AN independent school which was established over 700 years ago should be reclassified as a children’s home, according to education and care authorities.

Ruthin School principal Toby Belfield has described as “crazy legislation” the ruling, which means that it is currently not complying with all-Wales child protection procedures.

The row has blown up following a joint inspection of the school in May by the Care Inspectorate Wales, which is responsible for monitoring boarding schools, the Welsh Government and Estyn, the schools’ inspectorate.

Concerns had been raised by Denbighshire’s children’s services.

Under the Care Standards Act 2000, if a school accommodates children for more than 295 days a year it is classed as a children’s home.

Ruthin School has 235 boarders, most of whom are from overseas, and since 2016 the school has run its own summer courses for boarders to prepare pupils for the September term, thus taking the number of days beyond 295.

In their report, the inspectors were generally highly complimentary about the services provided by the school and its accommodation, but added: “The leaders and managers of the school have not ensured that they comply with legislation.”

Among the recommendations were that the principal and members of the council of management undergo safeguarding training including handling of allegations of abuse against staff, and that all safeguarding policies comply with all-Wales Child Protection Procedures and Welsh Government guidance.

In response, Mr Belfield said summer courses had been run at Ruthin for about 15 years, as at other schools, but as they had previously been sub-contracted to another supplier the legislation did not apply.

“If you count the number of days our students are resident between September 1 and August 31, as I did, you will find that we comply with the legislation,” he said.

“However, if you count the number of days they are resident between mid-June and mid-June you can identify around 20 students who will be resident for longer than 295 days.

“It is crazy legislation because it does not consider the actual care of the child. A child that is resident at Ruthin School is receiving personal care of a high quality.”

Mr Belfield said that as principal he was the legal guardian of all the boarders.

The school considered four options to ensure future compliance, including simply registering as a children’s home, extending the Christmas holidays to 10 weeks and closing the school for that period, and abolishing the school-run summer courses.

It has been decided, however, to adjust the dates of those attending the summer course so they have 70 days away from the school, giving them a slightly different academic year to the other students.

Mr Belfield said he felt the school was being persecuted as the only boarding school inspection report on CIW’s website last week was the latest on Ruthin School.

He made a formal complaint about that to the Welsh Government and since then other school reports have been added.