YORK’S historic Minster School is to close - and bosses are blaming the “catastrophic impact” of the coronavirus crisis.

The independent prep school is run by the Chapter of York Minster and has origins dating back to 627 AD.

York Minster is expecting to suffer a £5.2 million hole in its budget as a result of the pandemic - and the Dean, the Right Rev Dr Jonathan Frost, said it means the Chapter has taken the “terribly sad” decision to close the school at the end of the summer term.

The school’s 95 pupils, aged between four and 13, will be given support to find places at other schools and a formal consultation process has begun for the 34 staff.

Dr Frost said it was a “terribly sad day for York Minster and for parents, staff and pupils of the School”.

The Chapter was investing about £750,000 a year in the school - with a recent planning application submitted at the start of May seeking permission for renovation works to the reception area.

Dr Frost said: “This particular crisis means the investment we were putting into the Minster School is no longer sustainable.

“Until Covid I was working very closely with the excellent headteacher and the school has just received an excellent rating from The Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI). 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.

“Since Covid a number of families indicated they would be unable to keep their children at the Minster School.”

He said there are currently no updates on what will happen to the school buildings.

A spokesperson for the Minster said it had seen a “catastrophic loss of visitor income” because of coronavirus.

Before the outbreak the Minster expected £9.4 million income in 2020 - but now anticipates a shortfall of more than £5 million.

Dr Frost said the situation was made worse by the unlikelihood of visitor numbers returning to pre-coronavirus levels for the foreseeable future.

But he added: “I’m confident that York Minster will be able to throw open its doors and be sustainable for generations ahead. But this is our turn to face the crisis. We will come through this. I think the decision to close the Minster School is a part of that but it is not the whole recovery plan.”

The Minster School was founded for the cathedral’s choristers and the Minster will continue this tradition in partnership with nearby St Peter’s School. Choristers will continue to be trained by York Minster’s Department of Music.

Headmaster of St Peter’s, Jeremy Walker, said: “I am saddened that The Minster School is closing but look forward to welcoming choristers and their families to St Peter’s.

“They will be joining a school which nurtures and celebrates excellence, whether that be in music, academics, sport or all the other opportunities we share with our pupils. They and future generations of choristers will be a great addition to the life of St Peter’s.”

Robert Sharpe, director of music at York Minster, said: “The Minster School can trace its origins back to AD 627 when St Paulinus founded the Minster and a school for its choristers.

“This school went on to become what is now St Peter’s School.

“The very sad decision to close the present Minster School is set alongside this excellent opportunity for our choristers to continue to be educated together a short distance away, and for the Minster’s mission and choral tradition to continue to flourish for years to come.”

William Woolley, chair of governors at St Peter’s School, said: “The Minster with its wonderful choral singing is hugely important not only for York but also nationally and internationally.

“St Peter’s School is proud to become the Choir School of the Minster and to continue the excellent education of the choristers after the sad announcement.”