Ampleforth College, one of the country’s top Catholic schools, faces possible closure if it does not improve standards including the safeguarding of pupils and the rigour of its checks on staff.
The Department for Education has written to Ampleforth College warning that “the Secretary of State is satisfied…. that any one or more of the independent school standards is or are not being met in relation to the school.”
They record that the Secretary of State has served a notice demanding that both schools submit action plans to address their failings.
The letters also both state: “I must warn you that the Secretary of State may reject an Action Plan, and in these circumstances the Secretary of State may remove the school from the Register of Independent Schools or may impose a requirement restricting the school’s operations (from a date following the appeal period).”
The TES revealed last month that the Independent Schools Inspectorate was sent into Ampleforth, where fees for boarding are £34,000 a year, after the Charities Commission removed pupil safeguarding responsibilities from the school’s trustees over its concerns.
The letters to Ampleforth and St Martin’s refer to “serious regulatory failings”, the details of which are listed in annexes that are also online with the letters on the DfE website.
The letters also state: “The report also identified failings in respect of the boarding provision at the school that constitute serious failings under the National Minimum Standards for Boarding schools.”
The deadline for implementation of their action plans for both schools is 11 August this year.
If the action plans are accepted, the ISI may be asked to visit the schools again to check that the schools have fully implemented their plans and are fully meeting the independent school standards.
Plans to close the prep school, St Martin’s, had already been announced by Ampleforth earlier this year.
A Department for Education spokesperson told The Tablet: “We have issued Ampleforth College with a notice to improve following an inspection by the Independent School Standards.
“It is right that Ampleforth College has an opportunity to demonstrate improvement after being issued with a notice – if this is not demonstrated we will take action, which can include deregistration.”
A spokeswoman for Ampleforth said: “Ampleforth College and St Martin’s Ampleforth submitted their action plans to the Department for Education in line with stated deadlines, following their recent inspection by the Independent Schools Inspectorate. They are now working with the Department for Education on implementing agreed actions prior to re-inspection by the ISI in due course.”
Last week, The Tablet revealed that the Ampleforth headmaster, , Fr Wulstan Peterburs, had been been suspended from the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC) amid the ongoing concerns over abuse and safeguarding. A spokesperson for HMC told The Tablet: “This is because the most recent Independent Schools Inspectorate inspection indicated that the school was not meeting HMC’s membership requirements. We hope and expect that the school will quickly address these concerns.”
A spokesperson from Ampleforth College said: “Fr Wulstan appreciates the ongoing support he is receiving from the HMC and is keeping them fully updated on the progress Ampleforth College is making following their recent inspection.”