Reported Cases of Abuse in Musical Education, 1990-2012, and Issues for a Public Inquiry

Historians of child abuse have pointed out that public awareness of the issue can be dated back at least as far as the Victorian era, through the efforts of child protection groups from this time, though many for some time imagined this began in Britain roughly at the beginning of the 1980s (see Brian Corby, Child Abuse: Towards a Knowledge Base, third edition (Maidenhead: Open University Press, 2006), pp. 8, 20 for some references to work of this type, and their links to different constructions of ‘childhood’). It is probably simplistic merely to imagine that such abuse is simply a phenomenon which has occurred with equal or greater frequency in historical times, the only differentiating factor of today being the extent to which it is reported both to the authorities and in the media (see ibid. pp. 8-21 for a variety of evidence suggesting that treatment of children has varied in numerous respects during different historical periods, and in particular earlier attempts at child protection). The passing of the Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act in 1889, followed by further consolidating acts in 1894, 1904 and 1908, as well as the formation of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children during the last two decades of the nineteenth century, brought an intensified focus on mistreatment of children in the family, though a greater amount of attention continued to be paid to child prostitution. But attention to abuse in the family grew during the post-1945 period following the reports of the Curtis Committee and the 1952 Children and Young Persons (Amendment) Act, which created new powers for children’s departments to intervene in cases where children seemed in danger. Whilst medical literature identifying symptoms of abuse increased from the 1960s onwards, the primary catalyst for a greater sense of urgency from both politicians and the wider public was the case of Maria Colwell, killed by her stepfather in 1973, after various health and welfare officers failed to identify her predicament earlier (ibid. pp. 26-38). An important study by Nigel Parton traced the change in media reporting of the subject following in particular the setting up of an enquiry by Minister for Social Services Sir Keith Joseph, the new role allocated to the Department of Health and Social Security, the 1975 Children’s Act, and the establishment of ‘non-accidental injury’ as a new form of conceptualisation (Nigel Parton, ‘The Natural History of Child Abuse: A Study in Social Problem Definition’, British Journal of Social Work Vol. 9, No. 4 (1979), pp. 431-451).

But the focus remained upon the home and especially those homes associated with social deprivation (reflecting Joseph’s wider perception of a clear association between poverty and moral decline). This emphasis continued through the 1980s, including in such prominent inquiries as that into the death of Jasmine Beckford in 1984, or the Cleveland child abuse scandal in 1987, which brought false diagnosis of abuse into the public arena, leading to the rather ambivalent Children Act of 1989 (Corby, Child Abuse, pp. 42-49). Only four inquiries between 1945 and 1989 dealt with institutional abuse (Brian Corby, ‘The costs and benefits of the North Wales Tribunal of Inquiry’, in Nicky Stanley and Jill Manthorpe (eds), The Age of Inquiry: Learning and Blaming in Health and Social Care (London & New York: Routledge, 2004), p. 116). Since 1989 there have been a wider range of such inquiries and some wider public appreciation of institutional danger, though this has been focused upon children’s and care homes rather than so much upon independent schools (see the final section of this article for one example of a focus on the latter, at Castle Hill). It is however at this point in time that the issue of abuse in specialist music schools first came to public attention.

Since around 1990, there have been sporadic reports about abuse in music education, which have come to a head this year. One of the first such occasions was brought about following the move to America in the Summer of 1990 by Christopher Ling, violin teacher at Chetham’s School of Music (1985-1990), taking with him a group of his female students (see ‘Music Girls’ Maestro in Sex Probe: Scandal at top school’, The People, 3/3/91). Ling would never (to date) return to the UK; following his departure, revelations began to emerge of widespread sexual abuse of students at the school by Ling, which had been rumoured for a time. A police investigation was set up at the time, the course and results of which remain obscure; the school also took no further action nor made any statements, but the Ling affair was widely discussed amongst musicians, many of whom remembered it as one of the school’s darkest secrets. There were also two important resignations from Chetham’s, neither of which were reported. In December 1994, the long-serving Director of Music (since 1975), Michael Brewer, resigned apparently on grounds of ill health. As would be revealed in Brewer’s trial this year, this reason was a fabrication. Furthermore, another long-serving member of staff, the prestigious Polish piano teacher Ryszard Bakst, who had also taught at the Royal Northern College of Music, left in 1995. Bakst, who left Poland for the UK in 1968, taught at the RNCM for a whole 23 years, from 1969 to 1992; his teaching at Chetham’s began at some point in the 1970s (see ‘Ryszard Bakst’, at (accessed 27/5/13)). To be chosen to study with Bakst was widely regarded in the school as the highest accolade for pianists; furthermore, several of Bakst’s own former students were members of the faculty, including two figures who at various points held the role of Head of the Keyboard Department. Bakst would die in 1999 at the age of 72. Another Chetham’s teacher who left the school but also continued to teach at the RNCM (like Bakst) was violinist Malcolm Layfield. Also in 1995, the pianist and long-term professor at the Royal College of Music, Ian Lake, was convicted of sexual offences, though this was not-widely reported. The specific nature of the conviction and the sentencing are not clear to the author, though it is known that Lake was able to continue performing soon afterwards (see my other blog post on Lake).

