FALLING pupil numbers have led to the closure of one of the region’s most prominent fee-paying Catholic schools.

St Martin’s Ampleforth, the preparatory school for the prestigious Ampleforth College near Helmsley, has announced that it will close from the next academic year.

Parents have been informed and a consultation on the proposals is now underway.

A statement from the St Laurence Education Trust that governs St Martin’s, said: “From September 2018 we propose to close the Pre-Prep and Years 2 to 5 and integrate the remaining years into the Ampleforth College site.

“This will run from Year 6 upwards for the next academic year and Year 7 upwards thereafter.

“We have announced this proposal to all teaching and support staff at St Martin’s Ampleforth and will now begin a period of consultation with them.

“We have also contacted all parents with children at St Martin’s Ampleforth who will be directly affected by this change.

“This has not been a quick or easy decision for our trustees to make and we recognise that this is the end of an era for all of us.

“We will be sad to leave the Gilling Castle site after so many years.”

A spokeswoman from the school confirmed that the decision has been made due to falling pupils numbers, particularly among the younger years, which reflected a national trend.

The closure announcement comes after after Ampleforth College hit the headlines last year over allegations of historic child abuse.

In late November the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA) heard evidence from former pupils of historic abuse at Ampleforth College in the 1960s and 1970s.

The public hearings are predicted to last until 2019.