Ampleforth College

Coordinates: 54°12′06″N 1°05′02″W / 54.201770°N 1.083910°W / 54.201770; -1.083910
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Ampleforth College
, ,
YO62 4ER

Coordinates54°12′06″N 1°05′02″W / 54.201770°N 1.083910°W / 54.201770; -1.083910
TypePublic school
Private school
Boarding school
Day school
MottoDieu le ward
(Anglo-Norman for God the protector)
Religious affiliation(s)Roman Catholic (Benedictine)
Established1802; 221 years ago (1802)
Local authorityNorth Yorkshire
Department for Education URN121735 Tables
ChairEdward Sparrow
HeadmasterPeter Roberts
Age11 to 18
Colour(s)    Black and red
Former pupilsOld Amplefordians

Ampleforth College is a co-educational fee-charging boarding and day school in the English public school tradition. It opened in 1802 as a boys' school. It is located near the village of Ampleforth, North Yorkshire, England,[1] on the grounds of Benedictine monastery Ampleforth Abbey. The school is in a valley with sports pitches, wooded areas and lakes. Its affiliated preparatory school, St Martin's Ampleforth, which lay across the valley at Gilling Castle, closed in 2020 and was sold to an anonymous buyer.

The school is known as the Catholic Eton[2] and has boarding fees of £43,290 per annum.[3]

The school passed an ISI inspection in 2020 and a subsequent inspection for material change, however failed an Ofsted inspection a week later, resulting in an admissions ban from the DfE. The ban was overturned in April 2021 following another Ofsted inspection which reported that they were satisfied with Ampleforth's safeguarding arrangements.[4]


Pupils work in the library at Ampleforth in 1943

The college began as a small school for 70 boys founded by Benedictine monks, at Ampleforth Abbey, in 1803.[5] The school formally constituted as a Roman Catholic boarding school in 1900. Various buildings were slowly added, including the school theatre which was built in 1909. The first performances took place in 1910, and in 1922 a cinema projector was acquired, but could not be used until the following year when electric lighting and central heating were installed.[6]

The first boarding houses were founded in 1926 to accommodate the growing pupil numbers. In 1929, the Abbey gained ownership of Gilling Castle and opened a preparatory school. Gilling Castle Prep merged with the college's junior school in 1992 before taking on its current name St Martin's Ampleforth after absorbing another nearby prep school.

In 1998, girls were admitted for the first time when the sixth form became coeducational. The first girls' boarding house, St Aidan's, was opened in 2001, followed by St. Margaret's in 2004.[7] Coeducation was extended to the Year 9 intake for the 2010–11 academic year and the college is now fully coeducational.[8]

Since the Catholic emancipation, Ampleforth gained a reputation as one of several schools, alongside The Oratory School and Stonyhurst, popular within the Roman Catholic aristocracy and labelled the "Catholic Eton".[9]

College tramway[edit]

In 1895, the North Eastern Railway built a 3 foot (0.91 m) gauge tramway from Gilling station on the Thirsk to Malton Line. The tram was horse-drawn, and provided coal for the college to produce gas. It also transported passengers in open wagons. The tramway closed in 1923 when the college changed to electric lighting.[10]


Ampleforth and the Valley from the air

The school says that its primary concern is to provide pupils with not just academic, sporting and other achievements, but also "a spiritual compass for life": moral principles to give guidance in a secular world;[11] within a context where the "Benedictine ethos permeates pupils' experience".[12]

The Good Schools Guide called the school an "Unfailingly civilised and understanding top co-educational boarding Catholic school that has suffered from time to time as a result of its long liberal tradition." The Guide adds also that there is "A refreshing openness and honesty about the place these days."[13]

Its academic admissions policy is not as exacting as that exercised by some other English public schools. The school is typically between 150-200 in the annual league tables of public examination results, although it was ranked 6th nationally in the 2004 "value added" table. It maintains a scholarship set, with about 5% of pupils gaining the offer of a place at Oxford or Cambridge.[14] More than 90% go on to university.