In 1996, a new story emerged in which two parents of children at Wells Cathedral School complained about bullying and improper sexual remarks by two teachers, leading to a child protection inquiry by police and social services. The complaints were said to have included allegations that one of the teachers encouraged teenage girls to sit on his knee during lessons in his private room (Geoffrey Gibbs, ‘Police Inquiry on Sex Claims at Top Private School’, The Guardian, 26/11/96; Mark Clough, ‘Teacher’s Actions Inquiry’, Western Morning News, 26/11/96). This had come on the back of another story about the school from the previous month, in which 53-year old religious education teacher James Hobson had bombarded a colleague, music teacher Julie Wood, non-stop with nuisance calls and letters for almost two weeks after the break-up of their relationships, leading to Hobson’s resigning his post (Sydney Young, ‘Jilted Sir’s 913 Calls to Ex-Lover’, The Mirror, 30/10/96; Emma Wilkins, ‘RE teacher cautioned over 900 calls to ex-lover’, The Times, 30/10/96; ‘Phone pest quits school’, The Times, 5/11/96). Following the new allegations of impropriety towards pupils, the school immediately issued a statement claiming that the cases had been thoroughly investigated more than a year ago and found to be without substance, and the then Headmaster John Baxter stressed how the school had been ‘inundated with messages and letters of support from parents, staff, past pupils and members of the community’ (‘School has Hotline for Parents’, Western Morning News, 27/11/96). (a situation which would later recur with respect to Chetham’s). By early January 1997, police closed the case, with a DS Salisbury saying that they had the allegations had been investigated ‘very thoroughly’, and they had decided that there will be no further action. Apart from that I don’t wish to say any more’ (‘Abuse at School Ruled Out’, Western Morning News, 9/1/97). The then Dean of Wells, The Very Rev Richard Lewis, issued a denunciatory statement against the parents as ‘persons with fevered imaginations, malevolent spirit and malicious intent’, and talked of how ‘This has been going on for a long time, and indeed one of these persons wrote to me and the headmaster promising to cause mischief’, and threatened legal action; it would also transpire that neither teacher had been suspended during the inquiry, and the children at the centre of the complaints were apparently not the parents’ own (who they withdrew from the school) (David Charter, ‘School may sue parents over sex claims about staff’, The Times, 13/1/97; Mark Clough, ‘School may press home inquiry’s all clear’, Western Morning News, 14/1/97; Geoffrey Gibbs, ‘School may sue sex claim parents’, The Guardian, 14/1/97). Soon afterwards, though the idea of legal action was quickly dropped (‘Cathedral School drops Legal Route’, Western Morning News, 25/1/97).

