The Blog of Ian Pace, pianist, musicologist, political animal. A place for thoughts, reflections, links, both trivial and not so trivial. Main website is at http://www.ianpace.com . Contact e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have recently been contacted by a former senior member of staff at Chetham’s in the 1980s, who had regular contact with the then-headmaster, John Vallins. With their permission, I am publishing here a letter sent to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse and also to the current joint heads of the school. It offers a trenchantly expressed and troubling view of the (lack of) leadership under Vallins’ tenure. Following his lacklustre performance at the hearings, I believe a statement is needed from Vallins following the publication of the inquiry’s report.
Thank you for the heads-up about the publication of the IICSA Report. The Report has an appalling vividness and intensity for me because, as you probably know, Chets was an important part of my life in the late eighties. It seems to me to be thorough and accurate and it provides some helpful recommendations. If well heeded it will be a useful milestone along our long and tortuous journey to a safer world for children and young people.
I would have liked the Report to have emphasised more clearly, though, the all-important role of leaders in forming and shaping the ethos of these school communities. We can assume that there will always be a propensity for abuse in our communities; unfortunately this is a fact of life. Effective leaders know this and can protect (safeguard) us all from our wilder tendencies and channel our energies positively. For residential school communities this is the single most important factor in determining the health of the community.
The Chets referred to in the Report was a fertile substrate for abuse of every kind: there was a total absence of what we would consider to be “normal” and essential school practice, procedures, attitudes and accountabilities. All attempts to modernise and introduce elements of professional normality were blocked and ridiculed. The Head liked to think of himself as an inspiring figurehead, someone who, as he often said, was “effortlessly superior” to everyone else; his decisions were driven by ignorance, snobbery, foolish self-interest and prejudice… or more often simply avoided. If things became difficult he would become petulant and throw a temper tantrum. There was no “leadership” climate: rather a climate of often malevolent dysfunction with interpersonal suspicion, tension and frustration. It is no wonder that in such a climate certain adults with what we might call “borderline” personalities, and who in a well run school might have been contained or sacked as soon as problems arose, abandoned any pretence of decency and developed their appalling habits of abusive behaviour, over many years in some cases, as set out in the Report.
In my view, the Report gives insufficient emphasis to this all-important causative element, namely the Head’s abject, utter and contemptible failure to lead, and by his behaviour, his creation of the conditions in which abuse could flourish. That, to me, was criminal negligence and I will make this point to the authors of the Report.
I cannot tell you how heartening it is for me, having experienced the madness of the past and having struggled in vain to improve things at Chetham’s, to see the two of you providing the inspired, courageous, ethical and confident leadership that every one of those young people deserves and needs. I know full well how hard, how personally invasive, it can be, 24/7, and I am reassured and inspired to see your innovative, visionary and determined approach to shared leadership of this wonderful community. ****,**** and I are confident that we made the best choice for her, thanks to you.
If ever there is anything I or **** can do to assist in any way, please do not hesitate to ask.
I just came across an important piece of information to which I was directed by Fiona Gardner’s book Sex, Power, Control: Responding to Abuse in the Institutional Church (Cambridge: The Letterbox Press, 2021), which itself references the 2014 article ‘Litany of Failure’ by investigative journalist Amanda Gearing, who has done the most important research into the abuse of children at the hands of Robert Waddington, who was Dean of Manchester Cathedral from 1984 to 1993. Allegations of abuse were made against Waddington dating back to when he was headteacher at a school in Ravenshoe, Australia, in the 1960s, and others followed from when he returned to England in the 1970s and during his time at Manchester. A 2020 report by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse was sharply critical of the lack of action on the part of the Church of England when allegations about Waddington’s activities were brought to their attention. I am unaware of any specific allegations of abuse on Waddington’s part towards pupils at Chetham’s School of Music, from which many younger boys formed a statutory part of the choir at Manchester Cathedral (the ‘stats’, as opposed to other volunteers not from Chetham’s, known as the ‘vollies’, from which latter group came Eli Ward, who has made allegations about Waddington). However, as I outlined in a 2013 post, the links between the cathedral and the school were numerous, Waddington was close to the then-headmaster of Chetham’s, John Vallins, and was on the board of governors for Chetham’s throughout his tenure as Dean, as well as being a Feoffee (responsible for the wider body including the school and the library). In this earlier post and that which I published on Friday as the second part of my response to the IICSA report on residential schools, I noted the fact that when the grevious case of Chris Ling came to the attention of the school in 1990 after he had left the country for the US together with several students, including a major police investigation (though which did not lead to extradition, which would have to wait until Operation Kiso in 2013-15), Waddington himself was on the governing body. So a governing body facing very serious allegations against a former member of staff contained at least one individual to whom all the evidence points to his having been an abuser himself (this claim is cited in Gardner’s book). The minutes from the governors’ meeting following Ling’s relocation to the US can be read here.
But there is another detail which I missed before. I noted in 2013 that Stuart Beer and Gordon Stewart both also worked at Chetham’s (they were there during my time). Gearing writes the following:
Waddington was promoted to Dean of Manchester in 1984 where he was a governor on several school boards, including Chetham’s Music School.
In the 1980s, Manchester Cathedral master of the choir Stuart Beer reported his concerns about the then Dean’s relationship with Eli Ward, to the cathedral organist and choir director Gordon Stuart, who reported to the Cathedral Chapter.
I had not previously noticed that Ward’s concerns were shared with Beer and Stuart. Considering the close relationship with the school and Vallins, was the latter made aware of any of this at the time? In light of various claims about Vallins knowing about claims of abuse but not acting upon them, this is another relevant question.
I have added an extra passage at the end of the previous blog post, which I will also include here, on the role of educational guardians in residential schools, referencing a specific recent example involving Chetham’s:
Educational guardians 14. International students whose parents are not in the UK need an educational guardian if they attend a British boarding school in order to obtain the relevant visa. Educational guardians act in place of the parents while the child is in the UK, supporting the child throughout their studies and providing a home for them during holidays or weekends. He or she may be an individual appointed by the parents, such as a family member or a friend of the family, or the parents may use the services of an agency to provide an educational guardian.
15. Educational guardians are unregulated. There is no statutory licence, compulsory registration or training required for individuals or companies wishing to provide educational guardian services. If an educational guardian is appointed by a parent, the guardian is not required to comply with any standards or to obtain a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) certificate, and the school is not required to carry out any checks. This means that individuals who are unsuitable to work with children, or even those who have criminal convictions for child sexual abuse, can be appointed as educational guardians.
16. Currently, the NMS for boarding schools permit a member of school staff to be appointed as the educational guardian of an international student, although some schools do not permit this. As Ms Richards told us, school staff acting as educational guardians blurs boundaries, with the potential to cause problems or to prevent problems surfacing. At Chetham’s in the late 1990s, for example, violin tutor Wen Zhou Li was the educational guardian of a 16-year-old girl whom he sexually abused while she was residing with him during weekends and school holidays. In 2013, shortly after the arrest of Wen Zhou Li, ISI inspectors found that there was another staff member at the school who was acting as an educational guardian to a student.
Part E of the report deals with how allegations are responded to, and the role of the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) (a role introduced in 2006 to deal with allegations of abuse against children), also referencing the 2021 report Keeping Children Safe in Education (a modification of earlier reports of the same name). Various types of allegations should be referred to the LADO by a headteacher or chair of governors if the allegations involve the former, but the decision on whether the criteria are met is for one of these individuals to determine. This latter aspect has created a grey area with some headteachers claiming they were unsure whether the threshold was met. The LADO then involves police and social care, but does not investigate themselves. If they believe that an investigation by these bodies is unnecessary, they discuss how to proceed with the ‘case manager’ (usually the headteacher), leading either to further enquiries or no further action. If the former, they negotiate with the school about the nature of the investigation and who would carry it out. If an investigation finds that an allegation is substantiated with sufficient evidence, then the case manager and the LADO should meet to determine any improvements required to prevent such things in the future.
Most ambiguity seems to surround ‘low-level concerns’, which can include the use of ‘inappropriate sexualised, intimidating or offensive language.’ (p. 83) Policies are required to clarify the procedure here, and the inquiry noted that ‘Evidence was provided by residential special schools and some residential specialist music schools which had put in place procedures for reporting low-level concerns’ (p. 84). It also notes the following example of good practice:
At Wells Cathedral School, Mrs Helen Bennett, the DSL from 2006 to 2016, encouraged all staff to report any concerns about staff behaviour to her. She kept detailed notes of these concerns in a confidential file and reviewed these regularly to identify any patterns of behaviour. Mrs Bennett was able to discuss concerns with the headteacher and deputy headteacher who could take appropriate action with the staff member concerned. When Mrs Bennett retired in 2016, Wells Cathedral School continued the system, introducing an online neutral notification form to enable recording and cross-referencing of concerns. (p. 85)
This is however in contrast to the failures of an earlier case at the same school:
However, it should be noted that a low-level concerns policy may not prevent child sexual abuse by a determined perpetrator. At Wells Cathedral School, staff reported low-level concerns about the conduct of Julien Bertrand to the safeguarding lead and the senior leadership team over a period of two years. Bertrand was spoken to on several occasions and given an informal warning and reminded of the importance of boundaries and the school rules, but this did not deter Bertrand, who continued to sexually abuse RS-A202 until the abuse was disclosed to a trusted adult in 2005. (p. 86)
In the following section of Part E of the report, the Michael Brewer case (specifically that which led to his departure from the school) is referenced as an example of the problems inherent in the lack of a staff code of conduct, even after Brewer had left:
At Chetham’s School of Music, the headteacher introduced a staff code of conduct in 1995 following the resignation of the director of music, Michael Brewer, who had been conducting an abusive sexual relationship with a sixth-form pupil. Prior to Brewer’s resignation, there had been no code of conduct or other document setting out guidance and expectations regarding staff interactions with pupils. The staff code of conduct drafted in 1995 was not clear or specific regarding appropriate behaviour with students. Statutory guidance published in 1995 suggested that it may be “helpful” for schools to draw up a code of conduct in consultation with the local authority but it was not mandatory. KCSIE 2021 now requires schools to have a staff code of conduct, so that the boundaries of acceptable behaviour with children are made clear. A low-level concerns/neutral notification policy relies on the existence of a staff code of conduct to set out acceptable behaviour. (pp. 87-88)
In the case of the Purcell School, a major problem was the lack of proper recording of allegations against staff:
During Mr Peter Crook’s time as headteacher of The Purcell School for Young Musicians (the Purcell School), 2007–2011, there was poor recording of allegations against staff. In January 2009, an allegation of sexual abuse of a student by RS-F20, a staff member at the Purcell School, was referred to the LADO from outside the school. The LADO found that the allegation was unfounded and it was referred back to the school. A very similar allegation was made against RS-F20 in 2014, but no records of the 2009 allegation could be found at the school. Guidance at the time required a “clear and comprehensive summary of any allegations made, details of how the allegation was followed up and resolved, and a note of any action taken and decisions reached”, to be kept on the personnel file for at least 10 years or until the individual reached retirement age. In October 2009, Mr Crook found a member of staff, RS-F80, alone with a pupil, RS-A192, on the school field in the dark. Mr Crook arranged for RS-F80 to receive further safeguarding training but did not make a note of the incident and the action taken until RS-A192 disclosed in May 2010 that she had been sexually abused by RS-F80 on that occasion and had been in an abusive relationship with RS-F80 over several months. (p. 88)
However, some better practice appears to have been followed in 2010:
In May 2010, at the Purcell School, RS-A187, a sixth-form pupil aged under 18, disclosed to a non-teaching member of staff that she had been in an inappropriate sexual relationship with a member of staff for several months. RS-A187 spoke to several other members of staff and telephoned Childline before the headteacher and DSL were made aware two days later, when the school notified the LADO of the allegation. Statutory guidance required allegations to be reported straight away to the headteacher, in order for the headteacher to make a referral to the LADO. (p. 89)
Nonetheless, the case involving the headteacher himself, Peter Crook, laid bare the failings of a system to protect whistleblowing, a subject to which I will return in my conclusion. Those reporting abuse, sexual harassment, sexist or racist behaviours, or other comparable things will often find that those above them wish to make them into the issue.
55. In 2009 to 2010, staff at the Purcell School reported concerns to the chair of governors that the headteacher, Peter Crook, used sexually explicit and inappropriate language with children at the school. The concerns included a meeting that Mr Crook conducted with the Year 9 boys who boarded, held at his private residence on a Sunday evening, which he later suggested was a personal, social and health education (PSHE) class in response to an incident of sexualised bullying in a boarding house. Ms Margaret Moore, a teacher, reported her concerns about the ‘PSHE class’ anonymously to the chair of governors, Mr Graham Smallbone, because she had “a genuine fear of reprisal by the headmaster”. Twenty-five members of staff then sent an anonymous letter as the “Staff Association” to Mr Smallbone stating that this incident “is only one of a number of disturbing interactions between the Headmaster and Purcell students on the subject of human sexuality” and concluding that it was an issue which concerned “children at risk”. The letter was sent anonymously for fear of reprisal by the school. Mr Smallbone told the Inquiry that he did not take any action because the whistleblowers wished to remain anonymous. Mr Smallbone discussed the complaints with Mr Crook but did not refer any complaints to the LADO, despite guidance in place at the time requiring a referral to be made to the local authority without discussing the allegation with the person concerned.
56. Following Mr Smallbone’s failure to refer the allegations to the LADO, staff members reported a number of incidents anonymously to Ofsted and the local authority. The local authority found one allegation substantiated in July 2009 and advised that the headteacher should face disciplinary action. The local authority also advised that the ‘PSHE class’ was not an appropriate or sufficient response to bullying and that Mr Crook had breached “appropriate boundaries between staff and students” but concluded that there had been no intent to harm children and therefore that allegation was “unfounded”. The local authority did not appear to have considered whether the incident indicated that the headteacher may have been unsuitable to work with children, although this was a criteria for referral in the statutory guidance at the time but it did advise that the language used was inappropriate and should be dealt with through internal disciplinary procedures.
57. Mr Smallbone told the Inquiry that the staff members who reported the concerns about the headteacher were whistleblowers but that he nevertheless considered that “it would have been totally wrong to discipline the headmaster and not the members of staff”. The LADO advised Mr Smallbone that disciplining the whistleblowers would be disproportionate and reminded him that staff must be able to challenge poor practice.
58. Although staff were attempting to follow procedures and raise safeguarding concerns about the headteacher with the chair of governors, their concerns were not dealt with properly, despite the fact that the 2007 statutory guidance required schools to have appropriate whistleblowing procedures in place. There was an attempt to stifle the reporting of concerns internally and to characterise them to external bodies as malicious attempts to undermine the headteacher, who was making changes to the school which were unpopular with some staff. Suspected whistleblowers were required to attend an “intimidating” meeting with governors.
The failures here and lack of action are then summarised as follows:
59. Schools have not always carried out disciplinary investigations or taken appropriate disciplinary action when a LADO refers a case back to them. Mr Crook was never made the subject of any internal disciplinary sanction for incidents of inappropriate conversation with children at the school. During the same period, in 2009, an allegation of a staff member engaging in sexual activity with a student was referred to the LADO from outside the Purcell School. The student would not support a prosecution. The allegation was considered by the strategy meeting to be “unfounded” (“this indicated that the person making the allegation misinterpreted the incident or was mistaken about what they saw …. For an allegation to be classified as unfounded it will be necessary to have evidence to disprove the allegation”) and referred back to the school as an internal matter to address “unsafe practice”. The staff member had admitted to police that his relationship with the student was “too close” and that he had hugged and kissed the student on the cheek after rehearsals at his house. Although the original allegation was considered unfounded, the school had information that a teacher had acted inappropriately, which should have given rise to a disciplinary investigation.
60. The current headteacher at the Purcell School, Mr Paul Bambrough, noted that in such circumstances it would be helpful to have further guidance from the LADO on how to proceed following an allegation being handed back to the school. This is another area where schools are reliant on the LADO. Currently there is considerable variation between LADOs in terms of the time dedicated to helping schools once allegations are referred back to them.
Part F considers the nature of leadership and governance in schools in England (Wales is dealt with in a separate section, which is not strictly relevant to this post, as none of the specialist music schools are located there). The report focuses on the role of the headteacher and the designated safeguarding lead as holding primary responsibilities. In the case of specialist music schools, the report might have also noted the key position of the Director of Music, which in some cases can be almost as powerful as the headteacher, and usually has a more intimate and regular relationship with the music teachers (as the headteacher has often not been a musician themselves). But this role and its relationship to the headteacher has come under some question in recent times: for a period from 2013 the Purcell School abolished the role of Director of Music (though it was recreated again in 2018), while in 2020, following the retirement of former headteacher Alun Jones, Chetham’s created a joint headship shared between the existing Director of Music and Deputy Head.
The report emphasises the role of headteachers in creating a positive culture of safeguarding, but also how this was lacking in most of the schools examined, through poor policies and procedures, inadequate implementation of these, lack of clear staff codes of conduct, inadequate safeguarding training, insufficient awareness by leaders of risks or the signs of abuse or inappropriate behaviour, insular and inward-looking schools with little internal or external accountability, treating allegations as a reputational rather than a child protection concern, discrediting of children who complain, a lack of concern about sexual activity between staff and students, and a general culture discouraging parents, children or staff members from complaining (p. 102). All of these factors were certainly at play at Chetham’s during the period when the maximum abuse occurred, and it would appear for a long period at many of the other SMSs too. John Vallins, headteacher at Chetham’s between 1974 and 1992 (the report wrongly claims he was head from 1970) gave evidence to the inquiry, and seemed to many to whom I spoke to have communicated a sense of being aloof, complacent, and little prepared to engage with the gravity of what had occurred under his watch. The report says the following:
In this investigation, there were examples of headteachers who found it inconceivable that staff might abuse their position of authority to abuse children. Mr John Vallins, headteacher of Chetham’s School of Music (Chetham’s) between 1970 and 1992, assumed the instrumental teachers were “admirable people with absolutely right relationships with their pupils” and that extra tuition outside of school hours was a “splendid aspiration”. There was a failure to recognise that such occasions were potential opportunities for abuse and therefore no safeguards were put in place to minimise such risks and to protect pupils. (p. 103)
At Purcell, Peter Crook’s priority appears to have been to protect teachers against allegations. If such allegations are false, this is indeed a paramount concern, but Crook does not seem to have considered seriously also attempting to ensure that credible accusations were taken seriously:
Mr Peter Crook, headteacher of The Purcell School for Young Musicians (the Purcell School) from 2007 to 2011, drafted a document on safer working practice in 2009 which he presented as being designed to protect staff from allegations which could be made by pupils “of unsound mind”. In the document, Mr Crook described adolescents as sometimes unable to distinguish between fantasy and reality and informed staff that pupils therefore may “present a danger, even to the most careful of teachers”. Although the document was described as a draft for discussion, it may have given rise to the inference that pupils were inherently unreliable and not worthy of belief, and that allegations against staff were likely to be false. Mr Crook subsequently told police investigating a staff member, RS-F80, for sexual offences against a pupil that he did not believe the girl and that her allegation was based on fantasy and exaggeration. It was wrong for Mr Crook to seek to undermine the credibility of his pupil in this way. (p. 104)
The action of Peter Hullah, Vallins’ successor as headteacher at Chetham’s, working primarily to protect the reputation of the school after Michael Brewer’s relationship with a sixth-form student was discovered, is viewed no more favourably:
On occasion, when allegations of child sexual abuse arose, headteachers moved to protect the reputation of the school rather than the welfare of victims and other children at the school. In 1994, Michael Brewer, the director of music at Chetham’s, resigned after his inappropriate relationship with a sixth-form student was discovered by the headteacher, Mr Peter Hullah. The headteacher suggested that it would be publicly announced that Brewer had taken early retirement on the grounds of ill health, in order to preserve the reputation of the school and its director of music. Brewer went on to work with young people in the National Youth Choir. No external agencies were notified of the circumstances of Brewer’s departure. (p. 104)
In this context, the report also noted that:
The Charity Commission told the Inquiry that some independent schools see their reputation as being of paramount importance and that this has unduly influenced the handling of safeguarding matters by some charity trustees. (p. 104)
At Purcell, the sort of leadership required to protect children was clearly lacking under Peter Crook, as established by an independent report:
As the leader of the school, the headteacher has to be a role model to staff and students, and must embody the values of the school. The headteacher must demonstrate a commitment to safeguarding and adhere to the same rules and boundaries as other staff. An independent review of safeguarding practice at the Purcell School in 2019 found that Mr Crook, headteacher from 2007 to 2011, “did not provide a good role model”. The review concluded that, under the leadership of Mr Crook, the school “did not have a culture of safeguarding”, “safeguarding was not well understood” and “the attitude of senior leaders was complacent”. Mr Paul Bambrough took over as headteacher of the Purcell School in 2018. He said that the high turnover of staff in the headteacher role over the previous 10 years meant the school had no clear identity or idea of its function. Mr Bambrough sought to develop the safeguarding culture and ethos of the school by ensuring that everyone in the school was aware that the “overriding priority is to ensure that all students in the school are safe, happy and healthy”. He considered that consistency in messaging from the headteacher was of central importance in facilitating a safeguarding culture. (p. 104)
The report however considered Wells to have a better approach to such things, at least according to their own account:
Openness and transparency are key to a protective environment. Schools with a strong safeguarding culture responded promptly and appropriately to allegations and concerns, including complaints about non-recent incidents. Wells Cathedral School said that in the aftermath of allegations or safeguarding concerns, it cooperated with external agencies and reflected on opportunities to learn from mistakes in order to improve safeguarding arrangements in the school. (p. 105)
A little later in the section, the report considers further the role of governors and the need for them to act as a check on headteachers, which was not the case at Purcell:
Evidence from the schools examined showed that far from encouraging challenge from governors, some headteachers were resistant to scrutiny, while some governing bodies lacked the ability to challenge school leaders. In some cases, such as at Clifton College and at the Purcell School, governors simply ‘rubber-stamped’ the decisions of the headteacher or failed to address shortcomings in the safeguarding practice of the school, even when these issues had been identified by external safeguarding professionals. (p. 107)
In the case of both Chetham’s and Purcell, there was further reason to believe the governing body negligent in terms of their responsibilities in this respect:
42. The Inquiry heard that at many of the schools examined governors did not monitor the effective implementation of safeguarding arrangements through the scrutiny of safeguarding incidents which arose at the school. This was the case at Chetham’s prior to 2013 and at the Purcell School during the tenure of Mr Graham Smallbone as chair of governors from 1998 to 2010.
43. The local authority’s inspection report on Chetham’s in 2013 found there was little evidence that the governing body had held the school to account to ensure that safeguarding arrangements were “implemented, applied robustly, monitored appropriately, or evaluated effectively”. The ISI also inspected Chetham’s in 2013 and found that there was inadequate oversight of the safeguarding arrangements at the school. The governing body had no means of monitoring the implementation or effectiveness of safeguarding policies and procedures, for example by sampling cases which occurred at the school. In response to the ISI’s findings, the school endeavoured to improve transparency and accountability by creating new formal structures for the oversight of safeguarding. A dedicated safeguarding committee was established within the school’s governing body. It received anonymised reports of all safeguarding incidents which arose at the school, to ensure the school’s policies and procedures were complied with in practice and to enable assessment of the effectiveness of the school’s safeguarding processes. (p. 108)
The role of the Chair of Governors, Graham Smallbone, comes under further harsh scrutiny:
53. The Inquiry heard detailed evidence about governance issues at the Purcell School, where the chair of governors did not deal appropriately with concerns reported by staff about the headteacher, failed to hold the headteacher to account for his inappropriate behaviour, failed to refer matters of concern to the LADO and did not engage transparently with external bodies.