In 2018 the school failed an inspection by the Independent Schools Inspectorate regarding boarding provision, and the school was issued with a formal notice requiring the school to produce an Action Plan to resolve the failings. The Charity Commission had earlier removed pupil safeguarding responsibilities from the school's trustees, and the headmaster had been suspended from the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference over safeguarding concerns.[15]

In May 2019, the Department of Education performed an unannounced inspection, with poor results. In July 2019 it was reported that the school's acting head was stepping down after 10 months in the job.[16] However, in spring 2019 the school passed a compliance inspection under a new head.[citation needed]

Following a September 2020 report, still unpublished as of November 2020, the Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, wrote to the college ordering them to stop admitting new pupils over safeguarding failures; the college said that it intended to appeal.[17] The ban was lifted the following April.[4]

School life[edit]

Though originally a boys' school the college is now fully co-educational. In 2009 an OFSTED Social Care report said that the overall quality of care was outstanding;[18] in 2013 it was deemed "excellent".[1]: 9 

Ampleforth Abbey


Boys buy sweets from the tuck shop at Ampleforth in 1943

The school is arranged into ten houses, with pupils living in separate house buildings, eating together as a house for lunch 6 days a week, and playing sport in inter-house competitions. Each house is named after a British saint. Boys houses are St Cuthbert's, St Dunstan's, St Edward-Wilfrid's (as of September 2018 became Junior House) which were originally two separate houses, St Hugh's, St John's, St Oswald's, and St Thomas's, and girls, St Aidan's, St Bede's and St Margaret's.

Some houses are paired into buildings named after people who have been instrumental in the school's history. Hume House building, named after Cardinal Basil Hume, combines St Cuthbert and St Edward-Wilfrid houses. Nevill House building combines St Dunstan and St Oswald houses. Bolton House building was formerly St Edward and St Wilfrid houses before their merger in 2001. Fairfax House building combines St Margaret and St Hugh houses.



In September 2005, Ampleforth was one of fifty of the country's leading independent schools which were found by the Office of Fair Trading to be operating a fee-fixing cartel in breach of the Competition Act of 1998. All of the schools were ordered to abandon this practice, pay a nominal penalty of £10,000 each (with minor exceptions) and make ex-gratia payments totalling three million pounds into a trust designed to benefit pupils who attended the schools during the period in respect of which fee information was shared.[19][20] Mrs Jean Scott, the head of the Independent Schools Council, said that they were unaware that the law had changed, and that private schools had not known that they had become subject to competition law.[21]


Initially several monks and three members of the lay teaching staff were accused of molesting children in their care over a period of several decades. In 2005, Father Piers Grant-Ferris admitted 20 incidents of child abuse. The Yorkshire Post reported in 2005: "Pupils at a leading Roman Catholic school suffered decades of abuse from at least six paedophiles following a decision by former Abbot Basil Hume [later a cardinal, and Archbishop of Westminster] not to call in police at the beginning of the scandal."[22][23] Following the case, the Abbot, Fr Cuthbert Madden, offered a "heartfelt apology" to the victims of one member of staff.[24]

The College thereafter established a safeguarding policy, later judged inadequate (see below), but which was said to follow the local inter-agency procedures of the North Yorkshire Safeguarding Children Board and the guidance given in the Education (Independent School Standards) (England) Regulations 2010 and the National Minimum Standards for Boarding Schools.[25] In accordance with this policy, in 2016 Fr Madden temporarily stepped down from his role of Chairman of Governors during the investigation of indecent assault allegations made by four former pupils.[26] Based on the evidence available no further police action was taken, however the English Benedictine Congregation refused to allow him to resume his role.[27][28]

In April 2018, the Charity Commission appointed a lawyer to take charge of safeguarding at Ampleforth College, as it was not satisfied that the trustees of the charities that run the college had made enough progress in improving pupil safeguarding.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) investigated the English Benedictine Congregation, including Ampleforth College and Downside School, amongst other institutions, and published a report in August 2018.[29] Ten individuals from the two schools, including monks, were convicted or accepted a caution for abuse. The report said that abuse was inflicted on pupils over 40 years, but the schools tried to cover up allegations. The Chair of the Inquiry, Prof. Alexis Jay, said that the schools for decades tried to avoid giving any information to police or authorities, with monks being "secretive, evasive and suspicious of anyone outside the English Benedictine Congregation", prioritising "the reputation of the Church and the wellbeing of the abusive monks" over safeguarding. New procedures were introduced in 2001 following the Nolan Report, recommending that abuse should be referred to the statutory authorities, however allegations continued to be handled internally.[30][31]