A further scandal would hit Wells in 1999, when 33-year-old games master and house parent Paul Edmunds was forced to resign after he admitted an ‘improper relationship’ with a 17-year-old girl at the school at which he had been employed for four years (‘Teacher quits over relationship with pupil’, BBC News, 10/12/99, at (accessed 3/6/13)). A series of press reports detailed how the affair had been revealed by Edmunds wife Tracy (with whom he had two children; the couple had served as ‘assistant house parents’ in one of the seven boarding units of the school), the girl (named as Hannah Duke) had been interviewed by Social Services, and was likely to leave the school following the discovery of the relationship, which had begun when she was 16 at a junior sixth form ball. After discovery, Edmunds faxed his resignation to John Baxter, but there was no police investigation (Mervyn Hancock, ‘Teacher quits in cathedral school sex scandal: Wife exposes affair with ‘mature’ A-Level girl, aged 17′, Western Daily Press, 10/12/99; ‘Teacher quits in school sex row’, Bristol Evening Post, 10/12/99′ Tina Rowe, ”Terrible time’ for scandal schoolgirl: School not expecting her back after fling with teacher’, Western Daily Press, 11/12/99). Duke proclaimed after the resignation ‘I love him and he says he still loves me’, that ‘we have no intention of splitting up’ and ‘If anything this is the test that will keep us together’. She claimed ‘We didn’t always just jump into bed with one another. It was about trust and friendship more than anything. Sometimes I would just hug him and ask him to make me feel better’. Edmunds himself said ‘I have abused the trust of friends and colleagues but my relationship with Hannah is too important to me to lose’. The two had been ‘just friends’ for 18 months before the sixth form ball, after which Duke (whose two older daughters had also attended the school) described at length how ‘besotted’ she became with Edmunds; they had even booked a weeklong millennium break together in Budapest. Duke had confided in some relatives for whom she had worked as a nanny about the affair, and they had furiously told her to end it, but after temporarily doing so, she claimed she could not keep away from him and their relationship resumed. Duke’s own future at the school was put into doubt by the fact that she had engaged in under-age drinking with Edmunds at the sixth-form ball (Lucie Morris, ‘The prefect and the games master’, Daily Mail, 11/12/99; Rachael Bletchly, ‘My nights of passion with Sir in a seaside B&B, by his school prefect lover aged 17: Sixth-former tells for first time of affair with teacher’, The People, 12/12/99). Less than two weeks after Edmund’s resignation, the couple were spotted entwined together, to the apparent continuing disapproval of Duke’s parents (Lucie Morris, ‘Reunited: Prefect of 17 and the games master’, Daily Mail, 20/12/99). Two years later, according to a journalist from the Mail on Sunday, the affair was over, Duke was contrite and somewhat bitter at what she claimed was jealousy and insecurity on the part of Edmunds. They had gone to live together in Edmund’s marital home in Brecon, Powys, after his wife Tracey had fled with their children and he had temporarily secured a job at a college there. He had however had to resign after his new employers found out about his past, and their life together became more insecure and turned sour; she had taken the role of a housewife whilst also working as a hotel waitress, after flunking her A-levels and missing out on a university place. Unable to get another job, he was forced to rely on benefits. Eventually the relationship crumbled under such pressures and the unhappiness it was causing Duke, who left Edmunds. She would go on to start a job in a solicitor’s office, whilst he had apparently met another woman (Rachel Kaufman, ‘I was seduced by my games master but two years with him nearly destroyed me: 17-year-old in school affair scandal tells how jealous older lover turned her life into sheer hell’, The Mail on Sunday, 2/12/01).

At the beginning of 2002, the Royal Northern College of Music appointed the violinist Malcolm Layfield, director of the renowned Goldberg Ensemble and leader of the London Bach Orchestra, and formerly a long-term teacher at Chetham’s, as Head of Strings (having already taught at the institution for some time). Layfield’s appointment immediately infuriated above all the pianist Martin Roscoe, then Head of Keyboard at the RNCM, in full knowledge of the fact that Layfield was widely known as a predator upon his female students. By the summer it was reported in three national newspapers that both Roscoe and fellow pianist Kathryn Stott had both resigned their positions at the institution on the grounds of Layfield’s appointment; an internal investigation had taken place, and Layfield had admitted to at least six relationships with students during the 1980s and early 1990s, the latest ending in 1994. It was further said that there was ‘no suggestion that the affairs were not consenting or involved underage students’. Greater Manchester Police had been informed, but had not launched an investigation themselves, having received no formal complaint, though a spokeswoman said that they were ‘currently in discussions with the college’. The principal of the college, Edward Gregson, wrote to all staff and students to inform them of Roscoe’s resignation and give full backing to Layfield (Paul Harris, ‘Sex row splits elite academy’, The Observer, 30/6/02; Sinead Mcintyre, ‘Music college master ‘had affairs with at least 6 pupils”, Daily Mail, 1/7/02; John Mahoney, ‘He bedded at least 6 pupils; Fury as music lecher gets top college job’, Daily Star, 2/7/02). A scathing article followed in the Daily Mail, calling Layfield ‘a sexual predator and a serial philanderer with a weakness for young girls, particularly girls in his charge’, and revealing how there had been statements from ‘victims’ following his appointment. Drawing upon correspondence during the investigation, the Mail claimed that these statements painted ‘ a picture of a manipulative, ruthless operator who systematically abused his position of trust for his own sexual gratification’, and drew attention to Layfield’s rather grand (married) lifestyle (also noting that his son was a policeman), and common strategy of plying students with drink and ‘flattery and promises to help the students’ careers’, and presented troubling accounts of former students driven later to long-term psychiatric problems and suicide attempts. It also became clear that Layfield’s actions took place at Chetham’s as well as the RNCM, and involved girls as young as 16. Several of the girls (Layfield had admitted affairs with six) spoke to the journalist and described particular incidents, including one where two girls and a boy, all then aged 16, were driven into an isolated spot during a college trip to the West Country, with two of them needing to leave as Layfield ‘came on’ to one of the girls. Layfield’s power over students and bullying tactics, and the wider issue of the mental hold which music teachers can have over pupils, was further evoked in the article. Two individuals were singled out for criticism over the appointment: Gregson, and Lord Armstrong, the former Cabinet Secretary who was chair of the board of governors at the RNCM, both of whom had spoken with Roscoe and heard the reports from former students, but claimed that Layfield was now a ‘changed man'; furthermore it was reported that Roscoe’s resignation had been claimed by Layfield’s solicitor to be on grounds of ‘professional jealousy’ (Paul Bracchi and Sineay Mcintyre, ‘School for Scandal: He now holds one of the most prestigious posts in classical music, yet as this special investigation reveals, he used his position to seduce a string of impressionable young students in his care, and amazingly he has still got his top job’, Daily Mail, 11/7/02).

