YORK MINSTER SCHOOL, which educates choristers for the Minster, is to close because of a financial crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The school, which is running at a loss — about half its 180 pupil places are unoccupied — has relied on a £750,000 annual handout from the cathedral Chapter to stay afloat. Now, officials say that a drop in the Minster’s income caused by the lockdown means that it can no longer provide the support.
Parents and staff were told last week by the Dean of York, the Rt Revd Jonathan Frost, who chairs the school’s governors, that the school would close at the end of the coming summer term.
He said that the Minster had a projected revenue for 2020 of £9.4 million, but the loss of visitor income and other commercial activities was expected to reduce that by £5.2 million. “This particular crisis means the investment we were putting into the Minster School is no longer sustainable,” he said. The situation was made worse by the likelihood that visitor numbers would not return to pre-coronavirus levels for the foreseeable future.
He continued: “Like many independent prep schools, numbers were always an issue, but we were seeing numbers begin to grow again. Our focus was on seeing the school flourish. Even before Covid and the closure of the Minster, the Minster School was in a deficit position, but there was a plan and an energy, and a commitment to invest.
“Since Covid, a number of families indicated they would be unable to keep their children at the Minster School. It has always been an important part of Minster life, but the school is no longer sustainable in a long-term way.”
Dean Frost described the decision as a “terribly sad day for York Minster and for parents, staff, and pupils”. The school, whose termly fees range from £1324 to £3570, recently received an “excellent” rating from the Independent Schools Inspectorate.
The choristers will move to the independent St Peter’s School near by, and will continue to be trained by the Minster’s music department. The headmaster of St Peter’s, Jeremy Walker, said: “They and future generations of choristers will be a great addition to the life of St Peter’s.”
The remainder of the pupils, aged between four and 13, will be given support in finding places elsewhere. A formal consultation process has begun with the 34 staff.