The Department for Education released a report in November 2020 following an inspection, claiming that the school in some respects appeared to have relapsed in the year since the change of leadership. The school was forbidden from admitting new pupils. The school responded that it had taken "very considerable steps forward" and 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", and said that it intended to appeal the decision.[32] The admissions ban, due to come in place on 29 December, was delayed. In his first interview on the matter, headmaster Robin Dyer stated in December 2020 that there was "no evidence expressed in the report" of any instances "to do with emergencies [or] to do with harm to children". Arguing that the Ofsted report was "less than complete" and had little to do with his tenure as headmaster, he requested that a new inspection be conducted in January.[33] Following a further Ofsted inspection, in April 2021 the admissions ban was lifted by the Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson. Inspectors reported that they were satisfied with Ampleforth's progress, and the Department for Education signed off on the school's safeguarding action plan.[4]

An Ofsted report, following an inspection at the end of 2021, found that the school did not meet independent school standards or national minimum standards for boarding schools in several areas.[34] They rated the school "Inadequate" for "Overall experiences and progress of children and young people", specifically those with special educational needs and/or disabilities; "How well children and young people are helped and protected"; and "The effectiveness of leaders and managers"; although rated the quality of education as "Good".[35][36] The school disputed these findings as unsubstantiated or factually inaccurate, citing evidence, including quotes from a police report, that were inconsistent with Ofsted's findings.[37][38] The school also referenced multiple independent audits which contradicted the report, and two Ofsted surveys which found 100% of parents felt their child was safe and happy, and 99.6% of students felt safe.[38][39] Local MP Kevin Hollinrake stated that "I want to make clear that I am supportive of the school in this situation, and I feel that there is a fundamental dispute of the facts behind the assessment, that needs to be resolved".[40]

Notable headmasters[edit]

Notable Old Amplefordians[edit]

The school has educated many notable figures including King Letsie III of Lesotho,[43] Rupert Everett, David Stirling, Lord Fellowes of West Stafford, Lord Bamford, Sir Antony Gormley, James O'Brien, Timothy Oulton, actor James Norton, painter Vincent Haddelsey, Rugby World Cup winner Lawrence Dallaglio, author Piers Paul Read, and historians William Dalrymple, Patrick French and John Keay.

St Bede’s Preparatory School, Bishton Hall[edit]

Also Charles Stafford-Northcote, Headmaster of St Bede's Preparatory School, Staffordshire (closed 2018) of which Lord Bamford was a former pupil and after: The University at Grenople. He donated the school's swimming pool roof with the proceeds of his inheritance from his father; Joseph Cyril Bamford (founder of the machinery company JCB). Also the Dukes of Norfolk (Earls of Arundel) went to Ampleforth with their family attending St. Bede's beforehand.[44][45]