54. In the 2009/10 school year, the chair of governors, Mr Smallbone, was made aware of a number of complaints and concerns regarding the conduct of the headteacher, Mr Crook, in relation to inappropriate conversations with pupils. Mr Smallbone discussed the complaints with Mr Crook but did not refer any complaints to the LADO. Several direct referrals were made by whistleblowers on the school staff and in July 2009 the local authority found one allegation against the headteacher to be substantiated. It was referred back to the school so that the board of governors could take disciplinary action against Mr Crook but in September 2009 Mr Smallbone asked the LADO to reconsider the outcome of the case. It was inappropriate of him to question the outcome or ask the LADO to reconsider it. Mr Crook said that he was never informed by the chair of governors or anyone else that an allegation against him had been substantiated.
55. Mr Smallbone also heard a recording of Mr Crook speaking to Year 9 boys using language which Mr Smallbone described to the Inquiry as “absolutely unacceptable”, although he had previously told the governing body it was “very good with only very minor exceptions”. An independent review commissioned by the governing body in 2009 considered that Mr Crook had used inappropriate language with pupils and recommended that Mr Crook be given a formal final warning and placed on probation. The local authority had also recommended that disciplinary action be taken. Mr Smallbone declined to follow these recommendations to take disciplinary measures against Mr Crook but assured the local authority that disciplinary action had been taken. An independent review commissioned by the current headteacher of the Purcell School concluded in 2019 that the failure to discipline Mr Crook was a misjudgement on the part of the chair of governors and that he failed to properly hold the headteacher to account for inappropriate conduct.
56. Staff at the Purcell School at the time perceived that governors lacked accountability for their failure to hold the headteacher to account. Ms Margaret Moore, a whistleblower at the school during the headship of Mr Crook, told the Inquiry: “the governors ultimately, in that independent school, were in control, and they could do and say what they wanted to”. (pp. 110-111)
The final passage relating to SMSs in this section of the report does acknowledge some positive actions taken by Chetham’s after a critical report on safeguarding in 2013:
Independent school governors are not accountable to the local authority or to the Department for Education in how they exercise their oversight role. Such schools may choose to create an additional oversight mechanism to monitor the effectiveness of the governing body. After Chetham’s failed to meet safeguarding standards in 2013, in addition to creating a sub-committee of the governing body to monitor safeguarding at the school, an Independent Safeguarding Commission was established by the school, composed of individuals who were independent of the school and its governing body. The Independent Safeguarding Commission’s role was to have independent oversight of the safeguarding arrangements at the schools and to scrutinise the safeguarding committee of the governing body. It could request reports from the safeguarding committee and could also invite staff with safeguarding roles to present reports and answer questions regarding safeguarding at the school. (p. 112)
The next section looks in detail at existing and projected requirements in terms of safeguarding training for staff, and the need to renew these. Once again, Wells was cited as an example of good practice:
Effective training goes beyond the minimum of ensuring staff have read and understood the relevant parts of KCSIE and the school policies and procedures. Staff should have a clear understanding of the safeguarding risks which could arise in their school and how to be alert to signs of abuse. Mrs Helen Bennett, the former DSL of Wells Cathedral School, explained that she adapted and supplemented the training materials provided by the local authority to address particular aspects of a residential music school and used real-life examples to emphasise the importance of safeguarding: “I just didn’t really hold back on the dangers that were out there”. Mrs Bennett said that face-to-face training took place on a frequent basis, with training sessions tailored to different staff roles, including ancillary staff such as boarding house cleaners, “to keep child protection and safeguarding a bit of a buzz in the school, because I wanted people to be part of a team. I wanted everybody to be involved”. (p. 116)
This was in sharp contrast to Purcell under Peter Crook:
Mr Peter Crook, former headteacher of The Purcell School for Young Musicians, said that he did not receive any training from the DSL, and considered that he kept up to date with safeguarding by reading bulletins from the professional associations of which he was a member. Evidence showed that he lacked the safeguarding knowledge and awareness that would be expected of a headteacher. (p. 116)
The report also considers the lack of any special requirements in terms of training for those working in boarding schools, and concludes that these are needed. I would add that there should be extra forms of training for all involved in teaching music, because of the specific dangers there (the same may apply to dance, though with different specific dangers). (p. 118) It also the need for governors to have mandatory training and for there to be a standardised safeguarding course for these and proprietors. (pp. 120-122).
The following part of the report, on the role of inspections of schools, makes further reference to Chetham’s and Purcell:
31. During the 2013 inspection of Chetham’s School of Music, the headteacher, Ms Claire Moreland, initially failed to declare that a member of staff, Wen Zhou Li, had been arrested for non-recent sexual offences against a pupil only two or three weeks before the inspection. The ISI had been given this information by the local authority which was conducting an inspection at the same time and therefore knew to press the headteacher on this point. This illustrates both the extent to which the inspectorates are reliant on headteachers telling the truth and the importance of information-sharing.
32. In 2009, at The Purcell School for Young Musicians, there was a concerted effort by the chair of governors, Mr Graham Smallbone, to manage and downplay the safeguarding concerns that had been raised in respect of the headteacher to Ofsted, despite an allegation against the headteacher being found to be substantiated by the local authority. The inspector recorded that, after meeting with the chair of governors, she “felt very confident that the issues are being addressed appropriately and effectively by the governing body”. The Ofsted report did not address the fact that the local authority had been notified of concerns by whistleblowers on the school staff who had no confidence in the safeguarding regime at the school. The report stated that “There has been a small but effective element within the staff team which has actively undermined the headteacher and the school”. This was not a fair or accurate representation of the actions of whistleblowers on the school staff. The inspectors were too ready to accept the assertions of the chair of governors.
The final relevant section of the report is that on conclusions and recommendations. The most relevant aspects are as follows:
The dangers of sexual abuse in boarding schools are especially acute, are not addressed in current statutory guidance and standards, and the problem is heightened for those whose parents are overseas.
There are many cases of poor leadership, especially on the part of headteachers, and governance, while there are too few checks on independent schools.
Statutory training does not involve minimum standards, leading to inconsistency, nor does it address the particular needs of certain types of schools.
There should be a single inspectorate body (currently there are two), and better sharing of information between different parts of the system (schools, local, authorities, DBS, etc.). This would also address cases where school leaders do not disclose all the necessary information.
DBS checks do not make enhanced certificates compulsory for supervised volunteers, for whom the system is in general too loose.
Recruitment decisions have been made without full and proper assessment of relevant information.
The Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) does not deal with those doing work such as being cover supervisors or teaching assistants, and should do.
As for recommendations to the Department of Education and the Welsh Government, the relevant ones are as follows:
A new duty for boarding schools to inform the relevant inspectorate of allegations of sexual abuse and other serious incidents, with professional/regulatory consequences for breach of this.
A system of licensing and registration of educational guardians, with DBS checks.
National standards for LADOs, and clarification that they can be contacted for informal advice too.
Modification of governance standards within the Independent School Standards, involving external scrutiny, transparency and honesty, and forbidding a proprietor to be a safeguarding lead.
Standards for independent schools to be brought in line with those for free schools or early years provision.
National standards for safeguarding training, mandatory for headteachers, safeguarding leads and safeguarding governors.
Schools to be required to inform the relevant inspectorate if they have referred a staff member to DBS, TRA or Education Workforce Council.
More guidance for supervised volunteers working with children, and ensuring DBS checks are free of charge to them.
Questions of mandatory reporting, support for victims and survivors, and vetting and barring will be revisited in IICSA’s final overall report, to be published later this year.
These may all seem quite general, and few of them specific to music schools, but nonetheless are all important developments. Overall, the report goes much further than any previous document in placing in the public domain a good deal of information relating to grievous past errors, neglect, complacency or even corruption such as has allowed abusers to act with relative impunity in a range of settings. I know from speaking to a range of survivors how important it is for much of this to be made public by a goverment-appointed body, in terms of clearly laying the issue of the responsibility not only with the abusers themselves, but also the institutions which failed to protect these survivors from them when children. There is absolutely no reason for any such survivors to ‘blame themselves’, as unfortunately the earlier processes of obfuscation, cover-up and denial on the part of the institutions have encouraged.
I believe various individuals deeply implicated in this ought to make some statement of their own, at the very least to acknowledge the severity of what has happened – in particular John Vallins, Peter Hullah and Clare Moreland, all former head teachers at Chetham’s, and Peter Crook and Graham Smallbone from Purcell. As was recounted in a piece for the LRB Blog by Laura Newey written soon after the IICSA hearings, one attendant there was incensed by Vallins’ testimony, claiming not to know about the abuse going on at the hands of Chris Ling, and shouted from the gallery at him (this was edited out from the video); in my own testimony I also made reference to various indviduals who had come to me with evidence that they had indeed told Vallins. If it may be the case that sexual abuse of the type perpetuated by Brewer, Ling, Gazelle and others is less likely today than it was in earlier decades, that is some consolation, but as Newey wrote, it is a ‘low bar’; there remain various types of other physical or emotional abuse and bullying which are often part of the culture of music education, and these are equally important to address.
I would have liked to have seen more consideration in the IICSA report of the wider culture at the schools (as well as the institutional structures). This is touched upon but not pursued in any depth, though may be somewhat daunting for non-musicians to consider. Undoubtedly this is an area which warrants much further study and research, some of which I will be undertaking myself.
Overwhelmingly the report identifies a prioritisation of the reputation of schools over the welfare of pupils, and does allude to the power and influence of revered music teachers, a theme about which I have also written on multiple occasions previously. The relatively unregulated form of patronage which exists in the wider musical world militates against those who have experienced abuse, assault, harassment or other discriminatory treatment from coming forward, and some wider regulatory measures to protect such individuals are needed, even if this means a less ‘hands-off’ approach to arts funding than has hitherto been the case.
As I mentioned in my previous post, despite clear evidence and knowledge of the activities of Philip Pickett, it took a long time before individuals finally felt able to go forward. How many are intimidated into staying silent so as not to ‘rock the boat’? How many fear that all they have worked for as a musician stands to be taken from them if they register a complaint, and may risk opprobrium from other musicians (as has been the case for some of those courageous ones who have come forward since the Brewer trial)? But people knew, some of these activities were relatively ‘common knowledge’ in sections of the music world. How many choose just to look the other way and ignore these in their own self-interests, leaving the victims even more isolated? Similarly, how many see individuals being mistreated in various environments, educational, workplace or even social, and think the simplest option for them is simply to tacitly go along with this, so as to stay with the ‘in group’? These types of bullying behaviour and complicity with the same may start at school but by no means necessarily end there. And all the evidence of intimidation and marginalisation of abuse survivors points to the same processes and behaviours being commonplace, and exploited maliciously. Principled whistleblowers like Margaret Moore are very much the exception rather than the rule. The whole music world needs to look at itself, and stop pretending that being involved in such an elevated field of practice somehow makes such concerns secondary.
The report details widespread abuse throughout the four English specialist music schools (SMSs), including various cases for which circumstances including the fact that the alleged perpetrator is deceased precluded criminal proceedings. I am very glad that they have drawn attention to the allegations against Rzysard Bakst at Chetham’s and Marcel Gazelle at the Yehudi Menuhin School (for which I and several others worked with Channel 4 News to bring the story to light) in particular. But key to this type of report is not just which perpetrators carried out which incidents, but also how they were able to do so within the institutions in question, how those institutions responded when such allegations came to light, and which measures either were or have been put in place to safeguard pupils. It is clear that there were extremely serious deficiencies on the part of the schools, which enabled these incidents to happen. I link these to a much wider toxic culture (as attested to in the Chetham’s testimonies linked above) of reckless abuse of power, premature sexualisation, bullying, harassment, physical and emotional as well as sexual abuse, and in general, a privileging of the reputation of the institutions over the welfare of the pupils, as is made clear in the report. Furthermore, as also identified in the report, there are specific factors relating to specialist music schools which make pupils especially potentially vulnerable: the power and charisma of teachers, the intensely competitive environment in which the chances of ultimate success are low, the intimacy of the 1-1 teaching relationship, and more. From when these schools were founded (Purcell and Menuhin in the early 1960s; Chetham’s, Wells, and St Mary’s, Edinburgh, all became wholly or partially SMSs at the end of the 1960s and beginning of the 1970s), the dangers in terms of child welfare should have been obvious, but my research has uncovered little evidence of any particular concern about this on the part of those invested with power and responsibility at the schools. All sought inspiration from schools and pedagogy in Eastern Europe: the Central School in Moscow was the direct model for the Menuhin School, and by implication also St Mary’s (which was itself modelled on the Menuhin School), the Purcell School; Rosemary Rapaport, co-founder of the Central Tutorial School, later Purcell School, was inspired by what she saw in Czechoslovakia, and also wrote about the contrast between what students achieved in the UK and in Russia; the plans for Chetham’s were explicitly compared to schools in Russia and Hungary, and both John Vallins and Michael Brewer visited Hungary and the Soviet Union to seek information on approaches to tuition; pedagogy at Wells was deeply influenced by the violinist Yfrah Neaman, Lebanese-born but Moscow-trained. Furthermore, many teachers at the schools came from Eastern European ‘schools’ of playing and pedagogy, and made much of the mystique associated with these in the West. Specialist music education was in large measure an Eastern European development (there are a few precedents in Weimar-era Germany and even in the Third Reich, but these were not long-lasting) – many such schools sprung up throughout Eastern Europe after 1945, inspired especially by the model of the Moscow Central School, founded in 1932. Approaches to teaching which were developed in highly authoritarian and undemocratic societies were being transplanted into a Western liberal democracy; a theme of my forthcoming history will be the stark incompatibility of these with the wider values, including child welfare and nurturing, which should have been expected in the UK. To this day debates continue to rage as to what is reasonable in terms of expectations on young people studying music and dance at a high level, with examples from Russia and China cited in opposition to a more liberal and child-centered approaches.
Through the course of events, the actions of particular head teachers and music directors has been especially deficient, even when not directly involved with abuse – the report makes reference to John Vallins, Peter Hullah and Clare Moreland at Chetham’s, and Peter Crook at Purcell. The testimonies of these individuals and some others at the hearings were not impressive, and communicated to many alumni with whom I am in contact a sense of complacency, marginalisation, and even denial. Alas it is probably unsurprising to many to see confirmation that institutions have sought to protect their own reputations and those of their most senior staff, in the face of allegations of abuse, bullying, harassment, and so on, and those going forward to register such things can find themselves shunned, marginalised or victimised. This is why mandatory measures and reporting are needed, and proper protection offered for those who come forward. There is still a long way to go in this respect, and I will say more about this when writing about the report’s conclusions in a subsequent post. Many dangers are present in tertiary as well as primary/secondary music education: some will be aware of the case of Philip Pickett, jailed in 2015 for eleven-and-a-half years for offences including rape of female students in locked sound-proofed practice rooms. Also shocking was the reaction of the then-principal of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, the late John Hosier, simply telling the parents of one girl who was attacked to take her to study somewhere else (see also my articles following the Pickett case here and here). I am aware of detailed testimony relating to another former conservatoire principal of a similar nature, from two individuals unbeknown to each other when they spoke to me, and relating to two different teachers who had committed grievous sexual offences. When considering going to the police about these cases, they were threatened with expulsion and career ruin by the principal in question. The possibilities for such corruption of power, in a world in which reputations are everything, and careers are greatly fragile and dependent upon good favour within narrow circles, must be addressed as a matter of urgency.
Here are the key passages from the IICSA report:
In 2013, Michael Brewer, the former director of music at Chetham’s School of Music, Manchester, was convicted of sexually abusing a former student when she was 14. His victim took her own life after giving evidence at his trial. This prompted other former pupils to come forward, with 47 alleged perpetrators reported to the police, 35 of whom were connected with the school. Four were charged with criminal offences, including Christopher Ling who had abused eight young girls, often in the guise of ‘rewards and punishments’ at his home during tutorials, during music courses in school holidays and at the school itself. This first came to light in 1990, shortly after Ling moved to the USA, taking a group of girls with him as pupils. Extradition was not pursued and no further action was taken at the time by the school or by others. It was, as one victim put it, “as if it hadn’t happened”. (p. 2)
At the Purcell School, a specialist music school, allegations against staff were not responded to appropriately under the headship of Mr Peter Crook. This is unsurprising, as the headteacher demonstrated a failure to understand some basic principles of safeguarding. For example, in 2009 Mr Crook took a group of Year 9 boys to his home, discussed his own sexual experiences with them, told the boys how to measure their penises and told them he would ignore it if he caught two boys masturbating each other. When this came to light, it was decided that no disciplinary measures were to be imposed on the headteacher.
Teachers and others exploited their positions of trust to abuse children in all the various types of educational settings the Inquiry considered. Some settings pose heightened risks. Boarding schools were described to us as “the ideal environment for grooming”, as the children have an increased dependency on those around them. (pp. 2-3)
In the specialist music schools examined, the power and influence of often revered and influential music teachers made some pupils even more vulnerable to being sexually abused by them. The reputations of both the musicians and the schools were often seen as more important than their victims and potential victims when allegations were made or concerns were raised. The response was similar when concerns were raised about well-liked and generally respected members of staff in other school contexts, in both the independent and state sectors. (p. 3)
There are details of the testimony of RS-A2 and RS-A3 on pp. 7-8, both relating to horrific abuse at the hands of Chris Ling. I will not give all the details, but quote here aspects relevant to the environment and response of the school. Very notable is the behaviour of houseparents (in a position of loco parentis in such schools), for which the evidence is damning.
RS-A2 was a boarder at Chetham’s School of Music (Chetham’s) in Manchester in the 1980s, from the ages of 13 to 18. She was far from home and found the atmosphere in the school to be “oppressive” and very competitive. She felt that there were no staff members who were approachable.
Christopher Ling became RS-A2’s violin tutor at Chetham’s when she was 15. RS-A2 said that she saw Ling as a father figure, and that he had convinced his students that he was their only chance of success. RS-A2 noticed that Ling frequently commented on the appearance of his female pupils, and he sometimes gave RS-A2 a shoulder massage for pain she developed from over-practising. […..] When Ling’s abuse of pupils at Chetham’s came to light in December 1990, RS-A2 was interviewed by Greater Manchester Police in the presence of the housemistress, Mrs Anne Rhind. Although the female police officer who interviewed her was “kind”, RS-A2 had the impression that Mrs Rhind was worried about the impact on the school and that she was angry with RS-A2.
After RS-A2 disclosed the abuse at school, she spoke to her mother about it on the telephone. RS-A2 said that she later discovered that her mother tried to contact her at Chetham’s, but Mrs Rhind would not let her speak to or see RS-A2, saying that she was busy. RS-A2 said that she had not known at the time that her mother had tried to see her because Mrs Rhind did not tell RS-A2 that her mother had come to the school.
Some time after she was interviewed, RS-A2 recalled being told by the police that the case would not proceed due to a lack of evidence. Neither the police nor the school offered any counselling or support.
RS-A2 was allocated a new violin teacher at Chetham’s who also made sexual allusions in lessons and forcefully kissed her, but RS-A2 did not report it. She did not think she would be listened to: “if the other abuse hadn’t been listened to, then why would this?”
RS-A2 provided another statement to the police in 2013, when the case against Ling was reopened. Ling shot himself in the head when US marshals arrived at his home to serve extradition papers upon him in September 2015. When she heard of Ling’s suicide, RS-A2 felt that again the voices of his victims had not been heard. She felt shocked and angry, and described his suicide as “a final kick in the teeth”.
The sexual abuse has continued to affect RS-A2 emotionally and physically, causing problems with trust and self-esteem, and has affected her relationships with men. RS-A2 has not played classical music since leaving Chetham’s and finds it difficult to listen to it. (pp. 6-7)
[…..] RS-A3 joined Chetham’s when she was 15 years old, living at the school as a boarder. Ling was her instrumental teacher and RS-A3 said that she looked up to him as an inspiring teacher. He continued to sexually abuse her, not on school premises but at his private residence, during additional lessons or tuition courses at weekends and in the school holidays. […..]
In autumn 1990, during a self-awareness course, RS-A3 disclosed that she had been sexually abused by Ling. Her parents were informed and reported him to the police. By this time, Ling was teaching in the United States and RS-A3 was in the sixth form at Chetham’s. Greater Manchester Police interviewed RS-A3 and several other girls at the school, although RS-A3 recalled being told by the police subsequently that there was not enough evidence to extradite Ling to face trial in England.
In 2013, the police reopened the case against Ling. RS-A3 was interviewed again by the police because the evidence gathered in 1990 had been lost. Extradition proceedings were initiated to bring Ling back from the United States to face trial in England, but Ling killed himself before he could be extradited.
When RS-A3 heard of his suicide, she felt a sense of relief but also was disappointed that Ling had never faced justice for his actions:
“I wanted it confirmed that we were telling the truth and I have missed out on the recognition of what we had gone through. I am especially angry that the school will never be held accountable”.
The abuse continues to affect RS-A3. She struggles to show her feelings and feels numb and disconnected. She gave up playing the violin as it triggered uncomfortable emotions. (pp. 7-8)
The following passage relates to the nature of specialist music provision in the UK, about which I am working on a history at present.
B.2: Music schools
2. Through the Music and Dance Scheme (MDS), the Department for Education provides income-assessed grants or bursaries to pay all or part of the fees for children at specialist music or dance schools in England. The schools themselves decide whom to offer places and may withdraw a place according to their own policies.
3. There are four specialist music schools in the MDS in England:
• Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester (Chetham’s); • The Yehudi Menuhin School in Surrey; • The Purcell School for Young Musicians in Hertfordshire (the Purcell School); and • Wells Cathedral School in Somerset.
These four specialist music schools are independent boarding schools, although day pupils also attend. In all four schools, there have been allegations of sexual abuse of students by teachers or other adults working at the school.
4. A watershed moment came in 2013, when Mrs Frances Andrade took her own life shortly after giving evidence at the trial of Michael Brewer. The former director of music at Chetham’s was convicted of sexual offences against her when she was a pupil and boarder at the school (when named Miss Frances Shorney, as she is referred to below). Mrs Andrade’s death and Brewer’s conviction were widely reported in the press, prompting many former pupils of Chetham’s and the other specialist music schools to come forward and speak about their experiences of child sexual abuse within music education from the 1960s to the present day. Many spoke to the police through Operation Kiso, a large-scale investigation by Greater Manchester Police. Many more contacted Dr Ian Pace, a musicologist and former pupil of Chetham’s, who had written a number of articles on his blog, Desiring Progress, regarding the trial of Brewer and the incidence of child sexual abuse in specialist music education.
Chetham’s School of Music
5. Chetham’s is situated in the centre of Manchester, close to Manchester Cathedral. The Cathedral choristers are educated at the school.79 It became a co-educational specialist music school in 1969, having been a boys’ grammar school since 1656. Chetham’s is the largest of the four specialist music schools, currently providing full-time academic education, in addition to specialist music tuition, for just over 300 pupils aged between 8 and 18. More than one-third of its student body is in the sixth form (aged 16 to 18). At the time of the Inquiry’s hearing in October 2019, the school had 220 boarders and around 10 percent of its students were from overseas.