One of the articles on the Layfield affair also cited the mother of a former student (both anonymous) at a top London specialist college on how ‘her daughter’s affair with an academic had almost ruined her life and led her to serious health problems including anorexia’ (Harris, ‘Sex row splits elite academy’); this is likely to have been one of the students involved in a complaint alluded to in a heavily legally-redacted article from September of that year concerning ‘a series of allegations against a teacher’ at the Royal Academy of Music. This article pointed out that several students had complained, after one pupil alleged post-traumatic stress and depression following a 17-month relationship with the teacher, but after an investigation by a Professor Bob Hepple QC, on behalf of the college, the allegations were found to be unproven. The teacher concerned had been suspended then reinstated, and the RAM instituted new guidelines dissuading staff from entering into sexual relationships with students, but insisting that where relationships do develop, they must immediately be reported to the college authorities. Roscoe was interviewed for this article and highlighted the closeness of one-to-one teacher-pupil relationships (Rajeev Syal, Marcello Mega and Angelika Bachmann, ‘Top music college gives staff sex warning’, The Telegraph, 8/9/02). Similar material was given in a further article in the Mail (James Tozer, ‘Sleep with a student and you will face the music’, Daily Mail, 9/9/02).

In September 2003, the violinist Nigel Kennedy, who studied at the Yehudi Menuhin School from 1964 to 1974, alleged in a BBC Radio 3 interview with critic and writer Norman Lebrecht that young girls were sexually abused at the school during his time. Kennedy claimed that ‘There were strange things going on with some of the girls and the older teachers that would have been illegal, definitely’, pointed out that many of the girls did not talk about the abuse until 20 years after the event. Indicating that just one particular teacher was responsible, Kennedy said that he felt able to speak about this since the teacher concerned and many of his family members were now dead; nonetheless Kennedy did not name the teacher in question. However, when asked why so many music teachers had been involved in cases of molestation (something about which the interviewer likely then already knew much more than he was able to reveal publicly), Kennedy evoked a theme which would become common in discussions of the phenomenon of music school abuse ten years later: ‘Maybe it’s very close to religion, music. If you’ve got someone who’s like a guru figure, you probably might think what they’re doing is right’ (David Smith, ‘Kennedy reveals abuse at music school’, The Observer, 28/9/03).

