MP’s plea to save Catholic school hit by scandal as legal fight ends
A YORKSHIRE MP has told the House of Commons that he believes “relatively minor recent issues” are being used as an excuse to close Ampleforth College.
It emerged this week that the Roman Catholic public school in Kevin Hollinrake’s Thirsk and Malton constituency had withdrawn a legal appeal against the ban on accepting new pupils which was enforced by the Department for Education at the end of 2020 due to “failure to address safeguarding concerns”.
Its fate now depends on the outcome of an Ofsted inspection earlier this month, after which the ban could be enacted or revoked.
The fee-paying school’s reputation has suffered following several high-profile historical sexual abuse cases involving former monks.
Mr Hollinrake told MPs: “Ampleforth, it is fair to say, has had past problems but these are now behind it. But there are some, I believe, in the educational system that are using relatively minor issues more recently as a pretext for the potential closure of the school.”
He also called for a debate in the House of Commons that would reinforce the importance of faith schools.
This week two sixth-formers from the school hand delivered a letter written by head girl Ida Bridgeman to Downing Street in which they appealed to Prime Minister Boris Johnson to save the school from closure. They said the ongoing uncertainty had left them stressed and anxious.
Parent Rose Craston said: “The whole thing has been over their heads and it’s been really stressful for the children. They want the right decision, as it’s causing so much anxiety.
“The school is waiting for the Government to decide but if it carries on much longer then it will effectively mean the school has to close, as they are relying on the September intake. Indecision could close it and that would not be healthy for the pupils.
“If it is safe for our children to attend now, why is it not safe for new children to join? If the ban is enforced then it will be a very big deal.”
Despite living in London, the Crastons chose to educate their three children in North Yorkshire as they are Catholic and have strong family ties with Ampleforth.
“My children have all been very happy there – it is a wonderful community. It is not academically selective but they all come out with such a huge range of abilities and understanding of themselves. They often say their friends at other schools aren’t as happy as they are.
“I accept the past was appalling for the victims but for the children there now it is history to them and a totally different environment. We can all see the changes that have been made.”
A Department for Education spokesman said: “We have placed a restriction on Ampleforth College, requiring it to stop accepting new pupils in light of safeguarding concerns that have not been addressed in the timely and sustained manner that the department and school community would expect.
“We will continue to work closely with the college and local authority to secure rapid and sustained improvement, to ensure the welfare of all pupils is protected.
“The school has asked that the restriction be revoked following its inspection this month and we are considering that request.”
It is history and the school is now a very different environment. Rose Craston, a parent of one of the pupils now fearful for their future.