6. Incidents of child sexual abuse which occurred at Chetham’s between the 1970s and the 1990s led to five adults who worked with children there facing criminal charges. Some allegations of child sexual abuse at Chetham’s were reported after the alleged perpetrators had died, resulting in no further action being taken by police.’ (pp. 24-25)
The report looks specifically at the cases of Michael Brewer and Chris Ling, as well as the nature of Operation Kiso, set up soon after the Brewer trial. The case of Michael Brewer has been the most prominently reported because of the trial of him and his former wife, and the tragic suicide of their victim Frances Andrade, née Shorney, during the course of the trial. Especially notable here are the details of how Brewer’s departure from the school were handled, in such a manner as enabled him to continue working with young people. On the grapevine, at the time of his departure, I heard rumours about some scam involving a violin manufacturer and him, but this would have been far less serious. It cannot be underestimated how fundamental a role Brewer played in the lives of all who attended the school when he was Director of Music (some early reports described him simply as a choirmaster, which downplayed his power – see my earlier blog post here on Brewer), and as such what it meant to see him convicted of such a serious crime.
7. Michael Brewer was the director of music at Chetham’s for 20 years, from his appointment in 1974. He was appointed by and directly accountable to the governing body (known at that time as the School Committee), rather than the headteacher. Brewer was a powerful figure, having complete autonomy over all matters relating to music. Mr Peter Hullah (headteacher from 1992 to 1999) told the Inquiry that “the Director of Music was the School”. Brewer was also highly regarded outside the school. He left Chetham’s in December 1994 and continued to work with young people as the artistic director of the National Youth Choir, which he had founded in 1983. Brewer was awarded an OBE in the 1995 New Year’s Honours List for services to music education.
8. Frances Shorney was a boarder at Chetham’s during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Brewer groomed and sexually abused her when she was 14 and 15 years old in his office at Chetham’s and also at his family home. The sexual abuse escalated from kissing and touching to oral sex and penetrative sexual intercourse. At one point, because Miss Shorney was exhibiting emotional and behavioural problems, the headteacher, Mr John Vallins, agreed that she should move into the Brewers’ family home in order to help her cope with the pressures of the school. Brewer continued to sexually abuse her when she lived with his family. It was not until many years after she left Chetham’s that she felt able to confide in a fellow musician about the sexual abuse she had suffered as a pupil, before making formal allegations to the police in 2011.
9. In the course of its investigation into the allegations against Brewer, Greater Manchester Police spoke with a number of former pupils of the school. Several recalled that it was common knowledge amongst the student body that Brewer had an inappropriate sexual relationship with Miss Shorney and that Brewer had targeted other girls. One witness told the police that Brewer had made aggressive sexual advances towards her on a school trip when she was 16, which she had rebuffed.
10. The police also identified a former pupil, RS-A187, whom Brewer groomed and then engaged in sexual activity with over several months in 1994, when she was 17 years old and he was 49. RS-A187 gave evidence for the prosecution at the trial to show that Brewer had a sexual interest in the teenage girls in his care. Brewer did not face any criminal charges in relation to RS-A187, because it was not a criminal offence for a teacher to engage in consensual sexual activity with a pupil over 16 until 2001.
11. In November 1994, the headteacher, Mr Hullah, became suspicious of the nature of the relationship between Brewer and RS-A187. Mr Hullah asked the housemistress, Mrs Anne Rhind, to speak to RS-A187, and later spoke to Brewer himself. Brewer immediately acknowledged to the headteacher that a personal relationship had developed with RS-A187 which “did cross a professional boundary”, and said that his position had become untenable and that he wished to resign immediately.
12. The governing body accepted Brewer’s resignation with immediate effect, which brought the headteacher’s investigation into the matter to an “abrupt halt”. Brewer faced no disciplinary action. The reason given publicly for his departure was that he had retired due to ill health. Brewer told the court in 2013 that this was Mr Hullah’s suggestion, and accepted that this had been a “cover-up”. Mr Hullah told the Inquiry that Brewer had resigned and not retired, and that Brewer had not complained of any health problems at that time, but he denied that there had been a cover up in 1994. Mr Hullah stated that he had informed the governing body of all the circumstances of Brewer’s resignation from the school.
13. Brewer was paid his full salary from when he left Chetham’s in December 1994 until August 1995, which Mr Hullah considered to be a gesture of goodwill on the part of the governing body. Brewer continued to be associated with Chetham’s as an advisor and to work closely with young people as the artistic director of the National Youth Choir. Mr Hullah did not notify the National Youth Choir, the local authority or the Department for Education (which at that time operated ‘List 99’, a barred list of those deemed unsuitable to work with children) of the circumstances or the fact of Brewer’s resignation, although there was a statutory duty to notify the Department for Education of such resignations.
Mr Hullah did not consider that the circumstances of Brewer’s resignation were such as to require any referrals or notification.
14. In February 2013, Brewer was convicted of indecently assaulting Frances Shorney on multiple occasions when she was under 16.105 The trial judge sentenced Brewer to six years’ imprisonment and described him as a “predatory sex offender” whose behaviour was “manipulative and depraved”. He noted that Brewer’s power and influence in the school was such that he was able “with little, if any, prospect of challenge from anyone else”. He also expressed surprise that witnesses testified to Brewer’s good character in the knowledge that he had conducted a clandestine relationship with a pupil, and appeared to be “more than happy to overlook one of the most shocking aspects of this case”. (pp. 25-27)
The case of Chris Ling constitutes the most serious of all the allegations relating to Chetham’s, but was essentially ‘hushed up’ for over 20 years, even though many including myself were fully aware of the nature of his departure both from the school and the country (though not the scale or full nature of the offences). It is quite amazing to note the lack of interest on the part of headteacher John Vallins in Chris Ling’s whereabouts, together with his pupils, after fleeing to the United States.
15. Christopher Ling taught the violin at Chetham’s. He was recruited by Brewer in 1985. He left Chetham’s at the end of the school year in summer 1990 for a teaching role at the University of Miami, taking with him as his pupils a small group of girls from Chetham’s.
16. In autumn 1990, a female pupil at Chetham’s, RS-A3, disclosed that she had been sexually abused over a long period of time by Ling, who had been her violin tutor. Greater Manchester Police began a criminal investigation. The police identified eight girls who alleged they had been sexually abused by Ling while they were pupils at the school. The victims were aged between 9 and 15 years at the start of the abuse, which ranged from kissing, spanking and sexual touching to full sexual intercourse in some cases. Ling operated a reward and punishment system which enabled him to facilitate the sexual abuse, most of which took place at his private residence during tuition at weekends and on music courses during the school holidays. Some sexual assaults occurred in a small coffee room at Chetham’s.
17. Two of Ling’s victims, RS-A1 and RS-A2, gave evidence to the Inquiry. They both recalled making statements to the police in 1990. RS-A1 was interviewed at home over five hours. RS-A2 was then 16 years old. She told the Inquiry that she had been interviewed by the police in the presence of the housemistress, Mrs Rhind, which she found unhelpful. She had the impression that Mrs Rhind was worried about the reputation of the school and was angry with her.
18. RS-A2 recalled the police subsequently telling her that the case would not proceed due to a lack of evidence. Mr Vallins recalled that the police said there was sufficient evidence to charge Ling but that the offences were not extraditable. It appears that the prosecutor was wrongly advised by a senior Crown Prosecution Service lawyer that it was not possible to seek extradition from the USA in the circumstances.
19. Once it was clear that Ling would not be prosecuted, the school did not carry out any investigation into his conduct, nor did the governors or headteacher initiate any review of child protection arrangements at the school. The school did not notify children’s social care or the Department for Education of the allegations. The school did not make contact with Ling’s employer in the USA at any point. Mr Vallins stated that the school was not aware of where Ling was teaching, even though he had taken a number of pupils from Chetham’s with him. No school policies or procedures were updated or introduced. The children affected were not offered any counselling or any other form of support by the school. RS-A1 recalled “It was as if it hadn’t happened”. (pp. 27-28)
In the section on Operation Kiso, do note also further comments relating to a houseparent.
20. In the aftermath of Brewer’s trial, the police received a large number of complaints by former students of Chetham’s and the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester (RNCM, a college for students aged over 18, some of whom had been pupils at Chetham’s) alleging non-recent sexual abuse of pupils and students by staff. In February 2014, Greater Manchester Police launched Operation Kiso, a large-scale investigation into sexual offending at both institutions. During this investigation, 47 alleged perpetrators were reported to the police, 35 of whom were associated with Chetham’s. A number of the allegations related to staff who were deceased and therefore could not be prosecuted, including the highly esteemed piano teacher Ryszard Bakst, against whom the police compiled a “compelling”file of evidence, including complaints from six women. Criminal charges were brought against four men for sexual offences against pupils at Chetham’s: Nicholas Smith, Malcolm Layfield, Christopher Ling and Wen Zhou Li.
21. Nicholas Smith was associated with Chetham’s as a visiting conductor. In September 2014, he was sentenced to 8 months’ imprisonment after pleading guilty to indecently assaulting a 14 or 15-year-old Chetham’s pupil in the late 1970s. Smith had invited RS-A164 to his cottage for the weekend, as he knew she was homesick and unhappy, having endured “frankly sadistic” treatment at the hands of a housemistress. He sexually assaulted her by knocking her to the ground and groping her while his wife was in the bath upstairs. RS-A164 had been a pupil at Chetham’s at the same time as Frances Shorney and decided to come forward after reading reports of her death.
22. Malcolm Layfield taught and conducted chamber music at Chetham’s in the 1970s and 1980s, and also at the RNCM where he was appointed head of strings in 2002. Layfield was tried and acquitted in 2015 of the rape of an 18-year-old student in the 1980s, when he had been in his 30s. During the trial, he claimed that the sex had been consensual but admitted behaving “shamefully” by having consensual sexual intercourse with a number of his female students from Chetham’s and the RNCM, the youngest of whom was 17, during the 1980s.
23. In 2013, a teacher at Chetham’s, Wen Zhou Li, was arrested and charged with the rape of an overseas student, RS-A165, in the late 1990s.123 The charges were withdrawn before trial due to evidential issues. RS-A165 then brought a civil claim against Chetham’s for the sexual abuse she alleged that Li had committed against her when he was her tutor and her educational guardian at the school. In May 2021, a civil court found that Wen Zhou Li had kissed RS-A165 on several occasions in a teaching room at Chetham’s when she was 15, and that this was “the beginning of an escalating course of sexual assaults” committed in his car and in his flat, where she stayed on occasion because he was her educational guardian.The judge found that “Mr Li exploited the opportunities presented by being [RS-A165’s] teacher and by being her guardian”. The judge also found that Li was instrumental in persuading RS-A165 and her parents that she should leave the school where she was studying music and follow him to his new teaching post at Chetham’s in 1996. Chetham’s was ordered to pay damages to RS-A165.
24. During Operation Kiso, Greater Manchester Police re-investigated the Christopher Ling case. Because the original files of evidence were no longer in existence, the police had to interview the complainants again and build a new case file. The investigation identified 12 women who alleged that they had been abused by Ling as children, eight of whom had been pupils of Ling’s at Chetham’s. The Chetham’s pupils included RS-A1, RS-A2, RS-A3, RS-A4 and RS-A5, all of whom provided accounts of their abuse to the Inquiry.
25. In 2014, the police and the Crown Prosecution Service pursued Ling’s extradition from the USA to stand trial in England on 77 sexual offence charges relating to 11 complainants. In September 2015, as US Marshals arrived at his Los Angeles home with a warrant for his arrest, Ling shot himself dead. (pp. 28-29).
Then there are the following sections on the other three specialist music schools in England. That on the Menuhin School, which mentions the allegations against Marcel Gazelle, and also raises questions about safeguarding responses to other more recent allegations.
The Yehudi Menuhin School 26. The Yehudi Menuhin School was founded in 1963 by the celebrated violinist Yehudi Menuhin with the objective of educating young string players and pianists with exceptional musical ability from across the world. It began with 15 pupils and remains the smallest of the specialist schools, with 86 students across nine year-groups as at March 2019, and 68 full or weekly boarders. Sixty-one pupils benefit from MDS funding.130 The school is situated in Stoke d’Abernon, near Cobham in Surrey.
Allegations of non-recent child sexual abuse 27. In May 2013, following press reports of the trial and conviction of Brewer and the death of Mrs Andrade, Channel 4 News broadcast a segment focussing on allegations of non-recent child sexual abuse at specialist music schools. A number of former pupils spoke to Channel 4 News to allege sexual abuse by Mr Marcel Gazelle, a renowned pianist and the first director of music at The Yehudi Menuhin School. He died in 1969. One complainant recalled him coming into the dormitory in the morning, and his hands tickling her under the bedclothes “where they shouldn’t be”.
28. Around the time of the Channel 4 broadcast, four women contacted the headteacher, Dr Richard Hillier, to inform him of sexual abuse by Gazelle when they were among the first pupils at the school in the 1960s. All allegations were referred to the police, who logged the reports but took no further action as Gazelle was deceased. Dr Hillier discussed the complaints of non-recent sexual abuse with the school’s designated safeguarding lead (DSL), the senior management team and the chair of governors. No changes were made to school policies, because Dr Hillier was satisfied that music staff were no longer permitted to access boarding houses.
29. In 2009, a former student, RS-A218, contacted the director of music with allegations that a non-music teacher repeatedly sexually abused her over a 2-year period in the late 1970s or early 1980s, when she was under 13 years of age. RS-A218 did not wish to make a complaint to the police, and it appears that the allegation was not referred to the police at that time. When the director of music brought the allegation to the attention of Dr Hillier in 2013, Dr Hillier arranged to meet and speak with RS-A218 before referring the matter to the police, without naming her, in accordance with her wishes.
RS-F13 30. In around 2006, a female student complained that her tutor, RS-F13, had made sexualised and inappropriate comments in one-to-one instrumental lessons, which made her uncomfortable. The student was moved to another teacher by the headteacher, Mr Nicholas Chisholm. Mr Chisholm warned RS-F13 verbally about using inappropriate language but at that time he did not consider this to indicate a possible safeguarding risk and so the matter was not notified to the local authority.
31. In 2013, another female student, RS-A204, made an allegation that RS-F13 had attempted to kiss her a year previously. The allegation was referred to the local authority designated officer (LADO). A disciplinary investigation concluded that the disputed allegation was “unsubstantiated”. However, the school had sufficient concerns regarding RS-F13 that restrictions were placed upon his teaching relating to the time and location of his lessons. RS-F13 also had to undertake further safeguarding training.
32. Around the same time, a former student of a different specialist music school, RS-A170, made a complaint through Operation Kiso that RS-F13 had a sexual relationship with her in the 1980s, when she was 16 and his pupil.143 RS-A170’s account to the police raised issues regarding her consent to some of the sexual activity but she declined to support a prosecution. An internet search by a Greater Manchester Police officer revealed that RS-F13 was teaching at The Yehudi Menuhin School but the officer did not record this information and did not pass it on to the police force to which the case was referred (the alleged incidents were not connected with Chetham’s or the RNCM and did not take place within the operational area of Greater Manchester Police). No police force contacted The Yehudi Menuhin School in connection with RS-A170’s allegations to ascertain whether any potential safeguarding risks to children were appropriately managed. The Yehudi Menuhin School was not made aware in 2013 of the existence of RS-A170’s allegations about RS-F13’s conduct. Had the school been aware of this information, it would have been relevant to the investigation of the allegation made by RS-A204.
33. Further concerns regarding RS-F13’s conduct were raised in 2014, when a parent complained to the school’s DSL that RS-F13 had an overly close relationship with her child. He wanted to take photographs of her, would not permit her father to stay when he gave lessons at his private residence, gave her hand massages and seemed to have power over her. The pupil was moved to a different teacher. Dr Hillier and the DSL decided that the concerns did not warrant discussion with the LADO. A short time later, RS-F13 resigned from the school over an unrelated issue regarding new contractual terms. (pp. 29-31)
The section on Wells Cathedral School concentrates in particular on the case of Julien Bertrand, another case, the relationship of pupils to cathedral staff, and another case involving allegations against Malcolm Layfield, who faced criminal investigations with relation to Chetham’s, as documented above/
Wells Cathedral School 34. Wells Cathedral School is an independent day and boarding school for boys and girls in Somerset. It is a relatively small school of around 750 pupils from nursery to sixth form. There are 556 pupils in the senior school, approximately half of whom board, and there are 188 pupils whose parents live overseas. Unlike the other specialist music schools, it is predominantly an all-round school, with only around one-quarter of its pupils (approximately 160) from Year 6 upwards enrolled in the specialist music programme. It has very close links with the neighbouring Cathedral – all choristers are educated at Wells Cathedral School and some Cathedral employees have contact with pupils through the choir and music teaching.
Julien Bertrand 35. In 2006, Julien Bertrand, a former member of staff at Wells Cathedral School, was convicted of sexual offences against RS-A202 and another boy at a school where he had worked previously, and was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment. Bertrand groomed RS-A202 and his family over a number of years. The offending began at a different school when RS-A202 was 14 years old, culminating in penetrative sexual assaults at Wells Cathedral School when RS-A202 was 17 years old. Bertrand began working at Wells Cathedral school as a graduate music assistant in 2002, with responsibility for supervising practice sessions for those pupils who were specialist musicians. Bertrand quickly volunteered his services as a French assistant and a badminton coach, and was appointed assistant housemaster in 2003. Several members of staff at Wells Cathedral School voiced concerns to the deputy headteacher or the headteacher about the conduct of Bertrand in relation to pupils at the school, and especially towards RS-A202. Bertrand was given an informal warning in 2003 for inviting RS-A202 to his room late at night.155 In 2004, Bertrand began an Open University course to train as a music teacher, whilst he continued working at the school. Around this time, the boys in the house where Bertrand was assistant housemaster were noted to be making comments about his closeness with RS-A202. These concerns were discussed with the housemaster, who spoke to Bertrand and considered that this failure to observe appropriate boundaries was due to Bertrand’s inexperience in therole. In 2005, RS-A202 disclosed to a member of Cathedral staff that he had been sexually abused by Bertrand. The deputy headteacher was informed and he immediately reported the allegations to the police. Bertrand was arrested the same day. His flat at the school was searched and the police seized evidence including photographs and videos of RS-A202 and other boys. The headteacher suspended Bertrand and prohibited him from entering the school grounds.
36. RS-A202 was offered counselling with the school counsellor, which he accepted. The parents of children at the school were informed that Bertrand had been suspended following an allegation of sexual abuse, without identifying RS-A202. The school had obtained written references before employing Bertrand but after his arrest the DSL found that the references were missing from Bertrand’s file. It was suspected that Bertrand may have removed them himself. Following the arrest of Bertrand, Wells Cathedral School reviewed and revised its safeguarding policies and practice, including the staff code of conduct. External training providers were invited to give safeguarding training to all staff.
Other safeguarding concerns 37. In the early 2000s, a number of low-level concerns were raised in relation to the conduct of RS-F23, another member of staff at Wells Cathedral School. The DSL was concerned by RS-F23’s repeated infractions of school rules and failures to maintain appropriate professional boundaries. The DSL kept detailed dated records of any concerns reported to her by staff, as well as her own observations of RS-F23 and his interactions with children at the school. The DSL ensured that all reported concerns were passed on to the deputy headteacher or headteacher. The school took a number of actions in response to these concerns, which included giving a formal warning in relation to aspects of his conduct, ensuring he was mentored in his paid role and requiring him to cease his voluntary role at the school, which had given him access to the boarding house.
38. In addition, Mrs Helen Bennett stated that in her role as DSL, she received and recorded a number of concerns over a period of several years that a member of Cathedral staff had given lifts to boys in his car, and had allowed children to enter his accommodation next to the school grounds, which was a breach of his contract with the Cathedral. Mrs Bennett said that she discussed her concerns with the Cathedral safeguarding staff but, to her disappointment, no formal disciplinary action was taken by the Cathedral in respect of this conduct by a member of its staff. Since May 2019, a written Safeguarding Partnership has been established between the school and the Cathedral. The headteacher, Mr Alistair Tighe, considered that under the partnership agreement it would “probably not” be open to the Cathedral safeguarding authorities to take a less serious view of a safeguarding concern than the school, because of commonalities in their respective policies. A code of conduct for Cathedral staff coming into contact with choristers was in development at the time of the Phase 1 hearing.
39. In 2013, allegations came to light regarding the misconduct of Malcolm Layfield towards a sixth-form pupil under the age of 18 on a Wells Cathedral School music tour abroad in 1990. Mr Layfield was not a member of staff but had accompanied the school tour as guest conductor. There was no criminal prosecution arising from the allegations. When the allegations were reported in the press in 2013, the school decided to commission two independent safeguarding reviews from external experts – one to examine the school’s response in 1990 to the rumours which had surfaced at that time, and a second to audit the effectiveness of the current safeguarding arrangements at the school. The first review, by a former police child protection officer, concluded that the school had acted in accordance with child protection practice in 1990, by attempting an investigation and questioning potential witnesses (the girl had not wished to speak to the headteacher or make a complaint at the time). The second review found that the school’s safeguarding practice in 2013 was compliant with statutory requirements, although it made some recommendations for improving the security of the school site, which were implemented by the school. (pp. 31-33)
The section on the Purcell School is longer than all the others except for Chetham’s, and raises equally serious issues about the way the institution dealt with allegations and the behaviour of former headteacher Peter Crook.
The Purcell School for Young Musicians 40. The Central Tutorial School for Young Musicians was founded in 1962 in central London, changing its name to The Purcell School for Young Musicians (the Purcell School) in 1973 and moving to its current site in Bushey, Hertfordshire in 1997. It teaches 180 boys and girls from the ages of 10 to 18, although almost half the student body is in the sixth form. The majority of the pupils board but it has approximately 40 day pupils. The school had 36 international students in October 2019.
41. The Inquiry examined concerns raised regarding Mr Peter Crook, the headteacher of the Purcell School from 2007 to 2011, and allegations made against two members of staff, RS-F20 and RS-F80, during his headship.
42. A former teacher at the Purcell School, Mr Duncan McTier, was the subject of allegations brought to the police during Operation Kiso. In November 2014, he pleaded guilty to two counts of indecent assault and one attempted indecent assault which took place in the 1980s. The three victims had all been students of McTier, two at the RNCM and one at the Purcell School. In 1985, McTier had attempted to indecently assault the 17-year-old Purcell student by trying to grope her at his home after a private lesson. In response to newspaper reports that McTier had been charged with offences against students, the Purcell School issued a press release which stated that McTier had not been an employee of the school but had given private lessons to some pupils. The press release stated that a recent inspection report by the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) confirmed that the school’s procedures were robust.
Allegations against RS-F20 43. In January 2009, while attending an external course, a Purcell sixth-form student aged under 18 alleged that she had been in an inappropriate sexual relationship with a member of staff, RS-F20. The allegation was reported by the course leader to the local authority who notified the police. The student, RS-A160, spoke to the police and indicated that there had been consensual sexual activity with RS-F20 when she was over 16. This would have constituted an ‘abuse of trust’ offence under section 16 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. RS-F20 was interviewed by police and denied any sexual activity but did accept that he had hugged RS-A160 and kissed her on the cheek.173 RS-A160 was not willing to support a prosecution and the investigation concluded that the allegation was “unfounded”.
44. The case was referred back to the Purcell School. The headteacher, Mr Crook, arranged for RS-F20 to undertake further safeguarding training with the DSL. No disciplinary action was taken against RS-F20, and his subsequent behaviour and contact with students was not monitored. No records of the allegation or of any steps taken were kept by the school.
45. Five years later, in 2014, another sixth-form student under the age of 18 made similar allegations against RS-F20. RS-A191 disclosed to a friend that she had a sexual “relationship” with RS-F20, and showed text messages of a sexual nature from RS-F20. The police and the local authority began a joint investigation, and notified the Purcell School. The then headteacher, Mr David Thomas, suspended RS-F20 and also notified the chair of governors, the DSL and the deputy headteacher. While the local authority investigation considered that the allegations were substantiated, the police concluded that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute RS-F20, as RS-A191 was unwilling to provide evidence. A police application to obtain a Risk of Sexual Harm Order in order to restrict RS-F20’s contact with children was unsuccessful.