These stories receded into history in terms of media coverage, and were not evoked after another major abuse scandal in the music world, the arrest and conviction of the renowned conductor Robert King, director of the King’s Consort, internationally recognised as a leading expert conductor of the works of Henry Purcell (who some would maintain was the greatest of all English composers) and biographer of the composer (Robert King, Henry Purcell (London: Thames & Hudson, 1995)). King was also known to a wider public through his conducting work for the Hollywood film The Da Vinci Code, and also The Chronicles of Narnia and Pirates of the Caribbean (”Da Vinci’ Sex Rap’, The Mirror, 24/10/06). Following arrest and charge in autumn 2006, King went on trial in Isleworth in May 2007, accused of 15 counts of sexual assault between 1983 and 1994 against five boys, three of whom were under 16 and one of whom was alleged to have been abused over three years from the age of 12, at a leading West London public school (the identity of which is unclear and could not be named for legal reasons) where he was director of music, and also at a musical residential course. Some of the abuse was alleged to have taken place during mock wrestling or when boys lay in bed in dormitories or at home (Steve Bird, ‘Da Vinci Code conductor accused of assaulting schoolboy musicians’, The Times, 9/5/07). King was said to have given boys large amounts of alcohol and they would sometimes awake to find him performing a sexual act upon them. Furthermore, they had all been ‘young people who were all passionate about music and they were people who Robert King was in a position to advance’ (Duncan Robertson, ‘Conductor ‘molested boys after plying them with drink”, Daily Mail, 9/5/07). King denied the charges and recalled having received a vitriolic letter from one of the complainants, who he called a ‘looney … off his rocker’, but was found guilty of 14 of the 15 counts and jailed for 45 months; reports spoke of how he had used ‘god-like’ status in order to exploit the boys (‘Musician ‘Pervert”, The Mirror, 19/5/07; ‘Orchestra Conductor jailed for Child Sex Abuse’, PA Regional Newswire for English Regions, 4/6/07). The judge, Hezlett Colgan, commented during sentencing of a ‘gross breach of trust’ from ‘a trusted mentor and friend’ (‘Conductor jailed for sexual assault’, Richmond and Twickenham Times, 8/6/07).

But some commentators seemed unhappy with the fact that King had been brought to justice, appearing to view his musical abilities as somehow constituting a mitigating factor. One wrote of how ‘I really do wish justice had not been done not least because I was about to book tickets for his New Year’s Eve concert, dammit’, ‘he provided me with some of the most intense musical experiences I’ve ever had and, for me though obviously not the courts these and his golden recordings have put him beyond reproach’ and ‘In fact I always thought I should be subpoenaed to provide evidence for the presence of his inescapable charm’ (Igor Toronyi-Lalic, ‘Conductor jailed’, The Telegraph, 5/6/07). After King was dropped by his agent, Harrison Parrott, the poet James Fenton wrote that ‘One might have thought that, whatever the rights and wrongs of the case, a separation could be made between professional or artistic matters and the conductor’s personal life. And besides, an artist who has just been sent to Wormwood Scrubs is going to need some professional assistance in sorting out his affairs. This is one thing that agents are for’ and whilst not condoning the offences, also said:

For the ordinary, anonymous private citizen convicted in such cases, there is the sentence itself, and there is what you might call the multiplier: you lose your job, very likely your home, you are submitted to persecution by fellow prisoners, and so forth. There are many aspects to this multiplier, which continue well after your release. Anyone who has watched the multiplier in action will be bound to feel horror at its effects.
As it is, the King’s Consort and its choir are being conducted, in the immediate future, by their recently appointed associate, the harpsichordist Matthew Halls. The consort is managed by King’s wife, who stood by her husband throughout the case. Presumably the future of the whole operation is in some question. It is a tragedy for all concerned. And I strongly believe that when our most distinguished artists are in such terrible situations – whether or not they brought it on themselves – we should offer them some kind of support, not because, as artists, they deserve a better treatment than anyone else, but simply because we have so much to thank them for.
(James Fenton, ‘Review: Things that have interested me’, The Guardian, 16/6/07).

King was not banned from working in the future with children, but the King’s Consort temporarily changed their name, to the Retrospect Ensemble, making their debut in such a form in May 2009 (Ivan Hewett, ‘The born again ensemble; Back to the future’, The Telegraph, 30/4/09). King had already been released by this time and claimed that many of his former colleagues were still happy to work with him and was planning a comeback (Ibid; Geoff Brown, ‘Retrospect Ensemble; arts first night Concert’, The Times, 6/1/10); by May 2010 at the latest the King’s Consort were once again performing under their original name, in the presence of the Prince of Wales (Joe Ware, ‘Prince Charles to visit Malmesbury’, The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald, 16/3/10; ‘Early music festival will celebrate key anniversaries’, Kentish Gazette, 10/6/10). Both the group and King himself continue to maintain a flourishing international career to this day (See the King’s Consort’s website at; the biography of King at and King’s own website at (all accessed 25/5/13)), celebrated by various critics (see for example Geoff Brown, ‘King’s Consort/King at Wigmore Hall: Robert King’s triumphant return from prison with the King’s Consort is a youthful performance that speaks to audiences’, The Times, 20/12/12).

