AMPLEFORTH COLLEGE, one of the country’s leading Roman Catholic public schools, has been barred from taking new pupils, as its child-protection regime is deemed too poor. The Department for Education (DfE) said that the college had not met safeguarding and leadership standards, after an emergency OFSTED inspection earlier this year.
The North Yorkshire school, where fees reach £36,000 a year, has said that it will appeal against the ruling, saying that the order is “unjustified and based on incorrect information”. The restriction, which applies from 29 December, will not take effect until the appeal process has finished.
Details of the ban were published by the DfE last Friday, after concerns over a number of inspection reports from January 2016 onwards. The notice said that the Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, considered the failings to to be “very serious”. It acknowledged that the school had shown “some willingness” to improve since 2018, but the Minister ruled that progress had been “too slow” and “insufficient”.
It said: “The school failed to meet the Independent Schools Standards [ISS] for more than a year before new leadership was brought in. In the year since then, the school has still not done enough to consistently meet the ISS, and in some respects the school appears to have relapsed.”
Ampleforth, often dubbed “the Catholic Eton”, has experienced a series of incidents of sexual abuse in recent years. An independent inquiry in August 2018 published a highly critical report, saying that “appalling sexual abuse [was] inflicted over decades on children as young as seven”.
Fr Cuthbert Madden, the Abbot of Ampleforth Abbey, where the school is based, was removed from his post after allegations that he indecently assaulted pupils. He always denied the claims. An investigation by North Yorkshire Police found no case to answer, but he is not expected to return, although he remains abbot in absentia until early in the new year.
The acting head of the school, Deirdre Rowe, stood down after ten months after an inspection report found that the school did not meet standards for safeguarding, leadership, behaviour, combating bullying, and complaints handling.
A college spokesperson said: “We will be appealing this on the basis that we believe, and have been advised, that it is unjustified and based on incorrect information.
“Given the very considerable steps forward that have been taken by the school to learn from the mistakes of the past and to put in place a robust safeguarding regime, a new senior leadership team, and a new governance structure that has effectively separated the abbey from the college, we cannot understand why this decision has been taken, and we cannot understand why it has been published, given the appeals process is still open to us.
“We have lodged a complaint to OFSTED, and await the outcome of that complaint.”