46. The case was referred back to the Purcell School for an internal investigation. RS-F20 resigned before a disciplinary meeting could take place. Mr Thomas took the view that there was insufficient evidence to proceed with the disciplinary investigation. He made a referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), setting out the circumstances of RS-F20’s resignation from the school and also notified the Charity Commission of the incident. The DBS referred the case to the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) but it had no jurisdiction because RS-F20’s role was not defined as unsupervised teaching work. The Purcell School retained records relating to the 2014 allegation against RS-F20, and liaised with police subsequently when concerns were raised about RS-F20 contacting female pupils at the school via social media.
Allegations against RS-F80 47. In May 2010, RS-A192, a Purcell sixth-form student aged under 18, disclosed to a member of school staff that for some months she had been in an inappropriate relationship with a young staff member, RS-F80. RS-A192 spoke to several other staff members and reported the abuse to Childline before the school notified the LADO of the allegation two days later. RS-A192 alleged that RS-F80 had digitally penetrated her six months earlier, on the school field in the dark, when they were disturbed by the headteacher, Mr Crook. Mr Crook later told the strategy meeting and the Inquiry that he had not witnessed any sexual activity between RS-F80 and RS-A192 but recalled that he had told them to go inside and requested the DSL to ensure that RS-F80 received some further safeguarding training. At the time, Mr Crook did not report the incident to the LADO or arrange for anyone to speak to RS-A192, and no record of the incident was made.
48. After the LADO was notified in May 2010, the police commenced a criminal investigation. RS-A192 and RS-F80 were both interviewed, as was the headteacher. Mr Crook told the police that he thought that RS-A192 was not telling the truth, and believed that “fantasy and exaggeration featured heavily in her account of events”. When RS-F80 was interviewed by police, he admitted that an inappropriate sexual relationship had existed and that RS-A192 had told the truth about the sexual activity on the field. On 23 September 2010, RS-F80 accepted a police caution for the offence of sexual touching while being in a position of trust and was placed on the Sex Offenders Register. The LADO reminded the headteacher to refer the case to the Independent Safeguarding Authority to consider whether to bar RS-F80 from working with children, which he did.
Safeguarding concerns relating to the conduct of the headteacher 49. Throughout 2009 and 2010, a number of concerns were raised by staff and some parents regarding the behaviour of Mr Crook, in relation to inappropriate conversations he was alleged to have had with children at the school.
50. The first concern to be raised related to a meeting with the headteacher, the housemaster and the Year 9 boarding boys at the headteacher’s private accommodation on the school campus, on a Sunday evening in May 2009. Mr Crook described it as a personal, social and health education (PSHE) lesson and a “sexual talk”. He told the Inquiry it was in response to an incident of sexualised bullying in the boarding house involving two or three boys from that year group, in which two boys were rumoured to have ejaculated onto the bed of a third boy. A covert recording of the headteacher was made by one of the boys, which did not surface until some months after the meeting was held.
51. During the meeting, Mr Crook spoke to the boys at length about puberty, masturbation, pornography and other sexual matters. He discussed his own sexual experiences and fantasies. He told the boys how to measure their penises and spoke to the boys about sexual experimentation with one another, telling them that he would ignore it if he caught two boys masturbating each other. Mr Crook used explicit and obscene language during the meeting.
52. A group of school staff wrote anonymously to the chair of governors, Mr Graham Smallbone, about the meeting at the headteacher’s house. Mr Smallbone responded by letter, stating that he could not respond to the concerns without knowing the identity of the staff members. When no action was taken, whistleblowers on the school staff subsequently anonymously notified the local authority of their concerns about the conduct of the headteacher. The local authority considered the complaint over a series of strategy meetings in which the chair of governors participated. The local authority decided the allegation was “unsubstantiated” on the basis that the incident did not amount to a safeguarding risk. The local authority sent social workers to the Purcell School to ascertain the welfare of the boy who was alleged to have been bullied.
53. A number of other complaints were notified to the LADO regarding Mr Crook’s alleged conduct and language with pupils. The local authority considered each allegation, and all but one were concluded as unfounded or unsubstantiated. In July 2009, the local authority found an allegation was “substantiated” that Mr Crook had used obscene and inappropriate sexually explicit language when questioning two students who were rumoured to be in a sexual relationship.
54. The substantiated case was referred back to the school for the board of governors to take disciplinary action against Mr Crook. In September 2009, Mr Smallbone requested that the LADO reconsider the conclusion that the allegation was “substantiated”. The LADO declined to do so. The governing body commissioned an “independent review” to ascertain why staff had reported their concerns directly to the LADO, which the chair of governors considered to be in contravention of school procedures. The reviewers interviewed 47 members of staff. Their conclusions included that Mr Crook had “used totally inappropriate language with pupils and has taken a dangerously personal interest in their sexual conduct” and recommended that he be given a formal final written warning and placed on probation. The governing body convened a disciplinary meeting in November 2009, when they decided not to discipline the headteacher with a formal warning or otherwise.
55. When a covert recording of Mr Crook’s remarks surfaced several months after the initial referral, the local authority reconvened a number of strategy meetings to consider the matter again, and concluded that the allegation was “unfounded” as there was no evidence of any intent to harm children. The strategy meeting concluded that the ‘PSHE lesson’ was not an appropriate response to the allegation of bullying and that Mr Crook had made inappropriate remarks to the boys. They advised that these concerns should be dealt with through the school’s own disciplinary procedures, which Mr Smallbone assured them had been done. In fact, Mr Crook was never the subject of any disciplinary sanction in relation to his inappropriate conversations with children at the school.
56. Mr Crook resigned from the school in November 2011, having signed a compromise agreement.
57. In 2018, the governors of the Purcell School commissioned an independent safeguarding review to consider the school’s responses to a number of previous child safeguarding concerns. The reviewer noted that “the Chair of Governors and the Headteacher in post at the time of the case studies were not available for interview and so the reviewer was only able to examine documentary evidence”. The reviewers concluded that Mr Crook had made a “serious error of judgement” in holding a PSHE session in the manner he did and that it raised questions about the safeguarding culture of the school. The independent review also concluded that the chair of governors had not acted impartially in dealing with the complaints against the headteacher and that the failure to discipline Mr Crook was a “misjudgement”. (pp. 33-37)
The following passages from the section on Boarding Schools are also very relevant. Following the revelations of the Brewer trial and other information coming into public view about sexual and other abuse at Chetham’s, I noted amongst the alumni community marked differences in responses between boarders and ‘day pupils’ (those who commuted in on a daily basis, and were not resident). Many of the latter were less inclined to believe in the scale of the issue and its impact upon former pupils, not having experienced that sense of vulnerability which comes from being away from home, not being cared for by those with a personal investment in one’s welfare comparable to that of a parent, and feeling so much at their mercy. The consequences of this for those who suffered abuse (as well as chronic bullying and other behaviours) could be catastrophic.
3. Boarding schools could be said to provide “the ideal environment for grooming”. Certain characteristics unique to the boarding environment heighten the risks of sexual abuse of pupils by staff.
3.1. Boarders are under the authority of adults in the school and are dependent upon them for their welfare. Staff may live on site and spend time alone with individual children, creating opportunities for grooming and abuse, as was the case with Julien Bertrand, who sexually abused a boarding pupil at Wells Cathedral School. For children living away from home, staff play a unique role in their lives and this may create a dynamic of power and control that can be abused by offenders. The innate power imbalance between children wanting to succeed and staff responsible for helping them can facilitate abuse. This is especially true of staff with pastoral roles, such as housemasters or housemistresses and matrons. In some boarding schools, a sense of staff having power and control over pupils may be exacerbated by a strong sense of hierarchy within the school.
3.2. There is often a higher incidence of individual tuition at boarding schools, in music or sports coaching or for additional academic tuition. This can lead to unique and close relationships developing between pupils and staff. At Chetham’s in the 1980s and 1990s, both Michael Brewer and Christopher Ling, amongst others, exploited their positions of power and their one-to-one tuition with pupils to sexually abuse children.
3.3. Some boarding schools, especially long-established institutions, have developed strong traditions and a particular ethos in which the institution’s own rules and ways of doing things are seen as paramount. This may lead to a sense of exceptionalism and the tolerance of perceived ‘idiosyncrasies’ from staff, which can mask abusive or grooming behaviours. This enabled Jonathan Thomson-Glover’s offending to go undetected at Clifton College: “With a father and a grandfather who were Old Cliftonians, he had a deep understanding of the school’s history, culture and values, which camouflaged his eccentric behaviour”.
3.4. Boarding schools often produce a strong sense of group allegiance and very close relationships may exist between members of staff, some of whom will live together on site. Pupils’ awareness of such allegiances between staff may make it more difficult to identify staff members in whom they may confide, impeding the reporting of concerns. As was reflected in the evidence from Clifton College, parents as well as school governors in the independent sector may have attended the school themselves and have a strong loyalty to the institution and a tendency to protect its reputation.
3.5. Boarding pupils can be emotionally isolated because they are separated from their parents. Sometimes parents may choose to send their children to boarding school to distance them from domestic difficulties. Some boarding schools are also geographically isolated and some have limited opportunities for contact with people outside of the school. This was the case with many of the schools referenced in Counsel’s closed residential schools account.
3.6. Around one-third of boarding pupils are international students who are living far away from their families, having to adapt to what may be a very different culture, and who may also encounter difficulties in communicating in English. Some international pupils may have limited opportunities to contact their families, either because of time-zone differences or because of the regime of the school.
3.7. The very nature of boarding schools can create a number of issues that can compromise effective safeguarding. The school may exist within a “bubble where there is little influence over the norms of the school from the outside environment”. Boarding schools may be less often visited by external agencies, which can find it difficult to understand their practices and ethos. (pp. 57-58).
Then there is a section looking at specific dangers in the context of specialist music education, drawing in part on my testimony. The creation of a special conference between music and dance schools to discuss safeguarding is to be welcomed, but there is still much more work to be done on the specific dangers of this type of education in all respects – also relating to the psychological welfare of those who will invest a large amount of their time and emotional energy during formative years to an elusive goal which few will attain (because of limited amount of work). These former pupils, sometimes having to deal with feelings of failure and worthlessness, are every bit as much a part of the schools’ legacy as those (including myself) who have gone onto successful musical careers.
C.3: Additional risks in specialist music schools 8. The Inquiry heard evidence about child sexual abuse and safeguarding concerns which arose at the four specialist music schools in England. These are boarding schools, although some pupils attend as day pupils. All the specialist music schools include overseas students amongst their boarding pupils, who may be far from home and family.
9. Music schools present particular challenges in terms of safeguarding. Instrumental tuition involves a high proportion of one-to-one teaching, usually with the same tutor, and often a degree of physical contact will be necessary. At specialist music schools, tuition may be provided by renowned and distinguished instrumentalists, who teach on a freelance basis without qualifications or training for teaching children. In the case of choir schools, choristers will come into regular contact with adults in the choir, or working at the cathedral, who are not employees of the school. Children who aspire to become successful musicians may look up to and even revere their teacher, who may seek to exploit their power and authority. There can be great pressure on children to succeed and make a career in the somewhat closed world of classical music. Concerns about being seen as ‘difficult’ may dissuade children from making complaints about their teachers, who can have significant influence over their future education and career. Evidence from former pupils indicated that the atmosphere within specialist music schools could be intensely competitive and emotionally charged, with insufficient regard for the emotional well-being of children.
10. The specialist music schools are independent boarding schools and are required to comply with the Independent School Standards and the NMS for boarding schools. Currently, there are no additional safeguarding requirements for specialist music education, notwithstanding the additional risks in these settings. A safeguarding conference took place between the specialist music and dance schools in 2018 and these schools now meet twice a year to discuss safeguarding. (pp. 59-60).
There is also an important passage on the role of educational guardians in residential schools, referencing a specific recent example involving Chetham’s:
Educational guardians 14. International students whose parents are not in the UK need an educational guardian if they attend a British boarding school in order to obtain the relevant visa. Educational guardians act in place of the parents while the child is in the UK, supporting the child throughout their studies and providing a home for them during holidays or weekends. He or she may be an individual appointed by the parents, such as a family member or a friend of the family, or the parents may use the services of an agency to provide an educational guardian.
15. Educational guardians are unregulated. There is no statutory licence, compulsory registration or training required for individuals or companies wishing to provide educational guardian services. If an educational guardian is appointed by a parent, the guardian is not required to comply with any standards or to obtain a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) certificate, and the school is not required to carry out any checks. This means that individuals who are unsuitable to work with children, or even those who have criminal convictions for child sexual abuse, can be appointed as educational guardians.
16. Currently, the NMS for boarding schools permit a member of school staff to be appointed as the educational guardian of an international student, although some schools do not permit this. As Ms Richards told us, school staff acting as educational guardians blurs boundaries, with the potential to cause problems or to prevent problems surfacing. At Chetham’s in the late 1990s, for example, violin tutor Wen Zhou Li was the educational guardian of a 16-year-old girl whom he sexually abused while she was residing with him during weekends and school holidays. In 2013, shortly after the arrest of Wen Zhou Li, ISI inspectors found that there was another staff member at the school who was acting as an educational guardian to a student.
I will follow this up with another blog post considering the remaining sections of the report which are relevant to specialist music schools, their conclusions, and offer some more extended reflections of my own.
It has been clear through many private forums and discussions that the hearings at the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) on 1-2 October 2019 into Chetham’s School of Music (see this page for links to the videos and transcripts) have generated many powerful reactions and also wider thoughts on reflections on the school and individuals’ time there. I feel it is important that these be preserved, and so am posting here a series of sections of text sent to me, all presented anonymously (unless people request otherwise), to which I will keep adding more as I receive them. The only editing done will be for legal reasons or to preserve anonymity. I am not personally going to express a view publicly until after the end of the hearings, other than to point out that while John Vallins claimed in the hearings that I was at Chetham’s for 4 years, I was actually there for 8, from 1978 (in Junior A) to 1986 (upper sixth), and also a story related to me by my mother, which I am sharing with her permission.
There had been a time when one of the PE teachers (I think) had been taunting some boys including me by bending their fingers back (for obvious reasons, definitely not something you should do to instrumentalists, though I think this teacher disliked musicians, thinking all the boys to be gay and not ‘hard’ enough). I told my parents about this, and they mentioned it when they came to meet John Vallins next, who was very down on me at the time. He said in response ‘Mrs Pace, I didn’t hear you say that’ [Corrected from earlierwording], and suddenly his behaviour towards them and me changed quite considerably, much more positive (I went on to get the best A-Levels anyone had yet got at the school, with 6 Grade As, and a place at Oxford, also later studying at the Juilliard School as a Fulbright Scholar). Make of that story what you will.
I am numbering the testimonies AL1 (Alumnus 1), etc, and will continue to add to them. Anyone who has any thoughts they would like to be posted (which can be as short as a sentence, or much more extended) should e-mail them to me at ian AT ianpace DOT com. I can attest that I know who every individual is who has supplied testimony, and when they attended the school, but would not disclose any of this information without their express permission.
WARNING: some may find some of the material below distressing or triggering.
I found the collective amnesia and abdication of responsibility displayed by Vallins, Hullah and Moreland at the inquiry as utterly repulsive and cowardly as I found the testimonies of those who spoke of abuse to be both horrific and awe-inspiringly courageous. Vallins in particular made my blood boil as I was able, by dint of having been there at the time (1975 to 1981) although a child, to contrast his account with the reality of life as a boarder. It is a matter of deep regret that the history books cannot be rewritten to show that he and others never existed. May the Chet’s of today flourish and prosper under sound governance whilst at the same time being aware not only of its proud past, but also of its obligations to those who saw its darker side. May those who suffered find peace, and may those who wish to do so but have hitherto remained silent find the courage to speak out and expose these animals for what they were and possibly still are. May Vallins, Hullah, Moreland and any staff whose voices have not yet been heard devoid themselves of whatever misplaced sense of loyalty or plain arrogance has thus far held them back and – dare one say it? – tell the truth.
The lady who interjected 5 hours 47 minutes into the Inquiry, and who was asked to leave the room, said it all. Whilst giving evidence at the Inquiry, John Vallins displayed an arrogance that was deeply shocking. He showed scant remorse for failing to protect vulnerable children in his care. It was disingenuous of him to suggest that the music and academic departments were separate entities and that he had no knowledge of, or control over, what was happening in certain parts of the school. He was Headteacher, with responsibility for the whole school. If he did not know about the abuse, he was incompetent. If he did, then he turned a blind eye to it. Although there were humble, kind and compassionate members of staff, I hold John Vallins responsible for an abject failure to provide a safe and happy place in which to learn.
My dear friend A1 [anonymised name as used in the IICSA hearings] was giving live evidence , who I’ve been in contact with for a few years now and have had the pleasure of a few visits to my house… the subject of Chets was always at the forefront of our conversations – which after 30 years is alarming at how fast time has passed , along with regret that during these years, the torment of the school still lives with us.
[After a phone call from Operation Kiso] I froze – I remember it clearly, I burnt my wrist taking the croissant out the oven – I was alarmed to think that the past wasn’t in the past … and I refused to comment…. It’s disturbing to think that the Chetham’s mess has been carried with us for so long.
I was terribly disappointed to find that my friend A1 had several minutes missing , that were removed to protect her anonymity , which is of course understandable , but at the same time distressing to know that these comments were all about [houseparent]’s appalling behaviour.
When A1 returned from America , we were all called into the ‘common room’, as it was known then, by [houseparent], to be told that A1 is returning and no one must ask her any questions or ask her why, and that we had to pretend everything was normal. Everyone knew anyway ! We all knew they had to get naked … so I’ll never understand why Vallins said he had no idea at the time. . In my knowledge, we all know rumours spread fast in any industry … so to hear him admit this , was rather alarming. The head after him – what a disaster. Terribly dismissive on all matters regarding Brewer. I could have hit him. Retirement a typo for Resigning ??? – none of my iMacs could have done that ! !
The main thing at the time for me , is the tremendous strain [houseparent] and Vallins put my parents through – the impact of their behaviour leaves deep scars. I went to [houseparent], and asked her if she was aware that [redacted] was shagging most of his students. She accused me of being a Liar, and explained that this is Libel and I should be worried and will suffer for the consequence of my actions.
My parents were called up the school immediately, which was a 6 hour round trip for them, where they met with Vallins, [redacted] and [redacted]. The torment this caused my family is unforgiving. They were told that this could be a Libel case, and therefore my parents were worried sick – they could lose everything, including the house , if this were to be a sue-able case which [houseparent] threatened it would be.
How can you do that to someone?
I cannot tell you how much impact this has had on our lives. Nor can I understand why [houseparent] can’t be called into this investigation. I feel so terribly angry at her and ended up subsequently with major depression, a lot of medication, and an alcohol dependency.
They were only ever concerned about the school’s status – and never once considered the vulnerability of, and long term damage to the child.
In Loco Parentis ? ? ? LIARS.
Overall, I thought the questioning at the inquiry was well done, though I would have liked it to have been made clearer that the abuse referred to by different perpetrators was only a fraction of the abuse experienced by students at Chetham’s. Vallins came across initially as a genteel old man, who was shocked at findings. This impression quickly departed. The head of a school is ultimately the one responsible for the safety and welfare of all within the school. It is their duty to be aware of what is going on throughout their school. What became evident is that there was simply little, if any, main staff responsibility for what went on in Palatine House. Children and teachers alike were completely unsupervised, creating an easy environment for perpetrators to commit their crimes. Even in the Junior School (7-11) there was little if any supervision at break times, leaving young vulnerable children free to roam the corridors and rooms of Palatine House unchecked. No child, of any age, should walk in fear as to when the next assault might take place.
That there was little if any formal training in safeguarding available at that time is totally irrelevant. This is about common sense caring. Making sure children and young people are safe.
Chetham’s was anything but safe in the 1970s (and beyond) and far too many of us carry scars from our time there.
School for me when I entered in 1981 for my sixth form appeared a wonderfully free arena. I enjoyed my music making tremendously and the freedom I had to meet boyfriends, go to pubs, get drunk and sneak out for whole nights at times whilst at school. Luckily I was a very sensible person who didn’t get into any trouble but looking back as an adult, I am horrified that I had these chances. The pastoral care was lax – I survived.I heard all about Fran Shorney and Brewer even though I arrived in the September of the July she left. I learnt all about Malcolm Layfield and his behaviour with girls in my year and above. It was so open I cannot believe that teachers and Vallins did not know. I went on the Venezuelan Chamber Choir Trip In 1983 where alcohol was available on several occasions – to excess. Mrs Brewer engaged in kissing one of the sixth formers in front of many of us and a party was held in the Hilton Hotel where a sixth form boy was pulled up from hanging over the 17th floor balcony under the influence of booze by other boys while Brewer and other staff were inside and unaware. Pastoral care???
I also have close knowledge of abuse (which started in school) on a summer tour where [name redacted] was in cahoots with Brewer on a Chet’s Summer tour to take a girl away from the rest of the group. This tour was organised by Chet’s and not on a Free Weekend when Vallins could wash his hands of responsibility. ‘Not knowing’ about this is not an excuse. Those involved have been affected for the rest of their lives.
I think the very least the new regime can do is write a full letter of apology on behalf of the school and the way it’s predecessors acted. It should for the current pupils outline any proposals and why they are so important, much in the same way Germany and Japan did with its youth following the war. They should all be aware. A guidance counsellor should also be set up should the same problems ever occur again. The pupils must know there is someone they can go to almost independent from the school, who will take any accusation seriously. A final one may be for the school to have a former pupil to go and speak to the pupils once a year about what went on and what they should and shouldn’t do. Also pointing out how easy it is to be groomed or worse. The overall message to all at the school is even if you just hear about something which is not right, regardless who you think is right or wrong, report it. I just think that a lot of those things would have helped those who needed it and also been of use to people like me. Had the attitude at school that it was girls trying to further their careers by sleeping their way to the top. Only on leaving did I realise how wrong I had it. This was further reinforced at [music college] where I met others messed up by the same things at different institutions. There were also those from Chet’s who quit music after finding out the same teacher from Chet’s would be teaching them at [music college] too.
With Chethams in the news again I thought again about my conflicting feelings about the place. It has taken 2 decades to build up self esteem after being there for ten years, and I know that if I had not gone there I would have had no career in music and I would not have met all the wonderful friends, who are still supportive and lovely after many years, friends for life.
I was one of the lucky ones, though, I was not exposed to the worst crimes there.
I have always remembered this though..
‘there are kids out on the streets of Manchester who have more talent in their little finger than you have in the whole of your body’
Did I make this up? Was it said? It is of course true.
I entered Chet’s at 11 as a happy child who was considered to be bright at primary school. By the time I was 12, I was so depressed that I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning. I felt like a complete failure, especially academically. This has stayed with me my whole life.
I came out of my 2nd study piano lessons crying every week for 4 years. The teacher used words that I did not understand and then used to yell and call me hopeless and useless.
In my end of year assessment when I was 14, the assessor told me I had no musicality. I’ve found it very difficult to perform to anybody since.
I feel like Chet’s failed to prepare me for an ordinary life outside music. It took me a long time to adjust after leaving music college.
I started at Chets around 1960 as a six or seven year old. I left in 1969 at the end of the first year of the school becoming a music school and becoming co-ed. I had recently been orphaned but prior to that had lived in a very loving environment. The shock of being at Chets and my abject unhappiness there affects me to this day. I know that the hard environment there added hugely to my state of mind and deep unhappiness.
