ``It will be of enormous benefit to both current and future pupils and we are looking forward to establishing and maintaining the highest of educational standards in the new school.''

The new school will be known as Wellington School incorporating Drumley House School.