  2. ^ "Ampleforth College: The history of the public school known as 'the Catholic Eton' as it is ordered to stop taking pupils". Retrieved 22 June 2022.
  3. ^ "Fees". Ampleforth College. Retrieved 29 September 2023.
  4. ^ a b c Turner, Camilla (16 April 2021). "Exclusive: Ampleforth School saved from closure after intervention by Gavin Williamson". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 17 April 2021.
  5. ^ "History of the Ampleforth Community". Archived from the original on 11 August 2011. Retrieved 13 May 2012.
  6. ^ "Theatre – A brief history". Ampleforth College. Archived from the original on 19 April 2012. Retrieved 13 May 2012.
  7. ^ "Girls' Houses – St Margaret's". Ampleforth College. Archived from the original on 14 November 2012. Retrieved 1 December 2012.
  8. ^ "Ampleforth College to admit Year 10 girls". York Press. 23 December 2009. Archived from the original on 6 August 2013. Retrieved 1 December 2012.
  9. ^ "Have posh Catholics had their day?". The Catholic Herald. 2 July 2015. Archived from the original on 24 January 2016.
  10. ^ "Gilling Railway Station". Disused Stations. Retrieved 7 November 2015.
  11. ^ "An Introduction from the Headmaster". Ampleforth College. Archived from the original on 2 May 2008.
  12. ^ "School Development Plan Explored Further". Ampleforth College. Archived from the original on 14 June 2009.
  13. ^ "Ampleforth College, York". The Good School Guide. Archived from the original on 18 February 2011.
  14. ^ "School Development Plan 2006–2007". Ampleforth College. Archived from the original on 1 March 2008.
  15. ^ Gledhill, Ruth (30 July 2018). "Ampleforth faces possible closure if it fails to improve standards". The Tablet. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  16. ^ Sherwood, Harriet (3 July 2019). "Head of top Catholic school stands down after damning report". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077.
  17. ^ Booth, Samantha. "Ampleforth College ordered to stop admitting new pupils over safeguarding failures". Schools Week. Lsect. Retrieved 27 November 2020.
  18. ^ "Ampleforth College Inspection report for boarding school". Ofsted. 23 January 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 March 2015. Retrieved 18 October 2016.
  19. ^ "OFT names further trustees as part of the independent schools settlement". The Office of Fair Trading. 21 December 2006. Archived from the original on 2 April 2014.
  20. ^ Halpin, Tony (10 November 2005). "Independent schools face huge fines over cartel to fix fees". The Times. London. Archived from the original on 12 September 2012.
  21. ^ "Private schools send papers to fee-fixing inquiry". The Daily Telegraph. London. 1 March 2004. Retrieved 15 March 2011.
  22. ^ "Ampleforth child abuse scandal hushed up by Basil Hume". The Yorkshire Post. 18 November 2005. Retrieved 22 December 2007.
  23. ^ "Boarding school Ampleforth College initially failed to pass on abuse allegations to authorities". YouTube. Archived from the original on 21 December 2021. Retrieved 6 April 2021.
  24. ^ Cobain, Ian (18 November 2005). "Silence and secrecy at school where child sex abuse went on for decades". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  25. ^ "Ampleforth Abbey & College". Retrieved 24 March 2017.
  26. ^ "Ampleforth College abbot steps aside as police probe historical abuse claims". The Yorkshire Post. 1 September 2016. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  27. ^ "Ampleforth College: 'No action' over abuse allegation". BBC News. 4 November 2016. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  28. ^ Lamb, Christopher (16 October 2018). "Vatican intervenes in Madden case". The Tablet.
  29. ^ Ampleforth and Downside (English Benedictine Congregation case study) – Investigation Report (PDF) (Report). Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. 9 August 2018. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 August 2018. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  30. ^ "Child abuse inquiry: School 'reputations put before abuse victims'". BBC News. 9 August 2018. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  31. ^ Harriet Sherwood and Rob Evans (9 August 2018). "Report damns culture of acceptance of sexual abuse at two Catholic schools". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  32. ^ Busby, Mattha (28 November 2020). "New pupils barred from top UK Catholic school after abuse scandal". The Guardian.
  33. ^ Carpani, Jessica (29 December 2020). "Head of Ampleforth College hits back at a ban on admitting new pupils". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 16 January 2021.
  34. ^ "Education and boarding inspection summary for Ampleforth College". Ofsted. 16 March 2022.
  35. ^ Titley, Jane; Richardson, Jamie (30 November 2021). Inspection report for boarding school: Ampleforth College (PDF). Ofsted. SC007916.
  36. ^ Pidd, Helen (16 March 2022). "'Serious failures' over sex and drugs incidents at Catholic school". The Guardian.
  37. ^ "Ampleforth College: Ofsted 'inadequate' rating over secret party". BBC News. 17 March 2022. Retrieved 28 August 2022.
  38. ^ a b "Ampleforth College Media Response to Ofsted Report December 2021" (PDF). Ampleforth College. 16 March 2022. Retrieved 28 August 2022.
  39. ^, The Tablet-w. "Ampleforth College 'inadequate' with 'serious failures' says Ofsted". The Tablet. Retrieved 29 August 2022.
  40. ^ "'Fundamental dispute' over damning Ofsted report at £37,000-a-year Ampleforth College". The Yorkshire Post. 26 March 2022. Retrieved 29 August 2022.
  41. ^ "Fr Leo Chamberlain OSB (1940 – 2019)". Ampleforth College. 25 November 2019. Retrieved 12 June 2021.
  42. ^ Carpani, Jessica (29 December 2020). "Head of Ampleforth College hits back at a ban on admitting new pupils". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 17 January 2021. Robin Dyer, who was appointed in July last year, said the restriction order preventing admissions should be revoked quickly.
  43. ^ Soszynski, Henry. "LESOTHO". Archived from the original on 30 June 2017. Retrieved 4 June 2017.
  44. ^ Sweney, Mark (1 February 2016). "James Norton: TV producers also typecast against posh actors". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 July 2017.
  45. ^ "Schools Guide 2017: Ampleforth". Tatler. 18 September 2016.

External links[edit]