When I arrived and for all but the final year, corporal punishment was meted out not by the staff, but by prefects. Effectively by seventeen year olds.
Many of these prefects were inarguably sadists ( I could name them even now ) who prided themselves on how much pain they could inflict on young children. Those children could be guilty of nothing more than wanting to go to the toilet after lights out in the dormitory. This would involve knowing that you were going to be ‘slippered’ in the morning and having to therefore spend the night in fear and dread, followed by attending the study block for punishment in the morning.
The ‘slippering’ involved not a slipper but a size twelve plimsoll. The child being assaulted would then have to bend down with an audience of a number of six form sadists whilst the hero administering the ‘ slippering’ would often take a run up in order to inflict as much pain as possible three or six times. The pain was dreadful, causing you to even feel sick.
The audience of sadists thought that this was hilarious.
I often wonder how they, as adults, would react to their own children being assaulted in this way
This punishment was carried out on a trial without jury basis. In other words, sixth formers could decide who would be slippered without any redress or need of explanation or real justification.
Some kids even wore their ability to take slipperings with some sort of warped pride. That in itself paints a picture of a very strange place indeed.
All the staff, and the governor (Harry Vickers ) knew all about this brutality. Some, I know were sickened by it, but I only ever remember a decent PE teacher named Eric Stevens ever trying to do anything about it but being ignored. He was prompted by seeing horrific bruising on young children during swimming lessons.
To me, it is little wonder that an environment where physical assault was actually encouraged, would lead to a culture where sexual assault would also be tolerated by those in positions of trust and authority.
Many of the staff who were in charge during the era that I describe above were still at the school when the sexual assault began to take place. I actually know that they swept it under the carpet for the sake of the school and there own private world.
Also, on reflection, the lack of pastoral or emotional care during my time there now looks astounding. To run a school on a military basis plus condoned violence reflects on the type of people ( or person ) whose influence was overpowering in the extreme.
Is it really any wonder that the previous regime morphed into the disgusting and damaging one that followed?
Finally, I should say that during all my years at the school, I saw no evidence or heard anything about any sexual assault taking place. Of course, this does not mean that it was not happening.
One male teacher did take an unhealthy interest in me and orchestrated an uncomfortable extra- curricular outing with me which to my alarm was allowed by my family ( innocent souls ). But, although I knew his likely motivation, nothing actually happened despite his offer of cider. Back then, I would have been quite capable of flattening him anyway !
I met privately over coffee a few years ago with a retired formerly very senior member of Chets staff. That person had been in post throughout what seems to have been the worst of the abuse issues.
Whilst I cannot remember the precise wording of our conversation, I do remember gaining the strong impression that he and those others at the very top were aware of what was happening and had brushed the issue under the carpet.
There seemed to be an environment where the managers of the school had put the reputation of the school and their positions within the school ahead of justice and the well-being of its pupils.
Perhaps an environment of collective self-importance ?
The scale of the abuse has been way beyond anything I realised. What I HAVE realised is that so many of us little people were at the mercy of big egos whose main agenda was the glorification of themselves with no real awareness of the consequences… I teach in SUCH a different way to how I was “drilled” – hopefully in a climate of care and positivity as opposed to fear and negativity… But I consider myself as a survivor!! I’m well, happy and have an extraordinarily rich musical life…
My male personal tutor told me when I was 15 and feeling upset about a disagreement with my dad. ‘you don’t need your family now, you have us… When you go home you don’t need to talk to them, don’t you have a pet you can hang out with? just stay in your room.’
I know these were the words, I can’t forget them… So horribly controlling and potentially worse. Luckily I realised this was not normal behaviour. But I remember years later doing compulsory child protection training and being in tears after reading the grooming section…. I still wish, in some ways, I could approach him and challenge him about it.
I’ve suffered from asthma since I was two. I can remember [gym teacher] scaring the life out of me when she would tell us nearly every lesson how we were all suffering from sheer ignorance and would end up in wheelchairs by the time we are 30 because we were so all unfit. I remember [another gym teacher] as well yelling at me to carry on running in the PE hall even when I begged to stop. That resulted in me having an asthma attack and staying in hospital. Sooo many teachers back then were cruel. House staff telling us we’re not academics, even though we did well in academic exams. I remember being told by a member of the boarding staff at the sixth form leavers party I probably won’t have passed my German A level as I’m not academic. I got a grade A in that subject for the A level exam. I remember house staff telling other students they weren’t academics yet they went to Oxford and Cambridge. What was it at that place with all the confidence bashing?! There are so many horror stories, way worse than I’ve mentioned just now that happened in the 8 years I was there. I was very glad to leave that school and I’ve not wanted to ever consider sending my child to a boarding school because of it. That and the fact there has never been any need for my children to be boarders anyway.
I still remember the science teachers making kids stand on desks in lessons as punishment. Then wiping the chalk board markers over kids faces and telling them if they see them walking around school without the chalk they will be in trouble. These kids would then walk into lunch with it on their faces; nothing was said! Totally illegal to do that as teachers were not allowed to physically abuse kids at that time. I was hit over the head countless times by [teacher] in Junior A for things like forgetting my glasses. Again, she wasn’t allowed to do that but she got away with it plus her abuse of other kids in her class; emptying boys bags in front of the whole class and mocking them. [Instrumental teacher] (I think [another instrumental teacher] before that) who would tell me I was a useless bassoonist. Then when I won the BBC TV Young musician of the year woodwind section, she came up to me in the bathroom and said ‘Well I’m shocked! You must have improved!’ I remember amazing teachers like Mr and Mrs Hatfield, Mrs Peak, Mr Little and some others. But there were far too many bullies. I too was taught violin by Mr Ling. He scared the crap out of me so I gave up the violin because of him. Just as well. Maybe I would have ended up one of his victims. [House parent] who made little juniors hold pillows at arms length for ages as punishment for talking after lights out. Often we were talking as we were just little kids or felt homesick. Yes we had great opportunities there, but they came at a huge emotional cost to many of us. I gave up the bassoon and never played it again the day I left the RAM. I felt burnt out and didn’t want a life that Chet’s had made me feel I would lead. A life of constant pressure. I have good and bad memories of Chet’s. But it is true. What happens when you’re a kid has a big impact as to the person you become as an adult.
As a day student, much of this passed me by, but as a young 14 year old I knew my good friend was emotionally destroyed by a ‘relationship’ with Layfield. If you weren’t there, I imagine its hard to believe that, to many of us, this behaviour was ‘normal’. At least it was all normalized. I remember envying those girls in the ‘in’ groups, wishing I could be as good as them. I do also have another memory which never really made sense, or at least I used to find rather funny, until the Brewer trial. My teacher was away for a week and during that time, Brewer had me in his office, asking me to try a viola on for size. Weird experience, he was too close, etc. etc.. (every woman reading this knows what I mean). It was too big for me and I was a violin snob so I just didn’t want to continue and left his office. I told my teacher when he got back. My lesson was at the foot of the stairs. He stormed out (this was not a guy who stormed. Instead he was exceedingly zen and calm at all times), went through two fire doors and into Brewers office and I heard him yell ‘Keep your hands off my student’. At the time, I thought it was about the viola. They all knew.
I was at Chet’s 1987-91. Looking back, I feel sad for the vulnerable girl I was, that loved ( and still do) music. I held my teacher in such high esteem..if he said jump, I jumped. At 15 I was given an opportunity to study piano with Bakst and I remember feeling so excited. That was soon to change. A naive, country girl – I couldn’t understand why I felt so uncomfortable during my lessons. Surely, he couldn’t be touching my private parts whilst I was trying to play..it must be my imagination I thought. However, I soon stopped the lessons through feeling scared. My house parent questioned me why I stopped lessons with Bakst and after he asked the question, ‘has he done something’ I reluctantly told him about the way he touched me. I remember my house parent shaking his head and saying, ‘not again’. I was told by a member of staff that it would ruin the career of the very talented male students who were taught by Bakst if it was reported. Naturally, I could not have lived with myself if I was deemed responsible for this. I wondered why Bakst didn’t have any female students back then except one Chinese girl I think. Some piano teachers at Chets were old pupils of Bakst and they referred their talented students to Bakst. If my house parent knew what was going on, surely the other staff knew?! This ‘blind eye’ was endemic in the piano department. We were children and no one cared enough.. shame on all of them. By 17, I had been groomed by my first piano teacher, prior to Bakst, and had regular trips to his house where intimacy occurred. Still 17, I had a nervous breakdown..2 suicide attempts and was unable to complete my last yr at school. I taught myself my A levels and locked myself away in my tiny bedroom for months. I loathed myself. I couldn’t be the ultra slim student that my teacher wanted me to be ..he continuously made remarks about my weight. I developed a serious eating disorder and this subsequently destroyed years of my life and any career prospects. BUT, I survived! Whenever I think back to those darkest days, I break down. I was a kind, loving, trusting girl. It broke me.
Although my experience is one of deep sadness, I feel it is now time for Chetham’s to grow into the best school it can be. I have witnessed changes and I have seen how happy the children are. With the right, strong leadership, Chetham’s can be an amazing experience for so many children. Friends who have recently worked at Chets and current pupils I know there, feel it is now a happy and safe environment and this is all I could wish for the future. Knowing this, has helped me deal with my past.
I was 14 when I was groomed and sexually abused by Ling during my time studying at at Chethams. Ling gave us letters to take home about the courses at his house, they were like the typical school trip letter with a slip to fill in at the bottom and information on how much the course cost and date. They were printed out. There were often other letters from school about tours and trips. This was just like one of those.
From my parents point of view, this was a letter from Chethams because it came from the school and from one of the teachers who worked there.
Chetham’s responded to my civil case by disputing whether I’d even attended the school during that year and asking me to provide proof. This is the only communication I’ve had from them, no apologies or letters or emails or in fact ANY acknowledgement of what happened.
Since op Kiso started seven years ago I’ve been looking towards being able to formally address the abuses of trust that I suffered whilst a student at Chethams in a legal manner.
This still hasn’t hasn’t been possible and I couldn’t be more disappointed that victims voices have been silenced and that there has been no apology or acknowledgement from the school.
I hope that the inquiry has taken into account the devastating and destabilising effect childhood sexual abuse has at such a critical point in life. I’d also point out that a boarding school setting makes it even more isolating when all the power resides with the teachers who were also the abusers and family support is a very long way away
Unfortunately I have few positive feelings about my time there. I, also was not exposed to the worst crimes but the emotional abuse that was inflicted on us has left us with demons and scars that last a lifetime. We were commoditised as children and love and praise was determined/ conditional on our a ability to perform on cue. I did not take up a career in music but that toxic environment shaped the early years of my adult life.
I have made it public that I was abused from 1971-1977. I was shocked to the core, when I turned on the News last Tuesday teatime and heard the names Brewer and Ling being mentioned. I knew nothing about this inquiry and would very much have liked to have been present. Why were we not informed?
I was the first girl to report sexual abuse in 1971 and would have appreciated that being recognised. I felt that my existence hadn’t mattered and this has really affected me very badly this last week.
It was only after my mother telling me the day after my father died, that I had been the biggest disappointment in their lives, was I then able to tell her about the abuse and the reason for me returning to [place of abode]. My father died, never knowing.
If only Chet’s had thrown Professor Bakst out of the school in 1971 and not 1991/2, how many other poor girls could have been saved.
The RNCM also knew that Bakst was abusing. Clifton Helliwell (Head of Keyboard) invited Bakst’s students to his office and offered us a different teacher, if we so wished.
My life path changed for good, thanks to Professor Bakst… why isn’t he getting the same mentioning as Brewer and Ling? I am seething about this.
Bakst abused not only sexually and mentally (when I tried to stop him, he would sulk and sit and read his Polish newspaper during my ‘lesson’) but also physically. On one occasion he insisted I repeat a certain part of Rachmaninoff’s G minor Prelude over and over and over. I told him several times that my right hand was paining… he wouldn’t allow me to stop. It resulted in me seeing 2 specialists and not being able to use my right hand for a year! I still have problems with it, to this day.
Reading this has made me realise FOR THE FIRST TIME that many of the repeating anxieties in my life (no talent, wrong appearance, not thin enough, etc.) stem from the way that various staff members at Chet’s got into my head and have never left. [String teacher] told me I wasn’t pretty enough to be a cellist. [Houseparent] often criticised my weight. I was told by Mike Brewer that I would have to requisition to keep my place had I not been in Fast Set Music…. Somehow all these years I have believed all these things, and believed that they only applied to me and that everyone else was entitled to be at Chet’s, just not me. To read of such wonderful musicians that I look up to and respect receiving similar comments has surprised me to my core and made be reassess just how much insidious damage was done to me and to many other pupils. And that is before you even come to the sexual abuse and the generally toxic culture that made us believe that this was the reality of life in the music business.
I was at Chets from 1986-1991. I was one of the “lucky” ones; I was a woodwind first study and the wind tutors seemed to have mainly been able to behave appropriately and professionally.
However, I wanted to write and say how let down and angry I feel towards all the staff at the school at the time, but especially the houseparents and headteacher. We all knew that something wrong was going on – most of us didn’t know the whole story, but rumours abounded about playing naked and “dares” (or punishments) at the house gatherings at Ling’s house. Yet in our young impressionable minds, somehow, despite the fact that we were aware our friends and peers were being abused, the reactions around us and the fact that the people who were in loco parentis – who we also knew were aware and did NOTHING to stop it or to prevent it happening again, meant that we accepted it as normal, and worse, something to be envied. Ling’s Strings, were – in our minds – a group of special chosen ones. They had the cool teacher that drove around in the sports car and leather trousers, they got to go offsite to gatherings that were secret and grown up. We envied them. How utterly messed up and wrong is that?
I feel a massive sense of guilt towards my friends. That we didn’t speak up on their behalf more, that we left them feeling isolated and vulnerable to more abuse because there was no guidance from the adults looking after us that these vile men were doing anything wrong.
I am aware of at least one close friend approaching [houseparent] detailing an unthinkable situation of abuse and her response was to minimise and dismiss. That left this vulnerable teenager in unbelievable turmoil.
There was no morality amongst the staff – the reputation of the school was the only thing that mattered. Threats about libel, threats about ruining people’s careers, dismissals of horrendous situations with phrases like “silly girls, making everything so dramatic” abounded. There was no-one to go to for advice and guidance.
So I want to say to all the staff there in that very long period where Brewer, Ling, Bakst, Layfield et al abused at will and without remorse, if you were there and you knew and you didn’t speak up, SHAME ON YOU. SHAME ON YOU ALL. You all knew, we know you knew. How do you live with yourselves?
My mum was very concerned about one of my incredibly vulnerable friends, and tried to intercede with Vallins on her behalf. She was dismissed and her offers of help were rejected – she was made to feel like an interfering busybody. She, along with another parent, petitioned the school to try and set up some kind of parent consultation group to enable the parents to have more input to what was going on in the school – this was not allowed.
She was told by a wind tutor that there were bad things going on and that they would never send their own kids there. My parents agonised over whether to withdraw, but as none of us were encouraged to talk to our parents, they presumed that if something was wrong we would tell them. Yet we perpetrated the veil of secrecy and silence, because we knew that’s what we had to do to protect the school.
My own story is minimal compared to most – I was lucky. [Houseparent] was a monster behind her smiley exterior. She encouraged so many of us to be worried about our weight and appearance – often telling me I was too chubby and needed to lose weight. She made many hurtful comments in public and private about it. At the time I weighed 9.5 stone and was 5ft 4. She wasn’t approachable, everything was dismissed as we were being silly and needed to get over it. She once told me I was a monster and would never amount to anything in “decent society” because I borrowed an unsuitable video off one of the boys and showed it in the common room. Yet, we were left unsupervised long enough to show a whole film. We were rarely checked on until it was time for lights out. The assistant houseparent was having a relationship with the head of strings, and so wasn’t approachable either, although she was kinder.
My experience of Brewer was twisted. He didn’t like me and used to play mind games with me. He withheld coveted positions in the orchestra deliberately and taunted me about it. My very worst time was when I was in Upper Sixth and he summoned me for a private chat in his office at night. When I went in he was wearing those tiny shorts he often wore that left nothing to the imagination. He sat behind his desk and regarded me with amusement; I was clearly nervous as I didn’t know what he wanted. He wrote something on a piece of paper and then put it in the top drawer of his desk, locked it and laid the key on the desk. Then he stood up, put one foot on a chair, so his genitals were exposed, and said to me “I know what you’re going to be”. I had no idea what was going on or what he meant. He gestured to the drawer “that piece of paper says what will happen after you leave school. Do you want to know what it says?” I didn’t know what to do, and stood there frozen. He regarded me with contempt, put his leg down, and shooed me away, saying “you can go”. I escaped. I didn’t tell anyone; what was the point and who should I tell?
When I left I went to one of the most prestigious universities in the UK to read music. Despite this, I was seen as a failure by the music department and the fact I’d rejected a place at the RAM to go down a more academic route was seen as a disappointment.
I want the staff of the time, those that are alive, to know about our stories, and for them to acknowledge how wrong their decisions were and to apologise without reservation. [Comments about veracity of testimony of former head teachers in the inquiry] Claire Moreland claimed that a letter was sent to the alumni informing them of the police investigation – but nearly 200 people have responded to say that they’ve never received any such letter.
If the present head is serious about helping the alumni affected, he should be seeking out those members of staff and asking them to write public letters of acknowledgement and apology. I think it’s outrageous that none of them have been called to account for themselves during these proceedings, especially the [houseparents mentioned in evidence to inquiry]. It’s even more appalling that members of their family have held prominent positions of authority at Chets until very recently.
After two years at Chetham’s my parents had seen enough and took me out.This was in ’76. My dad (a teacher himself) told me later that he had been to see Vallins and told him-based solely on their experience of my treatment there- that in his opinion there were serious problems with how the school was being run, both in the music AND in boarding and academic. He said that he may as well have been talking to himself. Not interested.
I attended Chet’s as a boarder `70-`73.
I remember the physical abuse meted out to younger boys by the 6th form boys.
There was `slipper` treatment, where the 6th form boys stood in rows down either side of their narrow corridor of the 6th form rooms and the child had to run down the corridor between them as they hit the child with slippers. This wasn’t too bad. The worst was the `pillow` treatment. The child was held by arms and feet and dropped on their back onto a pillow on the floor.
Generally, they were not supposed to punish girls, but my friend and I were once locked in a cupboard in the 6th form block and incense sticks were lit through the key-hole until we were coughing so much, and screaming, that the head boy at the time [name redacted] let us out. I have always been a severe asthmatic but they thought it hilarious. [Head boy] refused to take part in any abuse.
I also remember being so hungry that one night, myself and 2 other girls crept into the kitchens and stole all the stale bread. (Naughty but desperate!) We developed quite a taste for it!
My personal sadness was that I had a boyfriend in the school. There was no sex education so we were both very naive. I fell pregnant at 15 yrs old, had a termination and we were both promptly expelled. I suppose back in those days they didn’t know how to handle the situation. At the time, Mrs Littler (house mother) supported me in every way she possibly could. My hopes of becoming a concert pianist died. My teachers, Anthony Goldstone, Pat Shackleton and Fanny Waterman all encouraged me not to give up, but my heart and soul died too. I became a nurse and taught in my spare time.
I hold no animosity whatsoever towards Chet’s. In fact, I have a pupil there now, and another on the way next year.
I only learned of other horrors at an alumni meet a few years ago. [X] told me her story and scorned the hypocrisy relating to my being expelled. [Y] was a few years younger than me. I used to put her to bed and read bedtime stories. She told me that my departure led her to depression, and another friend told me she subsequently developed an eating disorder as she couldn’t believe how badly my predicament was handled. [Y] had other awful tales to tell but it is not my place to relate them.
I was not sexually abused at Chet’s. However, my 1st instrumental teacher told me I was ‘rubbish’ and would not allow me to play in the senior orchestra. After hearing me play about a year later, Brewer told me I was ‘nowhere near as bad as my teacher had told him’. He allowed me in the orch. After that I played in everything (not a common instrument). I had a very difficult time in the 6th form and left with an eating disorder and a habit of self harm. I did not go on to music college, due to my illness, but always felt a total failure.
Addendum: Reading the other testimonies I just recollected an occasion where we were all dressed up in the summer. It was some kind of open day I think. I was wearing a ‘gypsy’ style dress, tight around the bust and lacy. I can vividly remember Brewer leering at my chest and saying what a lovely dress it was. The other member of staff did likewise and said ‘ it’s what’s underneath that counts’ I was 14 at most. Bastards!!! After I left Chets (ill with an eating disorder), I was groomed and raped. No connection I know but just one more fucked up ex Chets pupil…
It has been difficult to watch Mr Vallins, Mr Hullah and Mrs Moreland all apparently not knowing anything about anything. No authentic compassion was visible from any of them either.
Memories of Chetham’s:
String section rehearsals on a Saturday: being asked to play passages by myself because the conductor thought I couldn’t play it. He was right. Incredible shame in front of peers.
Science classes: I was so frightened of one teacher’s sarcastic cruelty. He could tell when you didn’t know something, and would choose you on purpose to explain it, so that you were shamed in front of the whole class. Because I was so nervous I couldn’t concentrate, and had to rely on copying another student’s answers whenever I could.
In another science class, the teacher became angry because people kept saying “What? when we were learning about watts. He called a boy up to the front of the class and punched him in the face.
Maths: a teacher saw me writing in my text book in pencil, he crept up behind my desk and put his arm across my shoulders and pushed me down onto the desk until I was crushed. My chest was very painful and had bruising afterwards.
Another teacher threw a very fat text book at me because I was talking in class. It missed.
Boarding house life: Being patted on the bottom by the housemaster as I was speaking on the public phone in our girls house.
Being put off alcohol forever when I was 13 and new at the school, when I went into the communal toilets and several drunk students were throwing up in there!!
Nurses: only advice available: take 2 paracetamols.
Mr Brewer: he stared at my breasts whenever he spoke to me, and licked his lips. His lips were always cracked and dry, with horrible white deposits at each side.
The friends I made.
Being in the orchestra when Christopher Adey came to be a guest conductor.
During my School years at Chets I felt abandoned to a place where the staff took very little notice of me. The House Parents barely seemed to register who I was, and I felt uninspired by my violin teacher, so I coasted, doing the minimum I could get away with academically and musically. Having started the school lauded by Brewer as a ‘star talent’, my violin playing was falling behind and so consequently I was called into his office. He proceeded to belittle and humiliate me instead of offering solutions.
After several meetings he concluded I should either leave the school in perceived disgrace, or be transferred to a new teacher who would turn me around. So without any choice I started lessons with Ling.
This was, of course, a disaster.
In my final year I tried to fight back and I threatened to report him. (It had suddenly become clear it wasn’t just me he was ‘picking on’). In response he vowed he would make sure I never played the violin professionally, would ruin my reputation, and would absolutely bar me from getting a place at any music college. We came to a hideous truce where he agreed he would leave me alone if I stayed silent, and I was to pretend to still be continuing my weekly lessons.
I spent that last year facing my music college auditions with no violin teacher (they couldn’t understand why I hadn’t prepared the set scales etc having come from Chets), whilst he still got paid, and continuously bullied and undermined me, in order to keep me toeing his line.
I was by this time withdrawn, painfully thin, often tearful and deeply stressed. My friends tried their hardest to shield me but none of the staff seemed to even notice. In fact my house parent described me to my room-mate as a misery who needed to pull herself together. I wondered why she never once thought to ask me what was wrong, but on reflection I suspect she either knew outright or had, at the very least, heard the rumours, that were rife, of what was going on on the string corridor.
