By PETER NOLAN The Westminster Cathedral Choir School will receive some support from Westminster Diocese until July 1977 but its headmaster, Fr Vincent Commerford, said he just did not know whether it could continue after that.
The school for 40 boys aged between II and 13 with three full-time and two part-time teachers cost £25,000 to run last year. It was originally announced the school, which trains the Cathedral's junior choir, would have to close next year.
Mrs Tina Ashton, chairman of the Choir School's parents committee, said Cardinal Heenan had just before he died said "it was his dearest wish that the school should continue."
Since the closure was first announced six weeks ago, the parents have raised £6,000 hut the Council of Administration responsible for the school have not yet said how much the Diocese will give towards the running of the school. Mrs Ashton said: "The school fulfills a pastoral role within the Church. Ina changing Church it has a very valuable part to play both in retaining the old liturgy and helping introduce the new." She said it was the only Catholic residential choir school in Britain. Parents pa' up to £450 for each child at the school, situated behind Westminster Cathedral. This is less than half the actual cost, according to Fr Commerford.
The Parents' Committee, in a statement, said they "are particularly determined the present broad social mix of the school shall be preserved and that any parental difficulties over the fees should not prevent suitably gifted boys from attending i:."
Mrs Ashton said the amount paid by parents depended on scholarships. "But it is still a fact that a boy will get a place if he has talent," she said.
She said the parents were currently approaching firms and charitable trusts dealing with education to help provide bursaries for pupils. The school benefited from a very dedicated staff and enjoyed both high musical and academic standards, she said.
In the eight years Fr Commerford has been headmaster "we have never had a failure," she said. The boys complete the Common Entrance Exam at 13 and "a very large proportion of he boys get scholarships at Catholic Public Schools."
She had found out about the existence of the school "by accident" and thought it did not get enough publicity. The announcement of the school's closure had further discouraged applications though there were more than ten places to be filled next year, she said.
Fr Commerford is not optimistic about the Choir School's chances of survival. "I don't think we have enough information to know whether we can continue after 1977, we just don't know," he said.
Whatever financial arrangements are made, each boy would have to pay an economical fee, which would come to over £1,000, he said. "I understand the Parents' Committee hope to set up the necessary bursaries."
At today's values, Fr Commerford agreed that the Diocese was getting its Choir School very cheaply and for less than it cost the Church of England to provide the same facilities.
For those who would like to listen to the choir, they can be heard at a new ordinary sung English Mass at the Cathedral at 6 o'clock every Saturday evening, beginning tomorrow.
Donations towards the Choir School may he sent to The Parents' Committee, c/o The Westminster Choir School, .Ambrosden Avenue, London SW I .