Choir school merger talks collapse

Flashback:  Sir Thomas Ingilby, Cundall headteacher Richard Notman and The Dean of Ripon pictured at the time merger talks were announced.
Flashback: Sir Thomas Ingilby, Cundall headteacher Richard Notman and The Dean of Ripon pictured at the time merger talks were announced.
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The merger between Ripon Cathedral Choir School and Cundall Manor School has been called off after it was deemed too risky.

But Queen Ethelburga’s – based at Thorpe Underwood Estate, near Little Ouseburn – has now stepped in with an 11th-hour offer of discussions to save the school.

Discussions between the choir school and Cundall Manor School had reached an advanced stage but during the due diligence process Cundall governors concluded the short-term risks were greater than anticipated and the longer-term benefits far from guaranteed.

Cundall Manor School’s chairman of governors, Sir Thomas Ingilby, said: “We have developed an outstandingly strong school at Cundall and as soon as the risks associated with the merger became apparent, it was clear that the talks could go no further.”

Ripon Cathedral Choir School (RCCS) had been projected to run at a loss of £40,000 a month from September.

After Cundall Manor School pulled out of merger talks, the choir school issued a statement which said: “The governors of RCCS have met and, taking into account legal and other professional advice, have taken the difficult decision to close the school with immediate effect.

“The governors have informed parents and staff of the situation and are making every effort to assist parents with transferring their children to alternative schools from September.

“The cathedral has informed us that it will be making plans over the summer for the continuation of both the boys’ and girls’ choirs from September.”

Following the announcement that merger talks had failed, Queen Ethelburga’s made its offer of discussions.

If some financial assistance is forthcoming from Ripon Cathedral, Queen Ethelburga’s is offering to stand by the existing scholarships and fees enjoyed by parents of choir school pupils, free new school uniforms, help towards bus costs, and employment of existing choir school specialist choral and music staff. The charitable foundation that supports Queen Ethelburga’s Collegiate has said it would be willing to partly assist the cathedral in meeting the additional costs.

l A meeting of concerned choir school parents was held at the school on Sunday. From this, six people have formed a support group with the aim of finding a way forward for the school.