After leaving Chets I buried everything that had happened.
I had barely heard of child abuse and certainly didn’t realise the term might apply in my case. To be clear, Ling manipulated, threatened and isolated me. It was never once consenting – he made my skin crawl. But the atmosphere that pervaded the string department; cello teachers ‘dating’ pupils, violin pupils being ‘girlfriends’, teachers generally sleazing over us girls, making crude comments and unwanted advances, had normalised what I had suffered. Horrifyingly I thought I had just been more unlucky than most, and that it was our lot to be treated as sexual game.
In light of reading the reports from the inquiry, and especially Vallins’ testimony I would like to add some final thoughts.
It was absolutely common knowledge at Chets during my time there, and subsequently, that there were ‘relationships’ happening between staff members and the children. This included the Head of Music and many of the string staff. Ling was known for being the most blatant; taking girls out for drinks, keeping them late in practice rooms, taking them off site in his car etc.
If we all knew, and Vallins had his ‘ear to the ground’ as he claimed, and yes he lived on site, how, at the very least, did he not suspect there was inappropriate behaviour going on? Why did he not question and investigate the rumours, as ultimately it was his job to know the goings-on of the school?
The answer is – because he absolutely did know. A close friend reported the abuse to him shortly after I left. She was squashed by him and [houseparent], and a cover-up ensued.
Appallingly it was during these miserable years that Vallins received his OBE.
I was at Chets from 1973 to ‘81. I entered as a fat 10 year old in Junior A and I well remember the bullying and fear liberally meted out by Boss. He even removed the bedroom doors in Palatine as a punishment for some girls talking after lights out- completely unacceptable on every level! I also remember being called fat in front of the class by Brian Gee and the humiliation of being put on a diet and having to eat crispbread and tinned tomatoes whist everyone else around me ate the normal food. I remember being horribly homesick and having no pastoral care from any member of staff to help me to deal with that.
Academic teaching varied hugely in standard and whilst there were some really inspirational teachers there, having a board duster chucked at one’s head in maths or being called an imbecile was seen as a joke, which it clearly was not. I even set fire to the sleeve of my blouse in chemistry once but there was very little reaction from the teacher and I believe that the Geography teacher either left or was sacked weeks before our Geography O level, meaning that the majority of my class failed the exam.
As I got older, my status as a fat, average pianist protected me from some of the worst abuses from the teaching staff, as I was largely just ignored, although I do remember feeling very hurt that I was deemed almost irrelevant in terms of the hierarchy so prevalent in Chets society. The sexual liberties allowed during weekend tv times in the 6th form centre were legendary and yet I look back now in horror as to how little parental supervision and care we received then. I was in Millgate House looking after the juniors and one of my room mates frequently had sex in our room during the day with her boyfriend with no awareness from the house staff. As I entered the 6th form, I lost a lot of weight and eventually ended up becoming anorexic, which no one on the staff could cope with. I had my first sexual relationship with another 6th form boy and we had a key to an abandoned classroom which we used for sex, which had been given to us by a leaver and which we subsequently passed to another 6th former when we left. I was put on the Pill by the school doc, with no questions about my medical history, despite the fact that my mother had died young of a heart attack due to being on the Pill. My dramatic weight loss was questioned by him, but it was easy to lie my way out of it and I had no follow up or any ongoing care or monitoring of my weight. My piano teacher changed too during this time and my new one was emotionally abusive and demanding and acted inappropriately in her lessons. I’m pretty sure that she was an ex pupil of Bakst. I was terrified of her and although I became a much better pianist, it came at a huge price. Around this time, I also found out from a 6th form friend about the sexual relationship she was in with a member of staff, which, as far as I know, she still hasn’t disclosed publicly and may never do so. By this time, it was public knowledge that there were a group of girls, mainly string players, who were involved in sexual relationships with Brewer et al. This was almost seen as a joke and the girls perceived as flaky slappers, which is more a comment on how groomed we all were in accepting such behaviour than the girls themselves. Alcohol featured regularly and the 6th form boys brewed their own beer and cider. It was commonplace to leave school to drink illicitly at several city centre pubs, the Mitre being the most popular one. I can remember drinking there before I reached the age of 18, with staff members present and ignoring us. I also remember the pop up brothels on Long Millgate, the prostitutes’ clients fighting in the street and the Yorkshire Ripper… all of which made leaving school in the evenings a profoundly unsafe experience. Competition amongst pupils in terms of lunchtime concert appearances and orchestral seating was seen as ordinary and yet now, can be viewed as being undermining and abusive. When I was awarded a place at all of the four music colleges I applied to, I can’t remember a single Well Done coming from anyone! As an adult, I married another ex-Chets pupil who eventually became emotionally very unwell and my marriage to him broke down. This was partly a result of him having had a short lived affair on tour with another ex-Chets pupil who was herself a victim of Layfield and who had, in my belief, grown up with the consequential emotional vulnerabilities which allowed her to engage in such a way towards a married man. So her experience affected my husband and myself so many years later.
I left my dad on his own to go to Chets for 8 years and although it undoubtedly gave me social and musical opportunities I would not have had otherwise, it was not a good place to be. After the RCM, I got a post grad place at the RAM but I never went. I was seriously ill with an eating disorder at College and despite being a prize winner there , I could never slough off the legacy of Chets and the way it made me feel like a complete and utter failure. Instead, I gave up playing for almost a decade and only really returned to it by training to be a music therapist. I’m now a piano teacher but as a single mother, have never been able to have the time to give to a performing career; lack of confidence and the shadows of the reasons my marriage broke down in terms of my ex-husband’s mental health issues have prevented it. I have had a string of failed relationships, all fuelled by the profound lack of parental guidance I received at Chets where none of us were raised with an adequate sense of Self. Egos were either inflated or decimated and most of us were emotionally chaotic and unsafe and have grown up to carry unhappy legacies of our time there.
Chet’s alumnus 1982-1990.
Chet’s was a fiercely competitive environment where prizes defined you: being chosen to play in a masterclass, winning the concerto competition, where you sat in orchestra, scholarships to music colleges etc. Ling’s pupils were outstanding, winning internal and external competitions, leading the school orchestras etc. What we now realise is that they were coerced into accepting their abuse by him because they believed that that is what it took to promote their status.
It makes me feel sick that my friends suffered this abuse behind closed doors; my closest friend never spoke to me about what she endured, it was a secret. This secrecy has wrecked lives and it is now time for a redressing.
I also suffered abuse from Bakst. Most lessons he would put his hand at the top of my thigh when I played. At the time I didn’t consider this abuse, although I knew that it shouldn’t be happening.
When the Head of Keyboard asked me about Bakst’s behaviour during my lessons, I denied that anything untoward had ever happened as I didn’t want to draw attention to myself.
This is the first time that I’m talking about this incident. I suspect that I’m not the only one with untold Chet’s memories.
From the school: I would like counselling available for all Chet’s alumni from that period – no questions asked, just foot the bill. Also, Vallins to be stripped of his OBE and the Vallins building renamed.
In one of the boy’s dormitories, there was a cupboard/wardrobe, on which was written ‘X’s house’ (‘X’ was the name, extremely demeaning, give to one boy by many bullies and many others). What some of the bullies would do was force him into this, so he would be forced into a half-bent-over position, the width practically no greater than his one, so he wouldn’t be able to move, and leave him there for hours, calling and crying. They took great pleasure from this, and other boys found it terribly amusing. Other boys (this boy was a target for many) used to literally ride this boy like a horse around the pool table area in the Millgate building, laughing and cheering while he was crying.
There was the boy who wanted to prove his status over another (both would have been about 16-17 at the time) by delivering him the most pathologically awful hit in the face, so that he lost several teeth, swallowing one of them. Talk of this spread through the house, and the appropriate status was gained.
There was the group of older boys who set on one younger boy who was placed in boy’s house. Amongst the things they did was put sellotape over his mouth and hold his nose so he thought he was going to asphyxiate, or fill his mouth with washing-up liquid, and make him near-choke on it so it come up out of his nose. This as well as kicking him and punching him all over – a whole group of older boys setting on one defenceless boy like this. It was seen as a type of rite of passage, and the test was that he wouldn’t tell the housemaster. There’s more – it is only through talking through these sorts of events in therapy that I have been able to understand that this was not normal behaviour in a school.
And then there was the fact that every single boy in Boy’s House called the house master ‘Prole’. An alternative name was ‘Harry’, also seen as a name which would mock his working-class origins.
All sorts can happen in a brutalised environment. I’m not blaming the boys (they were children) so much as the environment which made this all possible.
I will tell just one story of my own. This concerns the teacher in junior school who made a point of singling out everyone else in the class for praise for what they had done, then holding me up alone in front of them all with that poisonous hatred behind her eyes just to ridicule me in comparison with everyone else. Now I also know that this same teacher, at school camp, actually slept with a sixth-form boy.
This school was a cesspit. It is a disgrace that John Vallins was ever let anywhere near a school, and he should feel nothing but shame and guilt for the rest of his days.
I was one of the lucky ones. I always felt that Chet’s was my home and the staff and pupils my family. I had never had a close relationship with my family and Chet’s became a sort of foster family for me. I was never aware of the terrible things that were going on but there were a lot of rumours about Brewer and Ling. I am devastated by everything that has come to light and my heart goes out to every child who was affected and those adults who continue to be. For anyone who was in a similar position to me, we are feeling a huge sense of loss at the moment. All those happy memories, what was lying beneath? What was true? Who was genuine? All those close relationships we developed with the teachers ([list of some names]), were they a lie? It is so terribly sad and I am absolutely devastated. To all those children who I grew up with – you were the most special, wonderful family to grow up with and none of you are to blame.
Just to add: I would like the school to find all past teachers and find out what they knew. They owe it to us.
It’s only after reading some of the impact statements from my fellow Chetham’s students in and around the 1980’s that the rather dysfunctional pattern of my life has become clearer.
I went to Chetham’s excited about the opportunities to be in a musical environment and develop my full potential. I left with shattered self-confidence and disillusioned not just with music, but with life.
In a nutshell,, I was taught by Bakst. Although I didn’t suffer sexual abuse as badly as some of the girls I knew who were taught by him, he bullied and intimidated me. This culminated in me walking out of a lesson – from which there was no way back as ‘nobody walked out of Bakst’s lessons’. I then took a step back and was taught by my first teacher at Chetham’s, losing all sense of direction.
In the sixth form after this had happened, I was close to leaving Chethams for the local grammar school back home. But I stayed. I seem to remember my parents talking to John Vallins, who encouraged me to stay
I’d never really understood why I dropped out of my first year of university straight after leaving Chets – and I tried to run away to France (but didn’t quite succeed due to a ferry strike at the time!!). I was desperately unhappy but thought it was just ‘me’.
I then went on to another university to do a languages degree and became obsessed with sport because the particular sport I pursued made me feel ‘strong’ and ‘respected’ for what I could do and achieve. I barely studied as I was constantly training, but somehow managed to get a decent degree despite failing a year and having to repeat it.
I couldn’t face the university careers service when I graduated – the sheer thought of any ‘structure’ being imposed on me in the form of a proper job and authority from above scared me rigid. Hence, I ended up working for 6 years in a cycle shop. A waste of my various talents, in my opinion.
I haven’t really played the piano since leaving Chetham’s. In fact, the piano my parents bought me when I started Chetham’s is in my garage.
Fast-forward to 2010 and I finally found the opportunity to become self-employed thanks to the rise of the Internet and entrepreneurial activities.
I am starting to look at my past, especially my teens, twenties and thirties, in a totally different light….
I remember also being bullied by the female junior school teacher with hatred in her eyes. At least I can’t imagine it being anyone else. Is there any reason we shouldn’t name her? She was called [X]. Perhaps her name can be redacted if needed. She is long dead I believe. She was in my experience a very opinionated, forceful, bitter person, very wrapped up in herself and without the maturity required of a teacher. She openly declared frequently that she hated girls and wished they had never been allowed in to the school. Her tenure dated back to before they were.
As with other teachers, ex pupils had mixed experience of her and some thought and still think she was marvellous. It is important to realise that abusers don’t abuse everyone and can present as quite charming to others. Nor do bullies bully everyone. They pick on people who seem vulnerable or who annoy or discomfort them for whatever reason. Teachers ought to be able and willing to rise above these feelings, be the adult and treat their pupils reasonably equally and decently, even in the face of provocation. She didn’t and in an environment where bullying was quite normal, she was a law unto herself. Perhaps, being conditioned into this environment, those who weren’t the targets also overlooked that others were. We all accepted our lot and that of others as normal. Playing favourites and targets is also of course a great way to gain the collusion of the class and make the bullying more painful for the target.
She had those she hated and those who were her favourites. She also had her figure of fun boy in my time who she liked to ridicule and dismiss in a seemingly affectionate but demeaning way. She made him the class joke. I believe, having heard since, that he was also badly bullied by other boys. No doubt her behaviour towards him fed into this if not causing it. She took a dislike to me, and I think a couple of my friends. She launched an ongoing bullying campaign against me that lasted the entirety of my time within her reach, which I think was two years due to lack of teachers. It was usually verbal although she hit me across the head once. She would ridicule my appearance daily as a matter of course in front of the class and would take any other opportunity going to try to undermine or humiliate me. I tried to ignore, resist or fight back in minor ways, but at age nine and ten being subject to a concerted daily hate campaign by an adult in front of my peers was hard to deal with. It made my life at school a misery and profoundly affected my self-esteem. I know I wasn’t the only one.
I didn’t know about her allegedly sleeping with a sixth former at camp, though I do remember her openly singing the praises of and fawning over a man who used to go to camp. He was no longer involved with the school. He might have been an ex pupil or ex teacher I’m not sure. She would often talk about herself and her opinions at length in class, so telling us how marvellous this man was and how much she was looking forward to seeing him at camp was par for the course. As I attended camp, I saw her flirting with him and we all assumed there was an affair or would be if it was up to her.
One disgusting practice that hasn’t yet been discussed was the ‘staking out’ ritual at school camp, where a group of adults or older large pupils would grab someone, overpower them and tie them spread-eagled to the ground with tent pegs. People would then gather around them to taunt them, laugh at them, poke them, throw things over them (I remember cold water and pig-swill being favourites). This was all treated as a marvellous joke and was expected to be laughed off by the victim. This was pretty much the approach to all public assaults and bullying, like the beatings with a huge plimsoll meted out by a games teacher ([Y], still alive) amongst others and perhaps his ‘red hand gang’, which boys from the late seventies/early eighties might throw more light on. I also know of at least one occasion when several junior school girls were assaulted by a female games teacher with a plimsoll. Like with corporal punishment it was usually the boys who were victims of staking out but not always.
One day at school camp a group of men, including the one that [X] had a thing for, grabbed me, dragged me somewhere and started trying to tie me down. I was told this was under instruction from [X]. They actually looked a bit sheepish like they knew they were doing something wrong and that even in a world where ‘staking pupils out’ for japes was normalised, they realised that this was crossing a line (big adult men, small girl, obvious, open animosity from the person instructing them to do it, obviously not a joke on either side). [X] came to survey what was happening and to openly gloat. I fought the men and didn’t give up until I managed to get away. I ran away and was gone for the rest of the day. I don’t remember any search parties being sent for me. I remember sitting on top of a hill with another friend who had run away to the same place, looking down at a view of several people being staked out. It looked like a crucifixion scene. We didn’t want to go back. I also remember a very large boy/man being staked out and quietly going along with it saying that he had health problems (asthma being one) and had to be careful. He was clearly struggling physically and afraid while they carried on regardless.
Another junior school teacher in the late seventies was Brian Gee, again remembered fondly by many, but not all. He once made a lengthy public speech to the whole junior school about what a despicable person the child was who had been stealing money from coat pickets in the cloakroom. He finished off by revealing the identity of the child. She was there. Was this an appropriate way to deal with the situation?
Funnily enough, in informal chat amongst alumni, the person who most viciously defended these teachers and attacked anyone who said anything against them, is someone who I remember as the chief bully in the junior school. He was the biggest boy and used to beat up the others at break times. He is now apparently in a senior position in education. I am not blaming him, certainly not the child that he was. It was the culture of the place from the teachers down. There was a lot of ‘fighting’ amongst the boys, certainly at junior school. That seemed to be what boys did at the time, and maybe it is, but from what ex pupils have said subsequently I think many boys were being physically bullied and assaulted and it wasn’t all in good fun. It wasn’t stopped by the teachers and in some cases it was modelled.
Some of us knew or subsequently worked out that the violence, bullying and abuse was wrong and some didn’t and haven’t. Some don’t want to think about it at all. Whilst there was a lot of useful discussion and support in alumni discussions and chat after Fran’s death there were also those who were very protective of the school and hostile to critics or abuse victims. Discussion could degenerate to a very low and abusive level as if we were going back in time and some shocking defence of predators and undermining of victims took place. Some of the defenders of the schools and abusers were still involved with the school as parents or teachers or were still friends and colleagues of sexual abuse perpetrators. So the toxic legacy and pain for unacknowledged victims goes on.
From the music side, some of my school friends were routinely bullied by instrumental teachers. Some of these people were seemingly quite disturbed and volatile, if not out and out sadistic or physically and sexually abusive, and were not suited to teaching. I didn’t know about the sexual abuse until recent years, but there was much undermining, criticism and whittling away at the children’s self esteem. I had plenty of this from my first piano teacher, [Z], who may have been mentioned earlier and was a pupil of Bakst. She would shout and verbally abuse and write heavy scrawled notes in my practice book with underlined capitals and lots of exclamation marks. The general drift was that I was not good enough and must try harder. She might storm out. She also advised her pupils to skip meals so they could practice more. She entered me into a competition once, which I hated and which terrified me. The result of going through it all was to be in the doghouse because I had played a wrong note. Apparently, according to [X], it was a matter of common courtesy to manage not to do that. So I was the lowest of the low. I was an eight-year-old child.
Another piano teacher of a friend ripped up her music threw it on the floor and jumped up and down on it when she was unhappy with her progress. In each case our parents eventually got our teachers changed, but there was no question of the teachers being challenged on their behaviour or stopped from doing it to the next poor kid.
I wasn’t the most conscientious, endlessly practising pupil, mainly because I was really unwillingly conscripted into this rarefied environment and this classical music ‘career’. I know some did have a real vocation and others probably bought wholesale into the ambitions of those around them. Even then, I’m not sure that a school like that is the appropriate vehicle for such an interest. It certainly seems inappropriate for children of such a tender age, even if all the abuse could be eradicated, which I doubt. Many who did have passion and dedication had it sucked out of them by their experience there, or had so many negative issues tacked on to it.
Whatever interest I had in music was certainly eclipsed by the verbal abuse, pressure, oppressive atmosphere, unwanted responsibilities and stress. I was told I had a gift that I had a duty to serve, and in a very specific, prescribed way. I didn’t want to dedicate my young life from age eight to a classical music ‘career’. I wanted to lead the normal life of a kid. I didn’t want to spend my free time sitting in a room on my own in front of a piano practising pieces I didn’t like for hours. I wanted to be out playing with my friends.
If I hadn’t practised as much as my first teacher wanted I would sometimes stand outside the door of the room where my lesson was to take place. Although I knew it would only incur her wrath further, I could stand there for ten minutes or more getting later and later for my lesson feeling unable to face going in.
Even when I got nicer teachers, the fact remained that I was being forced, as a child, to devote my whole life and being to something I didn’t want to do. All the pressure to unwillingly practice, perform, take exams, enter competitions, etc, just made me into a very stressed kid. Nobody ever seemed to pick this up, though it must have been clear to anyone with any emotional intelligence, something that was and I believe still is, sadly lacking in these places.
A subsequent relatively nicer piano teacher I had turned out to marry a choir master and music teacher who could be entertaining and was liked by some, but could also be quite a bully. That was [AA]. He once found himself accidentally giving me a compliment by bemoaning my recent absence and saying I was useful in the choir. Realising what he had done he quickly qualified this by insisting ‘not good, but useful’. This was a shame because the choir, and even performing with the choir in public, was the one musical thing I enjoyed there, and I might even have pursued and enjoyed singing as a second instrument if I had not been convinced of my inadequacy. Singing is something that I did do many years later and I know now that I do have a good voice. Of course [AA] delivered this put down in front of the rest of the choir and, whether he really thought it or not, it is hard to know what positive outcome he could have wanted to achieve by saying it and doing it in that way.
Once [AA] had married my teacher he took to telling me off, again in front of the rest of the class, if I was deemed not to have been practising enough. This destroyed any feeling of trust and safety I had with her. For reasons I can’t remember I changed to a third and final teacher who was nice, and even tried to find music I liked, but I think the damage had been done by then and there were so many other reasons to be stressed and unhappy at the school, so this didn’t salvage things for me there and I continued to lobby to leave.
It never seemed to be an issue what the kids did or didn’t want to do or what our interests in music were. We were there to get with the programme and be sacrificed at the alter of the almighty music, as selected by those in charge, the plaudits and reputation of the teachers and school and presumably keeping the revenue coming in the gravy train running.
I remember finding Michael Brewer creepy and immediately guessing his name when my husband told me a Chet’s teacher had been convicted of child abuse. I had some contact with him and he led my audition, but I didn’t have a lot of contact with him. I managed to leave in the early stages of puberty so I was probably not on his radar. I don’t remember Fran but she was there when I was, a couple of years above me. What happened to her was so tragic and now that Brewer and his wife are long out of prison, her husband and kids still live with her loss and it’s legacy. One thing is for sure, her death brought hundreds of ex pupils together, largely online, to share and better understand experiences and in some cases prosecute those who abused them. The chain reaction has been immense and affected far more people than those who have publicly testified.
I’m so glad I managed to persuade my parents to let me leave, a process that took 5 years, with every summer holiday an oasis that may or may not end with me having to go back there again. Come that day, like many others, I turned my back on the piano and any involvement in music for ten years. Later I did manage to enjoy getting involved in music I liked for fun, but the instruments I had played at Chet’s always had negative connotations, as did classical music which I was turned off for life. I also had to overcome as best I could a lot of associated insecurity and anxiety, including severe and crippling self-criticism, all of which dated back to Chet’s.
I thought I was the only one who carried the burden of not feeling good enough and feeling I was letting the side down, which was regularly reinforced by the adults around me at Chet’s. Little did I know that this was almost a standard part of the conditioning of pupils at Chet’s. I think the pupil who was confident in their abilities, felt nurtured and supported and enjoyed their music must have been rare. It is only by sharing stories that many of us have probably realised this.
Whilst my time at the school was unhappy, I fully realise that my stories pale in comparison to the horrendous accounts of abuse we now know. My heart goes out to all those who were sexually abused. It also goes out to those who were physically assaulted, bullied and otherwise abused and who were negatively affected by the toxic atmosphere and regime of Chet’s, as you would be. That would include me I suppose and I realise now would bring it to a very large number, perhaps even the majority of ex pupils. What is worse there seems to have been a similar culture in many other schools and colleges.
Although my memories are quite trivial in comparison to the worst excesses, I think they all form part of the context and culture within which the worst things happened. Even the things I remember and went through there were unacceptable and not something a child should have to deal with. I would certainly never send any child of mine to a place like that or accept them being treated in any of those ways.
I think that the accounts and memories from the past are still very relevant today, because there is no real evidence to show that all the welfare concerns are behind us and that the culture of Chet’s and elsewhere carries none of these negative issues. Even the concept of these schools and sending kids there has to be in question. Is it healthy to convince children they should embark upon a ‘career’ and adult responsibilities to which they should devote most of their time? Even if it is, is it actually being done in a healthy way?
