After plans to merge with a local preparatory school fell through, Ripon Cathedral Choir School has been forced to close.
Founded in 1960, the North Yorkshire private school had been sold to a property developer in an attempt to rid its debts of £600,000. Despite discussions of a merger with the nearby Cundall Manor School (near Thirsk), governors of Cundall Manor abandoned the possibility of an arrangement after seeing the accounts of Ripon School (reputed to be losing £40, 000 a month).
‘It is a great shame,’ says Sir Thomas Ingilby, the chair of governors at Cundall Manor, ‘as everybody could see the potential benefits of the merger and hoped for a positive outcome.’
The pupils at Ripon School have been offered places on their current fee levels at Queen Ethelberga’s College in York, an independent school 12 miles away.
The Ripon crisis is being echoed across the country, with other choir schools facing similar issues as the recession causes problems for fee-paying families. The similarly small Tewkesbury Abbey Choir School closed in 2006, after struggling to make ends meet. Luckily, Dean Close School in Cheltenham (11 miles away) stepped in, taking over the role of the choir school and adjusting its timetables in order to cater for the needs of the choristers.
Ever since, the Abbey’s boys’ choir, the Tewkesbury Schola Cantorum, has thrived, with its treble Laurence Kilsby winning the BBC Chorister of the Year competition in 2009.