Ampleforth College sixth formers hand letter to save North Yorkshire public school from closure to government after legal appeal is withdrawn

The head girl of Ampleforth College has spearheaded a plea from 300 pupils to the Department for Education to save their school.

Cicely Craston and Serena Hopkins, both 17, handed head girl Ida Bridgeman's letter to Boris Johnson to Downing Street staff

Ampleforth's future has hung in the balance since the government issued a ban on admitting new pupils that was activated in December, after concerns among inspectors that not enough action had been taken to address safeguarding issues following historic child sexual abuse allegations involving the monks of Ampleforth Abbey.

The Roman Catholic public school initially appealed the decision to the First Tier Tribunal, but the Department for Education confirmed that this case was withdrawn by Ampleforth on January 22, meaning the ban has now come into effect. Ampleforth was inspected by Ofsted earlier this month and once their report is published, the DfE will decide whether to revoke the restriction on pupils or take further action.

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Headteacher Robin Dyer has warned that the school could close if it is unable to collect fees from the planned September 2021 intake.

The uncertainty has caused considerable anxiety and distress among current pupils, according to parent Rose Craston, whose husband and three children all boarded at the North Yorkshire school.

Her daughter Cicely, 17, and fellow sixth former Serena Hopkins travelled to Downing Street this week to hand a letter written by head girl Ida Bridgeman, from Alnwick in Northumberland, to prime minister Boris Johnson imploring him to protect the school. Both girls live in London.

In the letter, Ida points out that pupils have been 'without a voice' during the scrutiny process and want clarity on their futures.

"It is a school in which not only are we educated by dedicated teaching staff, but where we feel cared for, valued and respected. We want it to be known that we feel safe and confident in our school. As students who have learned and grown at Ampleforth, all we can speak of is our own life-shaping experience; nevertheless we wish to be heard," said the teenager.

Mrs Craston added: "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 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 that the past was appalling for the victims, but for the children there now, is it history to them and it is a totally different environment. We can all see the changes that have been made."

A Department for Education spokesperson 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.”