Whilst it is a positive step that the latest head has apologised for past abuses and will communicate with ex pupils, this does not allay all concerns. The apology was after all given under extreme duress and this head has still stuck to the mantra that all these bad things were bad but are firmly in the past and everything is different now. There still isn’t enough humility or self-reflection. I also doubt that all the old guard and old attitudes have been completely shed.
Addendum: I forgot to mention that one music theory teacher, [AB], used to call kids up to the front who had displeased him and hit them over the head with an enormous book. Again, laughed off by him and most of the kids (usually boys), but a really silly, dangerous and violent thing to do in retrospect, not to mention the bullying aspect.
It should also be noted that for the boarders, the bullying and assaults from adults in charge continued into the evening and night by a fair few accounts, including more corporal punishment. I remember visiting a dorm with my boarding friend when we were eight and her telling me about being given ‘apple pie beds’ and how she hated boarding and really missed home. That sounded miserable enough, but I realise it wasn’t the half of it. Needless to say, led by the example of the adults or left unchecked, fellow pupils could also be brutal to boarders within their accommodation.
That has to be another scenario of dubious benefit in addition to the whole music hothouse / sweatshop idea: sending kids as young as seven away from their homes and families to live full time in an institution, for no good reason other than to apparently further their education and their musical ‘careers’ with little thought of their physical and emotional development and wellbeing. In this case this was frequently with bullying and uncaring ‘house parents’. How much more vulnerable those boarders were to sexual abuse as well, far away from their parents, under almost complete control of the school and unable to escape. It was the boarders who had it the worst. They were the most seriously let down.
Even the kind house parents wouldn’t love and care for the kids like their own parents would. How does this set kids up for happy, healthy young lives or indeed adult ones? A really silly, misguided practice in my view. I refuse to accept that this is a healthy way to bring up kids at the best of times, and the best of times it surely wasn’t for Chet’s boarders in the past. Research has been done on the emotional damage done to displaced kids in boarding schools, so I’m not the only one with misgivings and accounts from Chet’s ex-boarders are not the only evidence available on the folly of this.
I started Chet’s in lower sixth and having come from a normal comprehensive school in Greater London I felt very privileged to be a student there. Around the time of my audition I attended one of Chris Ling’s pupils concerts in London. I can remember being blown away by the standard of playing. Chris Ling was sitting in the front row being very flamboyant. In my final violin lesson before I left to go onto Chet’s my violin teacher had a long chat with me. She explained that Chet’s would be a fantastic place for me to blossom, but that I should be wary of some of the male members of staff. No plunging necklines or short skirts she said. Of course being 16 I didn’t pay much attention!
Within a few weeks of starting it became apparent that there had been many inappropriate things going on. Chris Ling had just left, everyone was talking about him and there were many rumours of relationships between pupils and teachers particularly in the string department.
During my first year I got taken out for drinks with another student by one of the violin teachers on many occasion. To be honest I’m not really sure why I went, maybe it was the free booze! He wasn’t even my violin teacher. I guess I felt lucky to be asked in some weird way. I can also remember returning from a night out very scantily dressed with another girl. It must have been late maybe 10.30pm. I walked through the string corridor to fetch my violin to take it up to my dorm and I saw Mike Brewer. I panicked, he looked really sweaty and had this big grin on his face and was looking up and down at us. We started to run off, we were giggling but feeling a bit freaked out to see Brewer at that time of night. He started chasing after us, he was laughing. We ran up the stairs and managed to get back into Palatine through the main door. We had a laugh about it afterwards, Mike Brewer being a pervert as usual! Looking back it seems so wrong!
But I was truly one of the lucky ones and remained unharmed at Chet’s. My playing did blossom, I made some lovely friends, some of which I am still in touch with. I went on to music college and now enjoy a successful career in music. My heart goes out to those who have been so badly affected and had a truly dreadful time at Chet’s.
I’m so sickened reading and hearing all of these reports. I was there from 1990-1996 (from memory).
I don’t remember much of my time there, just snippets? Not sure why this is.
However, I know what I’ve not heard anything about is the other house parents & other staff.. particularly [houseparent] from the [one of the houses in the school] who was in relationships with students. He wasn’t the only one, this was common knowledge across school that relationships between staff and students were happening! Brewer was one of them too in my time. He was in a relationship with the head girl who was in sixth form! I was 2 years below at the time!
Now that I’ve listened and read all of these reports I can remember some awful experiences of staff, for example, throwing a heavy text book at me Cos I had hiccups [name redacted] English teacher telling me I’ll never pass my gcse because I’m too stupid then accusing me of slamming a door in face (I hadn’t seen her behind me?!) – I got an A btw, the same comment from the science teacher – I got a B!
I went on chamber choir tours with Brewer! Did the staff know about the allegations of abuse against him before we went? Therefore putting us at risk! I’d really like to know? All of the staff there should be held accountable not just the few we are hearing about! All the house parents! All teachers…. everyone.
I’m actually a senior safeguarding officer with Manchester City council based in a large primary now!
I was not sexually abused while at Chet’s in the 1970s but my story is just another example of the neglect which was prevalent at the time.
From 1973/4 I had several symptoms, all relating to primary hypothyroidism, which were never picked up on. I had bald patches in my hair, I became increasingly tired (some of my reports said that I was lethargic), I became very depressed and just shut myself off from things so that I have very patchy memories of that time. I suffered such severe constipation that my bowel closed up. This involved me having to go to hospital and have really horrible procedures (completely on my own). My broken hip (a slipped epiphysis which was also related to an undiagnosed underactive thyroid) was not picked up on for 2-3 years; I was treated for a pulled muscle and given some cream to rub on until eventually I was sent for an x-ray. While in hospital I had various other symptoms which indicated that I had had an underactive thyroid for several years. Over this time I had become convinced that I was probably a bit of a hypochondriac and not so good at coping with aches and pains: the opposite turned out to be the case.
There was an utter lack of any pastoral care or creation of a safe and secure environment at Chet’s in the 70s. I could not share with my family how miserable I felt at school as they had enough problems of their own.
When I returned to the sixth form I was inexplicably boarded out to live with the PE teacher and his wife, an experience which further isolated me and for which I have been unable to get any explanation.
After all that has happened, and especially as I am now a mother, I feel so sorry for the girl I was back then. Totally alone and thinking that there was no place for her in the world because she was simply not good enough to exist.
I was at Chets 1970-72 then again 75-77 – I have very fond memories of a lot of that time and some of the freedom we were afforded as teenagers growing up together as a family. I still maintain some of those friendships now.
I just want to share an incident that happened at the end of the Easter term 1976 which took on greater significance when the trial of Michael Brewer became public.
It was the end of the Easter term and for some reason a few girls stayed behind an extra night before going home – there was a party in Miss Woodruff’s flat (Housemistress) which we went to – teachers were also there. A group went off to get pizza and I went to bed. Later that night I woke up to see a figure standing in the doorway of my room – and with dread realised I was the only girl on the corridor. We were in the centre of Manchester and I was the most terrified I’d ever been in my life up to that point – I pretended to be asleep and out of the corner of my eye I recognised it was one of the teachers, not music staff but an academic teacher who was in boys boarding at that time. He stood there for a long time and then came to sit on my bed – I don’t know if he knew I was awake and I can remember very confused feelings, mainly wondering why on earth he was there.. I could smell alcohol on his breath – as long as I feigned sleep we could maintain the status quo. As far as I remember he sat there for a long time – eventually I did pretend to wake up and at that point he got up and left. I can remember the courage it took for me to get out of bed, run down the corridor, through the glass doors, up the stairs to my friends’ room on the top floor. In the morning we went to see Miss Woodruff – all she said was, oh yes- he was a bit drunk last night… Instead of getting the train home I went to tell my then boyfriend – as I was leaving school she came up to me and said, ‘are you absolutely sure it happened?…’
The next term the teacher had left boarding but continued to teach at the school for many years. Nothing was ever said to me about it, although I remember JV coming to talk to me at supper in the Baronial Hall, which was unusual.
I’ve managed to piece all this together with the aid of my teenage diary – we’re talking 40 years ago! Gary Glitter, Jimmy Savile were up there as role models..
Around 2011 the teacher in question sent me a message on Facebook which must have been when Brewers trial started – it was quite breezy and I just thought it was a Facebook weirdo! Of course, later I realised he was watching his own back – I didn’t reply. He seems to have removed his profile now.
It has a significance as this was prior to some of the dreadful abuse that took place in subsequent years and surely JV must have known there was a culture at the school.. Bakst was reported as far back as 1971.
I listened to the live streaming of the Inquiry and cried at the evidence of women in their 40s describing their ordeals –
I actually hated the salacious way the trial and Fran’s suicide were reported and the sensationalism surrounding the ‘story’. However, it had a profound effect on me personally – not only did it make me question the situation I was in at the time relationship-wise, (probably a good thing), it certainly impacted on my teaching job at a private school – somehow, I felt I was tainted by being associated with Chets even though I had been a pupil there, not a member of staff.
Chet’s student 1989-1998.
On watching the inquiry and reading it. I am appalled at Vallins, Hullah and Moreland. Still using cloak and dagger methods (relaying blame elsewhere) to sweep things under the carpet and cover things up. I do not understand why Mrs Rhind or people from the board of governors at the time have also not been called up and made to answer questions. It is quite plain to see they all failed in their duty and the rest of staff there that knew or heard rumours (they were probably scared not to speak up as would lose their own reputation in the music world or job if academic staff).
It is the truth that there was another cover up around the time Brewer left and that was of another housemaster/[academic subject] teacher who had relationships with students.
The school failed massively in its pastoral care and welfare of its students. The whole culture was a toxic environment to grow up in. I myself suffered greatly with anorexia and in adult life have depression/anxiety with the root cause of life at Chet’s that my psychologist/psychiatrist can confirm.
The friends I made and the few staff who really did care about our welfare are the positives and I received an education and piano teaching and musicianship I wouldn’t have received back home. That is no compensation for the awful culture the school thrived on.
I want to see Vallins stripped of his OBE and the Vallins building renamed.
As a wind player, I feel that I was lucky during my time at Chet’s. However, even writing that feels so wrong. Why should there have been pupils who were ‘lucky’ enough to avoid the direct and immediate effects of the culture of abuse that existed there? As with many of my mid-80s contemporaries, there was always gossip about who in the Sixth Form Mike Brewer was involved with, Ling’s Strings and Bakst (to mention just a few) but this was normalised amongst pupils – and in some ways was seen as something to be emulated. From the distance we are now, and as a teacher myself in a boarding school, I’m staggered to consider that this could in any way have seemed to be acceptable.
Pastoral care was essentially lacking – why was it possible for us to spend nights in the boys’ boarding house, spend evenings at the pubs (often with member of staff turning a blind eye) and even be able to spend whole nights out in Manchester? We were essentially left to our own devices in the boarding house with little care or consideration being shown to us.
The testimony of John Vallins in which he simply abdicated all knowledge and responsibility sickened me. I fail to believe that there was no way he knew of this – and if that holds even a grain of truth, then at the very least, he proves himself to have been incompetent as a Headmaster. The complete lack of compassion from him even now is something that I just can’t forgive. I have questions also about how many other members of staff knew what was happening and chose to ignore it – I fail to believe that other senior members of staff were unaware, yet did nothing to address the many concerns.
As with many other ex-pupils, I feel an enormous sense of guilt that I didn’t act upon any of this at the time when friends spoke about such things, but the normalisation of the physical, sexual, and emotional abuse allied with the poor pastoral care meant that there was little understanding and the reputation of the school mattered above all else. That strikes me as such a poor excuse now and I wish I’d been braver at the time – but then, reading others’ comments, would anyone have taken any notice even then?
I arrived at Chetham’s when I was 14, in time to study for my GCSEs and A-levels. I spent my last 4 years of school there, from 1988-92. For my first two years I shared a dormitory first with 4, then with 3 other Chris Ling pupils. I could tell I was different but I didn’t know why. I had arrived at the same time as one of the girls and was really good friends to start with but then she drifted and got closer to the others. As time progressed, I noticed they were much more ‘advanced’ than me (this is what my 14 year old mind called it). They were experimenting with make-up, really extravagant sexy underwear. I always felt a bit of a frump but of course, that’s because I didn’t know what was happening to them. Once the news came out a few years ago, everything immediately made sense to me. I re-connected and found they had been affected, personally and directly, by this horrendous man. Suddenly their premature sexualisation made complete sense. As an adult I was horrified to look back and realise that was why they were so attractive, making such an effort, wearing these underwear garments. It was utterly devastating to learn what happened to them. And to learn that many pupils tried to tell staff and they were ignored or told to be quiet. I am shocked to learn that the very people who were meant to protect us were aiding and abetting abuse on a very large scale. I am fortunate to not have got caught up in anything directly but the school was known to be a chronically unhappy place. For years people teased me, saying everyone who came out of Chet’s was messed up. I thought it was because they practised too much. The other point to make here is I know the boys were very violent towards each other. I can’t help wondering if it was all part of the same terrible dereliction of duty. My friend said the others regularly beat him up. No staff stood in. I would like finally to underline that we were NEVER written to, invited to make statements, offered counselling or any other support. The school has NEVER contacted me about this matter. I am shocked that the school has behaved as it has and then claimed to have involved us. I am lucky to have a great career as a musician but many of my friends have been destroyed by the school. When will it face up to the lives lost to mental and physical ill-health (very serious in the 3 cases I know of)? When will it offer proper compensation to these people?
I was at Chet’s at the time of the Michael Brewer trial and through the subsequent press revelations about the school. Possibly the biggest issue is that my memory is still accompanied by the feelings of a 16-18 year old… a young person in a potentially vulnerable position. It is only when I look back that I realise that I was still very vulnerable at that age and that my understanding of the world was still generally very naive. Naturally the main concern for students at the time was protecting the reputation of the school. This was seen in the online conflicts on Slipped Disc every time a new article was published about Chet’s.
After many years those feelings still exist (though diluted), and I now realise that Chet’s didn’t do anything to support students who were at the school when all this was happening. There was no guidance on how to tackle news reports; no formal discussion about who had been affected or when; no acknowledgement of wrongdoing to the students, or reassurance that we were all safe. The only pieces of guidance we ever received were in the form of Ms Moreland standing up in assembly to tell us the school was being investigated but not to worry and carry on as normal. Ms Moreland was largely out of the picture the rest of the time.
Small class sizes, rigorous curriculum and homework from age seven.
Daily spelling tests, punctuation lessons. We were always encouraged to take books from the extensive library, take care of small rodents. Science with Mr Gee, art with [X], charity awareness from Mrs. Mainprize.
Someone who really stands out from this time was the exceptional music teacher Cecilia Vadja, a Hungarian émigré and pupil of Zoltan Kodaly. She hated and struggled with the ethos of the school which is saying something, coming as she did from behind the iron curtain. I learned so much from her.
There were only six girls in juniors in 1969. Until age eleven I was called only by my surname by my classmates. I developed an aggressive, tomboyish personality as a defence mechanism.
In the early days the only option was to play football in PE. The PE teacher Mr Pessel (before [Y] joined) solved this by allowing myself and two other girls to go to the swimming pool totally unsupervised during double games. Usually a boy would appear to tell us it was time for us to change and return to lessons after morning break. On one occasion this did not happen and we appeared with wet hair much later. For this we were severely punished and made an example of in assembly when it was simply not our fault.
Mr Gee was prone to episodes of mania. I remember the whole Junior A class being forced to write lines for a whole day for some minor misdemeanour by a few pupils.
Mr Vickers acted likewise. You could be bawled at crossing the yard and summoned to his office for a uniform inspection. Offences included not having all your cardigan buttons done up or unpolished shoes.
The Matron (Mrs. Vickers) had designed the girls’ uniform. Picture ‘Call the Midwife’ circa 1955. Originally only available from Henry Barrie, it was all wool and very expensive. You could easily spot a boarding girl because this uniform was ruined, washed out in the school laundry. There was also a school cape which made it impossible to carry anything while wearing it. Imagine on public transport hauling a satchel, violin case and duffel bag with hands protruding through the two small holes in front. All topped off by a blue beret. Losing or not wearing the beret had consequences.
From the time I started in Junior B, every breaktime we played cards in the class room. The game was Beggar my Neighbour. The loser of each round had to remove an item of clothing or show their genitals for an increasing amount of time. A ‘sentry’ on the door alerted us when the teachers were returning from the staff room.
Around age ten, swimming lessons consisted of us playing underwater kiss chase in full view of the staff supervisor.
School Camp – Around 1972
The school bus driven by Mr Tyler!
Cocoa in the marquee.
Complete freedom of movement.
It was run on strict military lines by Brian Raby, with accommodation which consisted of canvas army tents.
Communal cricket and rounders.
One night I organised a group of girls to sing in a seaside talent competition in Llandudno. What the trippers made of four part Kodaly folk songs is anybody’s guess!
A bizarre holiday that quickly progressed from ‘St. Trinian’s’ to ‘Lord of the Flies’.
All previous testimony about camp is true. ‘Staking Out’ could be done in the field or worse case, ‘suspended over the bog pit’. The game ‘Split the Kipper’ was played where your legs were progressively extended to the splits position. It was played with penknives or even larger lethal knives. There was no supervision.
There were a couple of boys, who had probably just left Upper Sixth, with whom [X] spent a lot of time. Every day one of them would rub suntan cream all over her on Deganwy beach. There was a lot of tinkering with her sports car as well. In retrospect I think there was a lot more to it than this…
At night the tents became orgies as the sexes mingled. I didn’t really understand what was going on at the time as I was very young. My father paid a visit and interrupted a daytime tryst on arrival. That was the last time I was allowed to attend.
In the day we fished for crabs. At night we walked them over the top of the nearby quarry and cheered.
I wore the same clothes including underwear for ten days. Nobody noticed or cared.
I encountered some exceptional and inspiring teachers, including Mr Richie, Mr McFarlane (a true eccentric), Mr Leach (15th century polyphony anyone? & Peter Sellers comedy records), Penry Williams and Mrs James, both of whom taught history.
I would put many of the staff in this category, including my first teacher who sent me for a trial lesson with Bakst when I was thirteen. I commented ‘He looks frigid’ and she said ‘Don’t you believe it’.
[Z]. A horrible bully (and I think a former policeman) who called me arrogant and always addressed me as Mozzzzzzzart after a mispronunciation with my Lancashire accent. There was a kind of show and tell in his lesson, every week we were encouraged to bring in our favourite recordings. My Brandenburg Concerto was abruptly turned off with the comment ‘terrible recording’. This was the sort of thing that destroyed confidence in a moment. I was terribly humiliated.
[AA]. A PE teacher and Housemistress. Straight from the cast of Prisoner Cell Block H. She would drag us into the showers by our bra straps, insist we undress and watch. I remember her forcing anti-smoking medication down a girl I knew. She was a sadist.
Nobody took much notice of me musically until I was about 13. I hated practising and gradually my inbuilt talent was eroded by the daily grind. All that changed when I became a Bakst pupil. Once on this fast track my playing improved. At the same time the sex abuse started. The worst of it was lessons at his house in Prestwich, ostensibly extra work before a concert. He would put on a record, sit close on the chaise longue, grasp my hand and place it on his lap. He had a peculiar odour, a sweet sickly mixture of cologne and sweat. All the while with his (much younger, stunning) Polish wife and infant child downstairs.
At school, he did the same sort of thing but would leave the room and return ten minutes later! I won’t elaborate further, as you already know about this from other testimonies.
The point about it is that by the age of sixteen I was being encouraged by Bakst to devote myself completely to the piano. So I went to Vallins and asked if I could give up all academic work and concentrate only on performing. Amazingly he and other members of staff agreed to this despite me having done well at ‘O’ level. So for the whole of the sixth form that’s what I did, only walking into the ‘A’ level music exam on the day. What I didn’t realise was that without two ‘A’ levels I couldn’t get a grant to continue at music college. Finally my local authority relented on condition that I did another A’ level which I did at night school. This is an example of the lack of knowledge and care that occurred on Vallins’ watch.
LATER YEARS – OUT OF HOURS
Here is a description of boarding life at the time. We all smoked, every lunch and breaktime in the toilets in Girls’ Boarding House.
Sometimes there were Saturday night parties at day pupil’s houses. The school presumably imagined birthday cakes and candles but they always degenerated into a drunken sexual free for all. Liberal seventies parents often disappeared for the duration.
Some sixth form boy boarders slept in a block of classrooms with the traditional storeroom at the back of each room. This is where the home brew was made. By this time we had keys to every door in the school and at night (after a swim) we would raid the kitchen for coffee, butter, bread and many more things that would also be kept in suitcases in the storeroom. At night I often used to sleep with my boyfriend at the top of Millgate House under the eaves. Several years later Vallins found our sleeping bags up there and there was a big investigation – too late. We also used my BF’s tuba case to transport bedding and booze if we wanted to meet up in Palatine in the evening. Sometmes we would be disturbed by David Usher, Brewer’s deputy. He would rattle the door handle in frustration but could do nothing. But he was one of the good guys….
As were [House parents AA and AB], Junior House. They made a real effort to understand and help me in the sixth form but I was off the rails by then. When the school doctor put me on the pill [AB] commented “how convenient”.
At weekends I used to tell school I was visiting my father. In fact I was attending parties all over the country with my boyfriend.
He knew the date of the sixteenth birthdays of all his female students. They were always invited to celebrate outside school on that day! He struck me as a weak and repulsive individual but there was no interaction with him as I was not a string player.
His camper van was always conveniently parked outside Palatine House. I was not in his ‘clique’ so never got to know anything of his crimes.
I agree with previous comments made about the ethos of music education. I could have been good at many things given the ten thousand hours theory. Instead I was narrowcast in a musical educational experiment. I believe music is an adult emotion and that the process of cauterisation, instilling Western sonata form in young brains is a destructive act. It is the opposite of creativity. The very best can survive and flourish as musicians. The rest are gradually deprived of the thing that originally gave them joy.
I have not played the piano since 1984.
As a former Chetham’s pupil (border for six years) in the era of both H. Vickers and the then moderniser JV , I feel in a position to say how I saw the writing on the wall for the situation that is now so evident. In my early days bullying was endemic at Chetham’s, in the way it probably was in the armed forces and any other closed institution.
The school had limited resources for control of children unseen, and it was left to a hierarchical system of older boys and the staff to be the ones in charge of the micromanagement on a day to day basis.
I was slippered in the sixth form study block surrounded by onlooking prefects. The flashman of the day was warming the sole on the side of a door to make it malleable and more effective, while the prefects ate sandwiches and laughed. They even threw one at me as I waited for my punishment.
A boy sitting in an armchair on the school yard outside in winter at very low temperatures with a dressing gown only. He had been talking after lights out and this was his punishment. I sent him back to bed and an argument ensued with the staff member because I had undermined his authority!
I was threatened with a knife by a member of staff who, incorrectly, said I had been spreading rumours about him having an affair with one of the sixth form. There was absolutely no possibility to share this threat because I knew, as we all did, that stories like that would undermine the schools public image. It would be denied !! I had to live with that threat 24/7.
I could write a complete book but you get the idea…….
As JV went about his business as a moderniser he took his eye off the ball. His suggestions that the music department had autonomy is consistent with his denial of the issues for which he is responsible.
As a prefect there myself I had many occasions on which to question the suitability of the house staff.
John Vallins walked up to me as we waited on the yard one day before I left and said out of earshot of anyone else “I told you to get your bloody haircut and if you weren’t leaving in three days I would throw you out”. The venom took me aback . I had put more of my life into that place than he could imagine and it almost destroyed my feelings for the the school. His only objective was to be totally in charge. I represented the old Chethams and he wanted to expunge that establishment and for it to become a new order under his stewardship.