In 2008, a part-time music teacher who was also a youth worker at St Mary’s Music School in Edinburgh (as well as another city church), Jamieson Sutherland, was caught with 4000 pornographic images of children (some as young as just four) on his computer, some of the most severe level. Sutherland pleaded guilty to allowing such photographs to be taken or made at his home over a four year period, and was sentenced to 18 months in prison and placed on the Sex Offenders’ Register for 10 years (‘Music teacher viewed child porn’, 24/10/08, at (accessed 25/5/13); Kirsty Urquhart, ‘Teacher is jailed for having 4,000 child porn images’, Daily Mail, 25/10/08; Mark Smith, ‘Horrific Abuse: Teacher had 4,000 vile kid porn pics’, The Mirror, 25/10/08). Then in July of the following year, a deputy house parent at the school responsible for general supervision and care of boarders at the school, Ryan Deneven-Lewis, then 27, admitted in court to having unprotected sex with a 16-year old pupil and encouraging a 15-year old girl to perform various sexual acts upon him, during a period between January and April 2006, having been caught after leaving messages on a website (‘School assistant admits having sex with boarders’, 14/7/09, at (accessed 25/5/13); ‘Net snares man who had sex with music school girl’, The Scotsman, 15/7/09). Deneven-Lewis, who no longer worked at the school, was placed on probation but also on the sex offenders register for three years, and required to take part in sex offenders group work (‘School worker placed on probation for sexual encounters with pupils’, The Telegraph, 25/8/09; Kenny McAlpine, ‘Jail let-off for pupil sex perv’, The Sun, 26/8/09; ‘Teacher at top private school had sex with pupil’, The Herald, 26/8/09; ‘A Week in Education’, TESS, 1/1/10). In December, the school was hit by a third scandal, after teacher Ashley Turnell was convicted of a nine-month sexual relationship with a 15-year old boy. He was given probation, community service, and also placed on the sex offenders register for three years. The then Member of the Scottish Parliament for the area, Lord George Foulkes, called for an inquiry from Scottish Education Minister Mike Russell, whilst it emerged that the Lothian and Borders Police, the Care Commission and HM Inspectorate of Education were all looking into events at the school (‘Private school faces inquiry over third sex scandal in a year’, The Scotsman, 17/12/09; Maggie Barry, ‘School of Shame: Call for probe at academy’, The Mirror, 18/12/09; Paul Thornton, ‘Top school hit by sex scandal no. 3: Perv Sir struck off for fling with lad, 15′, The Sun, 18/12/09).

In 2010, a further complaint emerged, this time at the Purcell School, involving a meeting between the then-headteacher, Peter Crook, and a group of boys; I am not at liberty to divulge further details of this here. Following complaints, the Chair of Governors, Graham Smallbone, reported two separate investigations by social services and Hertfordshire Constabulary, which found no child protection issues were raised. The talk was defended on grounds of preventing sexual bullying such as had occurred in the dormitories of the school; Smallbone wrote to parents to this effect (‘School Claims Unfounded’, Watford Observer, 9/4/10). However, around 18 months later, Crook resigned suddenly in the middle of term, after his position had apparently become ‘untenable’. The governors had been accused of ignoring allegations of inappropriate behaviour, and an anonymous letter accused them of placing the position of the headmaster ahead of child welfare and safety. Furthermore, it was revealed that an Ofsted inspection from November 2009, whilst rating the school ‘satisfactory’ in terms of child protection, had found that there had ‘been a wave of unhappiness directed at the head teacher’ (Mike Wright, ‘Head resigns from Purcell School in Bushey’, Watford Observer, 13/10/11; Joanna Sugden, ‘Head quits as letter reignites child welfare claims’, The Times, 7/11/11). The resignation continued to be shrouded in mystery, and waves of claims and counter-claims (some of them suggesting that Crook was himself the victim of in-house bullying) have emerged in particular on the blog of Norman Lebrecht, many of them from individuals either currently or formerly working at the school (See in particular Norman Lebrecht, ‘Head of music school resigns. No comment’, 27/10/11, at (accessed 25/5/13); ”Sexual bullying’, unfounded claims and the headless music school’, 28/10/11, at (accessed 25/5/13) ; ‘Headless school seeks to reassure worried parents’, 7/11/11, at (accessed 3/6/13); ‘A parent’s concerns: more questions for troubled music school’, 4/12/11, at (accessed 25/5/13); ‘Sex-bullying school seeks soft publicity’, 1/2/12, at (accessed 3/6/13); Lebrecht has continued to follow unfolding events at the Purcell School – see (accessed 30/12/13)). An interim headmaster, Paul Elliott, remained in place until September 2012, when the new headmaster David Thomas was appointed (Norman Lebrecht, ‘Breaking: Troubled music school appoints new head. Yet again’, 28/3/12, at (accessed 3/6/13); Amie Mulderrig, ‘Bushey music school welcomes new headmaster’, Watford Observer, 16/9/12).

