£5m helps draw more girls to boarding school

One of the country's leading Roman Catholic boarding schools is in line for a £5m redevelopment to help increase the number of girl pupils by next year.

Ampleforth College, pictured right, yesterday announced plans for two new residential houses for students, one to let female boarding be extended to junior years.

Ampleforth broke with tradition by admitting its first full-time girls into the sixth form at the start of the 2001 academic year and now has 38 on the roll.

It is also proposed to enlarge the existing purpose-built girls' house, the first to be built at the college, which accommodates sixth form boarders.

Boarding facilities for boys throughout the school will also be improved as part of a wider upgrade due to be completed by late 2005, subject to planning consent.

The college said the new development was a sign of confidence in the future of Catholic and Benedictine independent education. It follows the expenditure of some 14m in the school over the last eight years, partly funded through an appeal which it is hoped will reach its 9m target by the end of the year.

To enable the new works to proceed without delay, they will be financed through a bank loan. Total investment will top 20m over ten years.

Father Leo Chamberlain, who is to depart at the end of the year after 11 years as headmaster, said: "The success of sixth form boarding for girls, and the widespread support this has received, makes this a logical and natural evolution. There is now clearly strong demand from parents, among them those with daughters in our preparatory school, St Martin's Ampleforth, or with sisters of boys in the senior school.

"As a mixed school, Ampleforth College's role and identity is redefined in an important way, which enables us to fulfil our mission of education in faith and virtue for whole families in and beyond the 21st century."