City schools in surprise new merger

From left - Sir Thomas Ingilby, Richard Notman and The Dean of Ripon.
From left - Sir Thomas Ingilby, Richard Notman and The Dean of Ripon.

Ripon’s cash-strapped Cathedral Choir School is to leave its home in the city merge with nearby Cundall Manor.

The schools have announced “discussions are at an advanced stage” to merge the two private preparatory schools and move the Ripon school’s staff and pupils to Cundall Manor’s site near Helperby by September 2012.

The merger will create a new school – Ripon Cundall Manor School – led by Cundall Manor’s newly appointed headteacher Richard Notman.

It will continue to educate Ripon Cathedral’s young choristers, the schools confirmed.

In April the Cathedral Choir School announced £600,000 debts and unveiled plans to sell its Whitcliffe Lane site and move to a smaller purpose built site on Harrogate Road.

The school, which currently has 74 pupils on the roll, had been lent the money by Ripon Cathedral as it struggled to maintain pupil numbers. Governors hoped selling the school’s land would release enough capital to repay the debts and build a new school on the south of the city,

Speaking at the time Andrew Kitchingman, Chairman of Governors at the Cathedral Choir School, said: “Like a lot of prep schools we are asset rich and cash poor. We need four to five acres for buildings, plus two acres for playing fields. This site is around 10.5 acres.”

Plans for the Harrogate Road site have been abandonned, but the deal with York based Persimmon Homes develop the Whitcliffe Road site still stands, the school confirmed and governors of both schools have hailed the merger as an opportunity.

In a joint statement Sir Thomas Ingilby, chair of Governors for Cundall Manor School and The Very Rev Keith Jukes, Dean of Ripon and governor for Ripon Cathedral Choir School, said: “This is a superb, possibly once in a lifetime opportunity to create a school that will rival any in the North of England. It brings together the strengths of both schools across the academic, music, sports and arts arenas to make what we aim to be the leading independent school providing an outstanding education for boys and girls from ages three to 16.”

The schools plan to invest in new buildings and existing facilities at Cundall to accommodate increased pupil numbers, including a state-of-the-art creative arts and music centre, enhanced boarding and communal facilities and significant development of ICT facilities across the entire school.

Richard Notman said: “Cundall’s sporting excellence blends perfectly with Ripon’s expertise in music.”