Then a further little-reported scandal occurred in November 2012 when the Head of Strings at the Royal Conservatory of Scotland (since 2003), Hungarian-born Peter Lissauer, was removed from his position following an investigation by management into claims that he inappropriately ‘touched girls’. The investigation ‘accepted a number of the accusations were well-founded’. One insider said that ‘A number of young women said they had been groped, touched inappropriately and generally made to feel uncomfortable when they were alone with him. It was something his female students had discussed between themselves, but didn’t know what to do as he was head of school and had considerable power over their futures’. No criminal proceedings occurred, and Lissauer continued to teach privately (Marcello Mega, ‘Sacked music academy maestro ‘touched girls”, Mail on Sunday, 4/11/12. Lissauer’s current biography can be found at and includes a range of ‘testimonials’ by former students of both sexes at (both accessed 3/6/13)).

As mentioned earlier, between 1945 and 1989 only four public inquiries were held into institutional abuse. These were the Court Lees inquiry (1967) into excessive use of corporal punishment at Court Less approved school in Surrey, the Leesway Children’s Home inquiry (1985) following offences of indecency involving the taking of photographs of children, the Kincora Boy’s Home, Belfast, inquiry (1986), following suggestions of a paedophile ring operative at the institution, and the Melanie Klein House inquiry (1988) into the use of restraints upon older girls in an establishment managed by Greenwich Social Services Department (see Brian Corby, Alan Doig & Vicki Roberts, Public Inquiries into Abuse of Children in Residential Care (London & Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2001), pp. 79-81 for an overview of these four inquiries). Numerous other inquiries have followed since the 1990s, and the sexual abuse of children began to feature more prominently (one study suggests that the inquiries in the mid-1980s viewed sexual abuse in institution as part of a ‘bad apple’ syndrome (ibid. p. 83)). Most relevant to this amongst the post-1989 inquiries include the following:

(a) Scotforth House Residential School (1992), involving the physical abuse of children with learning difficulties;
(b) Castle Hill Residential School, Shropshire (1993) – sexual abuse of pupils by head of the school
(c) Oxendon House (1994) – inappropriate restraint and therapy techniques used by staff on older children with emotional and behavioural problems
(d) Islington: community homes, (1995) – concerns about risks to children from staff with previous child abuse convictions (see the charts of inquiries in Corby et al, Public Inquiries into Abuse of Children, pp. 77-78).

Other prominent inquiries from this period, including the Waterhouse Inquiry into abuse in children’s homes in North Wales (2000), can fairly be considered to be of a different nature to that requested here.

The Castle Hill Inquiry pinpointed the extent to which the abusing headmaster, Ralph Morris, was a ‘charismatic leader of the school who was very much in control of the environment’, how the particularities of the boys (who exhibited educational and behavioural problems) led to their not being trusted to be able to tell the truth, and called for independent schools to be brought more under the purview of authorities in order that allegations of abuse can be seen in their entirety and appropriately responses made (Corby et al, Public Inquiries into Abuse of Children, p. 84).

But also relevant in some respects as a model for an inquiry into abuse in musical education would be the ongoing Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry set up by the Northern Ireland Executive ( (accessed 28/5/13)). Noted in particular are the following:

• The “Acknowledgement Forum” allows people to contribute their experiences without any of the stress of having to appear on a witness stand. All info to be collated into a report, and records destroyed after the Inquiry ends.
• The “Statutory Inquiry” is more public and involves questioning, but not agressive cross-examination (and names cannot be published by the press). They have the legal authority to force institutions to release documents or appear for questioning if needed.

