'Catholic Eton' Ampleforth College in Yorkshire may be forced to close if ban on new students is not lifted, says head

The head of a prestigious independent school in North Yorkshire has criticised a ban on accepting new students issued by the Government last month, warning that it may be forced to close.

Ampleforth College has severed links to the Abbey

Ampleforth College was told by the Department for Education in November that it could no longer accept new pupils due to “very serious” safeguarding failures uncovered during an inspection in September.

Robin Dyer, the head of the Catholic school, said the institution had come a long way in a short amount of time, but the restriction order, which came into place yesterday, made it more difficult to make improvements and could mean that the school closed.

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Speaking on Times Radio yesterday, he said: “If you’re denied the fee income that independent schools rely on, you can’t survive.

“I’m keen on school improvement, that’s what I’m all about. What I don’t need is a restriction order because it actually has the opposite effect. What it does is to stop the school from improving.”

Mr Dyer lodged a complaint to Ofsted last month after the results of the inspection, which he said he thought was based on historical problems that the school no longer had.

He said: “We don’t really know why they came in September. They said it was an emergency but we’re not clear what the emergency was.”

He stressed that he was keen to work with the North Yorkshire Safeguarding Partnership – made up of police, the council and local health services.

He added: “We’ve been very open about the idea that there are some things in the Ofsted report, buried in the vague wording and overblown language, some things that we can learn from.”

Earlier this year, former monk Peter Turner, now 80, was jailed after admitting 14 charges relating to indecency, some of which took place at Ampleforth College.

An inquiry into child sexual abuse at the school that concluded in 2018 found there was a widespread culture of tolerance of the behaviour and that the monks of Ampleforth Abbey were “evasive” with police and social services when suspicions were raised about members of the Benedictine order.

Mr Dyer said Ofsted, the Independent Schools Inspectorate and the North Yorkshire Safeguarding Partnership did not understand that ties with the abbey, which set up the school in 1802, had been cut.

He said: “They seem to feel that the old relationship of the past continues and that isn’t the case. We’re now separate institutions.”

He called for a new inspection and for inspectors to talk to students about their experience of the school.

He said: “They have total trust and total confidence in their school. Now that wasn’t the case in the past, as we know.

“I don’t think the school deserved in the past the trust and confidence of parents or students. What I think people should be looking at is the situation that exists in the school now.”