POLICE are investigating sex abuse claims at the country's leading Roman Catholic boarding school.

Two Benedictine monks who taught at Ampleforth College, near Helmsley, North Yorkshire, are being questioned about the abuse which is alleged to have taken place in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

It is believed about 80 former pupils are being contacted for information.

The headmaster of the £20,000-a-year school, Father Gabriel Everitt, stressed that the two unnamed monks have had no official role at the school since the mid-1980s.

"We have been aware for some months of interest by police in allegations said to involve two monks some 20 or 30 years ago," he said,

"We share the view that in any such investigation the interests of any potential victim must be paramount. We have therefore co-operated fully."

Inspector Steve Burns, of North Yorkshire Police, said the investigation was well advanced. "We expect it be reaching its conclusion soon, possibly in the next couple of weeks, at which point the investigating officer will be submitting a report to the Crown Prosecution Service," he said.

The allegations are the latest scandal to engulf the school. In 2002, housemaster Father Christian Shore was sacked after an investigation into his relationship with a pupil a decade earlier.

Father Shore admitted there may have been "an occasion of improper physical conduct" with the sixth-form student. No charges were brought.

In 1996, Father Bernard Green, who was also a housemaster, admitted indecently assaulting a schoolboy the previous year.

Father Everitt said he was confident in the standard of care provided by the school. This had been verified by an official inspection this year.

The school takes boys from age 13 to 18, and girls in the sixth-form.