New pupils barred from top UK Catholic school after abuse scandal
By Mattha Busby
November 28, 2020
|Ampleforth college and abbey in North Yorkshire, where ‘appalling sexual abuse [was] inflicted over decades on children as young as seven’, according to a 2018 report.|
Ampleforth college says it will appeal against education secretary’s decision
The government has ordered one of England’s most prestigious Catholic boarding schools, Ampleforth college, to stop admitting new pupils as a result of “very serious” failings.
Scandal has surrounded the private school in recent years and an independent inquiry into child sexual abuse published a highly critical report in August 2018 that said “appalling sexual abuse [was] inflicted over decades on children as young as seven”.
Ampleforth’s abbot, Cuthbert Madden, was removed from the post that year following allegations that he indecently assaulted pupils. Madden has denied the claims.
His replacement, Deirdre Rowe, stood down as acting head after 10 months in the role following the release of a highly critical inspection report that found the school did not meet standards for safeguarding, leadership, behaviour, combating bullying and complaints handling.
The Department for Education (DfE) has now launched enforcement action against the 200-year-old institution in North Yorkshire after ruling it had failed to meet safeguarding and leadership standards following an emergency Ofsted inspection.
Ampleforth has said it will appeal against the ruling because, it argues, the order is “unjustified and based on incorrect information”.
The letter, which was published by the DfE on Friday, highlighted concerns from a number of inspection reports from January 2016 onwards.
“The SoS [secretary of state, Gavin Williamson] also had regard to the fact that the school is failing to meet the ISS [independent school standards], including standards relating to safeguarding and leadership and management, and in his view, these failings are considered to be very serious,” it said.
The letter acknowledged the school had shown “some willingness” to improve since 2018, but Williamson ruled the school’s progress had been “too slow” and “insufficient”.
It said: “The school failed to meet the 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.”
The letter added: “The St Laurence Education Trust, the proprietor of Ampleforth college, is required to cease to admit any new students.”
A spokesperson for the college said it had noted the department’s intent to serve notice of an enforcement action.
“We will be appealing this on the basis that we believe, and have been advised, that it is unjustified and based on incorrect information,” the spokesperson said.
“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.
“As far as we are concerned, we will continue to educate our students to the very high standards they are used to in a safe and supportive environment. We have lodged a complaint to Ofsted and await the outcome of that complaint.”
A damning government-ordered independent inquiry into child sexual abuse this month found that between 1970 and 2015, the Catholic church in England and Wales received more than 900 complaints involving more than 3,000 instances of child sexual abuse, made against more than 900 individuals, including priests, monks and volunteers.
When complaints were made, the church invariably failed to support victims and survivors but took action to protect alleged perpetrators by moving them to a different parish. “Child sexual abuse,” the report said, “was swept under the carpet.”