A NORTH Yorkshire boarding school has been ordered to stop admitting new pupils from the end of this month as a result of "serious" failings.

The Department for Education (DfE) has launched enforcement action against Ampleforth College, near Helmsley, after it ruled that the prestigious school had failed to meet safeguarding and leadership standards.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has told the school to cease accepting new pupils in a bid to "safeguard the education and well-being of children".

The Catholic school - which faced criticism in a report by an independent inquiry into child sexual abuse in 2018 - will appeal against the ruling as it argues that the order is "unjustified and based on incorrect information".

The letter, which was published by the DfE on Friday afternoon, highlighted concerns from a number of inspection reports from January 2016 onwards.

It said: "The SoS [Secretary of State] also had regard to the fact that 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."

The letter acknowledged that the school had shown "some willingness" to improve since 2018, adding that new leadership in September last year had led to improved internal safeguarding arrangements.

But Mr Williamson ruled that the school's progress had been "too slow" and "insufficient".

The letter 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."

A spokeswoman for Ampleforth College said: "Ampleforth College notes the Department for Education's publication this afternoon of the 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.

"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."

She stressed that the restriction on Ampleforth College admitting new pupils would not come into force until December 29.

She said the school had the right to apply for the restriction to be revoked if the Secretary of State was satisfied that it would be appropriate to do so.

She also said that during the appeal process, the relevant restriction would not take effect until such time as the appeal was 'determined, withdrawn, or otherwise disposed of, meaning we can still accept students to the school.'  

In February this year, a former monk at Ampleforth College - who continued to abuse young boys after confessing to having sexual contact with a pupil - was jailed for more than 20 years.

Peter Turner, 80, sexually abused two boys after he was forced to leave Ampleforth College and sent away to work in a parish in Workington, Cumbria.

He had already served a previous jail sentence in 2005 after he admitted offences against 10 pupils at Ampleforth between 1979 and 1987.