This may be a good model for the workings of an inquiry into abuse in musical education.

Issues which a public inquiry might address would include the following:

• The extent and nature of abuse of all types in specialist music education, providing opportunities for victims past and present to achieve some type of closure and be heard.
• The historical roots of secondary specialist music education since the foundation of the five schools between 1962 and 1972, and the models in terms of pedagogy and child welfare upon which they drew.
• The nature of psychological and emotional abuse and the dangers of its occurrence in musical education.
• The nature of regulation and safeguarding and how this affects independent schools who receive state money through the Music and Dance scheme. Proposals for the extent to which these schools might be brought in line with other state institutions.
• Requirements in terms of formal training for instrumental teachers.
• Only a minority of students will likely attain professional careers – potential for serious damage to those who don’t, who have devoted their all to becoming a musician.
• Guru teachers and their webs of control – charismatic cults and their effects upon pedagogy.
• Questions about whether the central focus of exclusive 1-1 teaching remains appropriate.
• The culture of classical music and the exploitation of unaccountable power towards those whose careers and livelihoods are always vulnerable. The extension of such a culture and its values into musical education.
• The tendency of musical institutions to insulate themselves from the wider world and normal demands in terms of humane treatment of those they nurture.
• That there is a sexual component to music (and musical performance) could not be plausibly denied– but how is this to be handled when teaching young musicians?

It is clear that there is abundant evidence pointing to widespread abuse within musical education. Some of this may be able to be addressed via criminal proceedings, but as indicated elsewhere, there are various factors deterring victims from speaking out; furthermore various forms of abuse do not constitute criminal activity (where the victim was between 16 and 18 prior to the 2003 Sexual Offences Act, or where psychological maltreatment is involved) or cannot be prosecuted because the perpetrator is now dead. Some police involved with criminal investigations such as Operation Kiso have made clear to the author that institutional culpability and the structural workings of institutions such as facilitate abuse are beyond their remit. And the institutions of musical education have not been subject to sustained investigation and scrutiny for a long time, despite being the recipient of state monies; wider issues of pedagogical approach and its relationship to child welfare in such contexts are greatly needed. It is for these reasons that it is believed that a public inquiry should be undertaken as soon as possible into musical education and the potential therein for abuse.

8 Comments on “Reported Cases of Abuse in Musical Education, 1990-2012, and Issues for a Public Inquiry”

  1. […] Reported Cases of Abuse in Musical Education, 1990-2012, and Issues for a Public Inquiry → […]

  2. Ian

    Thank you very much for going to the immense trouble to research, outline and report as you have above, as well as in the piece about Ian Lake.

    If it is not crystal clear to everyone by now, especially from all that you have written and drawn attention to on the subject of abuse at UK (and other) specialist music education establishments, that nothing less than a full public inquiry will do, I have no idea how it could be made so; you have set out in great detail the case – and indeed the vital need – for one and I can only hope that it will happen – and soon.

    All that I want to ask at this point is when the Parliamentary meeting that you earlier mentioned as being scheduled for this month actually took place, who attended and what its outcome was; I hesitate to put this question when you have spent so much time on this already, but it would, I’m sure, be of considerable interest to all who care about this grave subject and have accordingly been following the work that you have done and continue to do.

    I hope that, in the midst of all of this, you are still able to find sufficient time to practise!

    More strength to your arm!

    • PW says:

      If someone like King has been tried, convicted, sentenced, has served their punishment, and has not repeated their crime, are they or are they not to be considered rehabilitated or on the path to rehabilitation? Or is this a crime for which the punishment is automatically life-long, no matter what they have done to rehabilitate themselves? Should we put them on public registers, as they do in North America, so that their possibilities for residence and employment will be shadowed for life?

    • Ian Pace says:

      I am not in a position to post here about what happened in Parliament, but please be assured that everything is being done to keep pursuing this issue.

  3. […] Reported Cases of Abuse in Musical Education 1990-2012 and Issues for a Public Inquiry […]

  4. […] are various stories concerning convictions of music teachers which I plan soon to add to my long post on reported cases of abuse in music education from 1990 to 2012. But in the meantime, I wanted to draw attention to one in […]

  5. […] Reported Cases of Abuse in Musical Education, 1990-2012, and Issues for a Public Inquiry (30/12/13) (this post is in need of some updating to mention other cases during the period in question) […]

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