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The Chapter of York announces proposals for the closure of The Minster School

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The Chapter of York, the governing body of York Minster, today announced proposals for the closure of The Minster School at the end of the summer term 2020.

As a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic York Minster has experienced a catastrophic loss of visitor income.  This particular income stream is crucial to the financial performance of the organisation as a whole and its ability to continue funding of all activities.

Parents and staff were informed of the proposals today.  The School will arrange a series of meetings with parents to discuss their options and to help them find new school places for their children.  A formal consultation process with the School’s staff and their representatives starts today.

The Dean of York, the Right Revd Dr Jonathan Frost, said that it was a terribly sad day for York Minster and for parents, staff and pupils of the School.  In a letter to parents, Jonathan explained:

“When setting its annual budget, in pre-Covid days, the Chapter of York anticipated an income of £9.4m in 2020. As a direct consequence of closure, and the total loss of visitor income and commercial activity associated with it, Chapter now anticipates a shortfall against budget of up to £5.2m in 2020. The severity of this shock to our system is only compounded by the unlikelihood of visitor numbers returning to 2019 levels in the foreseeable future.”

Jonathan explained that Chapter had planned to continue its investment of £750k in each of the next three years to create breathing space for the school to rise out of its financial deficit and to recruit new pupils. He said:

“With a £5.2m shortfall in 2020 and no return of visitors to 2019 levels in the short to medium term, such investment is no longer a viable option.  Intelligence drawn from the wider independent preparatory school sector suggests that the Minster School will be far from unique in facing this kind of dilemma.”

The Dean also announced Chapter’s intention to continue its historic commitment to the Anglican Choral Tradition, and to the education of its choristers, in partnership with St Peter’s School, York. In this new partnership, choristers will continue to be trained by York Minster’s Department of Music.

Commenting on the partnership with York Minster, 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. We will now have an important addition to our already world class capabilities at the same time protecting this great York cultural tradition.”

Head Master of St Peter’s, Jeremy Walker added:

“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.”

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