To conclude! If Chethams had spent more of its energy looking after its children and less after its oh so inflated status in the world of music education people like Brewer and Ling would never had been allowed to flourish. It was a breeding ground for the swamp life below the surface. The school were so busy producing brochures and fundraising new buildings to they had lost their sense of priority!
I feel ashamed to be associated with the place now. When I was there I don’t believe the grooming had started . Brewer was there in my last year but had not achieved a position of power at that time. His presence seemed minimal it seemed.
My sincere sympathies to all those young people who were affected by what became an evil regime. There were some good people working there, and this diminishes their efforts and their memories.
I was at Chet’s in the early-mid 90s. I flourished musically and academically, and was given many performance opportunities, so I was one of the lucky ones.
However, I have memories of the overly sexualised environment, and also of the prevalence of eating disorders, self-harm and even suicide attempts, particularly amongst the girls.
I was a member of Chamber Choir, and also had aural classes with Brewer, so I spent quite a lot of time with him, and remember his pervy ways. He liked the chamber choir kids, we were his pet students i think. Lots of people thought he was having a relationship with a girl in the Chamber Choir, then when she left, he moved onto RS187, which led to his dismissal in 1994.
He used to get me to sort out piles of choir music in his office in the evening after dinner, and he used to come up behind me and massage my shoulders. He was usually in school until late, probably 10 pm.
He had a copy of Madonna’s book “Sex”, which was a sort of coffee table book of soft porn photos. He seemed to be delighted to have acquired this book, and invited me to have a look at it with him. I was really embarrassed. I think he also used to go on about what a good book it was in chamber choir rehearsals, or perhaps in our aural class.
He used to sprawl on a deckchair near the entrance to Palatine House, bare-chested with these green shorts, and leer at the girls as we walked into Palatine.
In choir, he took every opportunity to be smutty and crude, and used to make innuendos all the time. We used to sing a madrigal called “Hard by a crystal fountain” and he would make a big innuendo out of this. He was really excessive about it.
We were working on Kodaly Psalmus Hungaricus, and he wanted us to be expressive on the words “este könyörgök” so he said “Have you achieved “nyörgök” today?” Nearly everything he did was framed in terms of sex.
We were well aware that he was perverted, and we used to call him Screwer Brewer. I remember being in Palatine near the string corridor, telling a friend “Oh my God, Brewer was so perverted today” then he suddenly appeared from round the corner. He had heard me, and made a big deal of me having hurt his feelings. I don’t think he was really hurt though, he was smiling at me. I just felt really awkward.
There was also amazing music-making and some wonderful academic teaching. Mr. Little was a superb, inspiring English teacher. Academic music with John Leach, Robert MacFarlane, Stuart Beer and Sam King was excellent. Brewer, although deeply flawed and predatory, was an inspiring and charismatic choir conductor, and his aural classes were fun and challenging. I think that was partly why he got away with it all for so long, and why some girls fell for his advances.
I was the first and only junior boarding girl for some time in 1969. I was 8. I arrived a couple of weeks later than the other girls and was put in a room with 3 other girls older than me. I was violently sick the first day there and totally confused by everything. I wet my bed in the first few weeks and my mattress was paraded by the housemistress Mrs Stevens, in front of the other girls.
My first memory of complete isolation when I first went there, was standing in the middle of the yard and there seemed to be no one there in the whole school. I stood there crying not knowing what to do. Eventually a woman came up and asked me what was wrong. Apparently everyone was doing prep somewhere. She sent me to the refectory and there was all the bigger children there. I sat and did some work and only days later found that I was supposed to go to the junior school for it. I’ve never forgotten that feeling of being completely abandoned.
My Mother sent me some money at one stage, there wasn’t ever a lot in our family but the same person told my Mother not to send any more as I spent it in sweets. The two day girls in the two younger junior years had been going up to ‘Matron’ for tea and biscuits when I came along. They took me with them. After I had been there twice, Matron announced that I shouldn’t come anymore as I only came for the biscuits. ( Did I mention I was starving?) I’ve never forgotten the solidarity from the other two girls, they decided to stop going too.
My Mother told me that after my first half term, I came home with a suitcase full of diarrhoea covered clothes and everything fastened with safety pins. I fainted in church one Sunday morning because I was starving, I used to go to the 9 o’clock service as well as the other one we had to go to. I would go because we got tea and toast with butter afterwards. I had dry bread at school for 5 years as the ‘axle grease’ made me violently sick. Nobody looked after me at all that first year until Mrs. Littler came. She was strict but kind and tried to be a bit of a mother to me, when my beloved Grandfather died, she took me up to her flat and also another time when I had a suspected appendix, she let me sleep in her flat to keep an eye on me.
There was also an incident with the swimming pool that was mentioned in an earlier post. We were left down in the pool 7 and 8 year olds unsupervised, whilst the boys played football , a boy would come and get us and the end of games. One time we were left down there and admonished in front of the whole school, not the master who always left us there.
There was a doctor who came to inspect the girls, only the younger ones as I remember. We would be told to strip to our pants only and lined up waiting to go into the staff common room. Matron would be standing behind the doctor and we would file forward for our “ check up” and he would look down our pants and send us on our way.
Harry Vickers and Matron were vile to me the whole time and Boss would put me down constantly and ask me why I couldn’t hold up my viola like everyone else and other comments whenever he saw me. She was almost worse, so bitchy and uncaring. Musically it was great the first year, my violin teacher was Colin Callow and he treated me really well and used to make me play little things to some of the older pupils. He left after a year( I was very sad) and I went to David Usher and I told him I wanted to swap to Viola. He was a nice man but he sacked me after 3 years as I didn’t practice enough. He couldn’t even remember teaching me in later years and remembered me as a horn player in his wind ensembles. My horn teacher was wonderful, Andrew Jones, sadly no longer with us.
Later on there was an occasion when an older girl returned to say hello and came down our corridor to see us. Mrs Orchard came up and said “ Who are you” and it was said back to her by the girl. She was told to leave and I and two others saw her out.
Later that week we were called to the common room where Mrs Orchard and Harry Vickers were. They told us off for talking behind Mrs Orchard’s back. We hadn’t.
Boss pulled down my pants, over his knee and smacked me. After that incident Boss ordered all the doors to be taken of our dorms. He would come down our corridor unannounced quite often.
I also ran away with another girl , very unsuccessfully, we laugh about it now but I was told by boss if I did it again I’d be expelled. I was deeply depressed for the rest of my time there. My form teacher in my first year in the senior school , William Clarke, otherwise known as WC or bog face, gave a report that said ‘[Redacted]’s attitude to school and life is deplorable’. I have had a complete block to do with maths and French since then because of him.
There are more stories but too many to put here. The other children were pretty great and I have really close friends from there still. One older girl was lovely to me in my first couple of terms and tried to look after me though she was young herself. She knows who she is and I am forever grateful. There was one boy I won’t forgive for bullying me, he knows who he is.
Chetham’s made me fiercely independent to start with and gave me a huge contempt for authority. It also made me hate any sort of injustice.
I gave up playing finally a few years ago after a pretty successful orchestral career but complete burn out in the end. I had been playing professionally since the age of 15. When I gave up I heaved a huge sigh of relief, I realised that I’d always done it for someone else. I still teach amongst other things. I’ve found my voice since freeing myself. I left in 74.
In my first piano lesson as a homesick twelve-year-old the teacher asked me to play a piece. When I had finished he leaned his head back in a supercilious fashion and said ‘Oh dear, what a poor admission’. He then paced around the room repeating it several times. I’m not sure that my self-esteem/confidence as a musician ever completely recovered from that moment and occasionally, I still dream about it 45 years later. It was not, however, the only instance when I was made to feel like a second rate musician who really shouldn’t have been at Chet’s. It took some time after I left to realise that my worth as a person was not inextricably linked to my merit as a musician.
I was a boarder at the school between 1982-1987. I’ll cover three areas – how much I knew in the 80’s about the abuse and the culture in general, Mr. Vallins, and [houseparent from group A].
In my first term, I was warned by older girls never to accept a ‘babysitting’ invitation from Michael Brewer for extra pocket money. When students went to his house, ostensibly to watch his kids, he didn’t go out, instead made sexual advances once the children were asleep with promises of helping their careers.
He had a camper van permanently parked on the middle of the playground and no-one on the staff questioned it. It was an open secret that he had affairs with female students.
[Cello teacher X] repeatedly asked my room-mate (aged 13) to practice naked and masturbate and to tell him how she felt. She never did and as a result he lost interest in her as a student, she begged to be a first study singer. She reported him, Brewer did nothing. [X] was an alcoholic who drank vodka in lessons then sipped men’s cologne to hide it – you could smell where [X] had been, the Palatine corridors reeked of alcohol and cheap cologne.
Two of my other life-long friends were molested by Bakst from the age of 11. One unnecessary hand under an arm to ‘assist’ fingering so he could rub a breast, on the floor to ‘help’ pedalling, hand up skirt – shall I go on? Not isolated events, but continuous. They spoke openly of it at the time. They felt they couldn’t ask for another teacher – in a culture where ‘best’ was all, he was at the top of the pedagogic tree in the piano department and Brewer couldn’t care less about harm.
Even a relatively green teenager from [redacted] who didn’t study the violin realised Chris Ling was ‘wrong’, so the claim by Vallins that academic and music staff were separate, therefore didn’t know anything about him, is ridiculous. Ling announced his arrival at school with an almighty horn tune emanating from his naff white Mazda as he passed under the Gatehouse, in front of the staff room (door always open, staff watching). His chest hair and medallions were never out of view. If that spelled wrong to a teenager, how come it didn’t to adults who were supposed to be protecting minors?
Pip Clarke, his widow, was in my class. She was showing off her engagement ring (to Ling) when she was 16. She wasn’t exactly a retiring violet, very garrulous. No teacher spotted that, heard anything?
My piano teachers were [Y] (for 2 years) and [Z] (for 3 years). [Z] was immaculate in every respect as a teacher. [Y] – in thrall to Bakst – was a horror. I learned my place at Chethams from Brewer. [Y]’s tantrums were simply proof of her exceptional ability as a teacher, she was emotional and would bring out the emotion in me.
Having bruises on an arm where you’ve been hit repeatedly with a volume of Bach’s 48, screamed at for one wrong note, my music case (bought by my father, he didn’t have much money) thrown around the room, Beethoven sonatas thrown at you, then ‘I didn’t mean it, lets go to Chloe and you can help me choose my dress for my concert comeback’ was standard fare with [Y].
John Vallins tutored me on a one-to-one basis before my Oxford Entrance exams and was my teacher for A level English. He was a misogynist of the first order and never missed an opportunity to belittle women with a plethora of Shakespearean quotes to back his argument during lessons. A girl wearing eyeshadow was a ‘concubine’, and once our texts were Anthony and Cleopatra and Lear, he was in vituperative heaven – the women were to blame for everything, the men led astray. He would examine our fingernails for signs of paint/degeneracy as he wafted through the room with halitosis, then unleash his skewed interpretations, never at fault, never to be questioned.
Aged 17, I knew him to be morally stupid, but very aware. So fixated by sex would have made him doubly aware of anyone else enjoying it on his territory. By the Upper Sixth Form, [houseparents B] requested I be Head of House and Head Girl. When [houseparents A] arrived they behaved as if royalty from the first day, [redacted information]. They took one look at me, it was a case of mutual detestation. I think they knew I saw through them instantly.
Within a week, my having a period so bad I was bent double, according to them meant I was unfit to lead. I was stripped of head girl, prefect and head of house titles. My parents phoned – Vallins ‘it’s not up to me.’ The [houseparents A] never accepted phone calls from my parents and never responded. I had never broken a school rule.
Twice weekly, [houseparent A] would find me to humiliate me, always when no-one else was present, sitting on the end of my bed. That it was such a pity I had no class, that my clothes were so poor, and that was why I’d never understand that Oxford was beyond me.
When it came to my Oxford entrance exam, on a Monday, given permission by Vallins to go home early the previous Friday, I found my suitcase had disappeared from my room when I was about to go home. There was no note. I thought it had been stolen, all my notes in it, I ran up to the [houseparents A]’ flat to report it. I was asked to step inside with a smile.
The [houseparents A] had removed it. Because I’d been given permission to go home early by Vallins, they didn’t approve of. it They kept me there for two hours, instructed me in humility, Mr [houseparent A]’s low-brow effort was:
‘Do you know what an anarchist is?’
‘Yes – ‘
‘You’re a failed one as long as we are here.’
In the interim, my father, 66, waiting for 4 hours at the unmanned [redacted] Station, which not seeing me arrive from a train, began to panic. No mobile phones. Mother beginning to panic. My father had had two cardiac arrests. I arrived home, having left Manchester at 7pm instead of 3pm, around midnight. For no reason other than cruelty and schadenfreude.
Why didn’t my parents complain? For the same reason no-one else did – Vallins could be threatening by doing nothing.
[Houseparent A] continued to bully me on my academic achievement, music, my appearance, my parents’ class throughout my final year. Mainly by using her daughter as a comparison.
‘You know why [daughter] will always be a success?’
‘No. I’m not sure.’
‘[Daughter] is special. You have to be special to go to Oxford. You are not – the sooner you accept this, the sooner you will be happy. [Daughter] has a something you’ll never understand.’
This happened every week during my last year. On the edge of my bed with an insincere smile wishing me ill.
How I dealt with that was to leave Chethams every weekend. The [houseparents A] were thick, they refused to accept that the people they bullied were far brighter than they were.I spent every Saturday in London – an early train, The Tate, The British Museum, a Simon Gray matinee – or Yorkshire, in Top Withens, that walk from Emily Bronte’s Parsonnage. Anyone notice I was gone? No. So how did the [houseparents A] notice who was harmed?
My mother is a retired secondary school literature teacher, now 83, who had a mini stroke a few weeks ago and is still far from well. She sacrificed much to make up the difference in the fees not covered by my government grant. Listening to the evidence given about [houseparent A] made her BP shoot through the roof (I have to check it several times a day). She felt it was necessary to listen to it as she had entrusted me to her care and knew how cruelly I’d been treated by her.
Thirty-two years on, [houseparent A]’s odious neglect of student welfare is still causing harm and distress. She and her husband were utterly unfit to be house parents. I understand [daughter of houseparent A] is no longer Deputy Head. That is a source of some comfort; I cannot believe the apple fell so far from its poisoned branch given the culture of entitlement that existed in that family while at the school.
I am only one of hundreds of students seriously hurt by staff at Chethams.
I was in year 5 at Chetham’s in 1962, which is the year the bullying and abuse became unbearable, and I walked out. The bullying began on my first day, before registration, when I was singled out by Arthur George for negative comments, including being called Phyllis. The bullying became worse, escalating to sexual abuse, and Operation Kiso, (to whom many thanks) recorded two crimes as having been committed against me, by Arthur George and Donald Clarke. No further action could be taken, as both are deceased. One of my peers in year 5 has remained in continuous contact with the school, until recently being involved with the governance of the school. For the school to deny that abuse has happened, continuously, since the 1950’s is deceitful and hugely personally distressing.
I was a scholarship student at Chet’s between 1996 and 2000. I wasn’t sexually abused, but am still dealing with the effects of the emotional and physical abuse, mostly at the hands of the houseparents and my piano teacher (a female). When I complained that my piano teacher had slapped me hard across the face (when she caught me doing my maths homework in practise time), and would often dig her nails into my arms in lessons, the houseparent told me to stop bothering people with “my chavvy drama” otherwise my scholarship would be in danger.
This houseparent and her husband (a French teacher there at the time) regularly mocked, humiliated and belittled me, to the point where I became a pariah to the other girls who were scared of it happening to them too, and who started to join in the bullying to curry favour with them. When we had pizza or icecream treats, there were always reasons why I “didn’t deserve them” and was made to sit alone at the back of the room whilst the others enjoyed a treat; they would inform me that letters had arrived for me by post, then would withhold them for weeks. On my 16th birthday, my gifts, cards and flowers were kept from me for so long, the flowers were given to me dead and wilted. I was constantly told that I was worthless, and mocked for being stupid (my GCSE results said otherwise), untalented (my future career said otherwise), fat (have issues with eating to this day) and “ridiculous” (they mocked my high voice and accent and often imitated me even when just answering the register). The wife pushed me into walls, grabbed my hair and stopped my from using the phone to call home if I was crying or she thought I would tell and would sit by the phone to control what I said to my parents. Once on a Saturday outing, I had an icecream cone in my hand, and the husband hit my hand so that my icecream hit my in the face, to make the other students laugh. They constantly threatened me with my scholarship and place at the school and how much it would embarrass my family and end my career in music.
One time, I woke up to find my long hair cut partially in chunks while I was sleeping. It was Alton Towers day, so she gave me a cap, told me to tuck my hair up and sort it out myself the next day. No effort was ever made to find out who did it, or to comfort me and take me to sort my hair out. At one point, she had me sent to live in the sick bay for half a term under some excuse, completely excluding me from the other kids.
My piano teacher also told me how untalented I was, how a scholarship was wasted on me, hitting me on the hands with rulers, pushed me off a piano stool, and would often come into my practise room and slap me – quite often, I would spend practise time sobbing at the piano, and if she saw that I was in for it. It totally affected my love of playing and I soon lost interest and did anything I could to get out of performing, for fear of the repercussions behind closed doors, or the mockery.
Now that I’m an adult and a teacher myself, I can’t believe how they justified any of this, and how they got away with it. It still affects me to this day in terms of self-confidence, feelings of being undeserving, and I’m still working through the trauma. The school on my CV does wonders for me, but I would have preferred to stay in my little rural hometown with a piano teacher who didn’t hit me around and better adults for role models. The headteacher, head of piano, other house-staff and teachers all told me either that I was mistaken, exaggerating, or to not make trouble for myself by speaking out. That was the culture at Chet’s.
I only recently tried reading other people’s accounts of abuse, I’ve stayed away from it all because I couldn’t cope with the memories. I hope that anyone else abused there, sexually, physically, emotionally, or other, have found happiness in their lives now. Much love.
TRIGGER WARNING: This blog contains links to disturbing material relating to the sexual abuse of children.
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) held their hearings into specialist music schools this past week (30 November – 4 October 2019). As one who gave evidence to this inquiry (on 1 October) I do not wish to post any comments on this until after the reports have been produced (which will not be until 2020). However, I would like to post links to all the appropriate videos, transcripts and other documents which are now public.
The first day saw, amongst other things, important opening statements from Counsel to the Inquiry Fiona Scolding QC, and lawyer Richard Scorer, representing various former students at Chetham’s and myself. The following is the video (with this as with all videos, one may need to scroll forward through some blank screen).
The transcript of Day One can be read and downloaded in two parts, here and here.
Day Two saw the testimonies of A1 and A2, former students of Chris Ling at Chetham’s, then that of former Head Teacher (1974-1992) John Vallins, then my own testimony (at around 4h in), then more from Vallins, and that from his successor (1992-99), Peter Hullah.
Day Three saw evidence from another Chetham’s head (1999-2016), Clare Moreland, then from Independent Educational Consultant Elizabeth Coley and Chief Inspector of ISI, Kate Richards, followed by Specialist advisor for residential care, OFSTED, Helen Humphreys. The afternoon saw Helen Bennett, former DSL (Designated Safeguarding Lead) at Wells Cathedral School, and Alastair Tighe, Head Teacher at the school.
Day Four saw evidence from Richard Hillier, former Head Teacher at the Yehudi Menuhin School, and Joanne Field, the current DSL at the school. In the afternoon, there was evidence from Peter Crook, former Principal of the Purcell School, and Graham Smallbone, former Chair of Governors for the school.
Day Five saw evidence from former Purcell School teacher and whistleblower Margaret Moore, and current principal Paul Bambrough. The afternoon saw evidence from Yasemin Wigglesworth, Executive Officer of AEGIS, and Dale Wilkins, Head of Safeguarding for the Boarding Schools Association.
Day Nine also saw mention of Chetham’s in the context of questions about DBS checks claimed not have been undertaken upon one teacher in 2008 until three months after she began teaching. Here is the video of this day.
And the afternoon session of Day Ten saw the closing statement by Kim Harrison of Slater and Gordon, relating to Chetham’s, and also a statement from Chetham’s lawyer. This begins at around 4h 32m 50′ here:
The inquiry has also published some sections from the numerous written statements and documents submitted to the inquiry. These can be accessed here . I am hoping that a full set of complete documents will be published on the website in due course.
This series of hearings, and those for next week (7-11 October 2019, looking at different schools, though with concluding statements on Friday 11 October which will refer back to this week’s hearings), constitute Phase One of the Investigation into Residential Schools. Phase Two will take place during 11-22 May 2020. The inquiry is urging all survivors and victims of child sexual abuse to share their experiences, and a link is given on this page.
Presently I will also add links to the bottom of this page of media and online reports of the hearings.
Statement regarding the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) 27 September 2019
Chetham’s School of Music is giving its full co-operation into the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.
It is a matter of deep and profound regret to Chetham’s that former teachers at our School betrayed and manipulated the trust that had been placed in them in order to harm children for which we are truly sorry.
Chetham’s Principal Alun Jones ensured Chetham’s applied for Core Participant status so it could participate as fully as possible in the Inquiry. He has made it clear that the School will help the Inquiry as much as it possibly can.
Chetham’s will be one of four residential music schools providing evidence to the Inquiry due to the police investigations and convictions of child sexual abuse relating to the School. These include the conviction of its former Director of Music in 2013 and the high profile police investigation into child sexual abuse by a former violin teacher.
The School overhauled its building and safeguarding practices and procedures. Chetham’s is sorry it did not do more to provide emotional support to the victims and survivors of abuse and their families.
Mr Jones said: “I inherited a school with a troubled past, but which thankfully was in exceptional health when I arrived. In terms of the School building and safeguarding procedures we’ve made huge improvements and continue to keep them under review.
“I welcome this Inquiry. Victims and survivors of child sexual abuse need to know that they are being listened to and that changes happen as a result of what they say. As Principal of Chetham’s I have a duty of care to our current and future students to make sure we also do everything possible to learn from victims and survivors’ experiences.”
Further enquiries: Alun Jones, Principal
Via Lesley Haslam, PA: email@example.com, 0161 838 7214
Following the hearings on 1 October, the Principal, Alun Jones then issued the following:
Comment from Chetham’s Principal Alun Jones after attending Day Two of the Residential Schools Hearing of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA) 01 October 2019
“What I have heard today has been shocking and distressing and it is clear that serious errors of judgement were made at our School.
“My task as the current Principal of Chetham’s is to make sure we learn all possible lessons from what we heard today.
“I am deeply and truly sorry that teachers at our School abused their position of trust to hurt young people. Current parents and students would not recognise what was said at the Inquiry today as the School they know – but this is of no consolation to victims and survivors.
“As the head of a school you have responsibility for what happens under your leadership. No amount of musical ability comes before the wellbeing of my students. I regularly speak to students about the importance of speaking up and out if they believe something is wrong. Parents, staff and students know Chetham’s is a telling school where everyone looks out for each other. This was clearly not the case at the School in the past – as we heard today. Students should have been supported and listened to and their concerns acted upon.
“I am deeply sorry the School did not do more to provide emotional support to the victims and survivors of abuse and their families. I would welcome any victims and survivors of abuse at Chetham’s getting in touch with me if they feel it can help to rectify some of the appalling mistakes of the past.”
At some point in the future, I will try and collate all links to articles about Chetham’s since the Michael Brewer trial in 2013 in one blog post. In the meantime, many links can be found in the following earlier articles:
None of the cases of abuse in musical education (see my earlier post on the subject), however, would command anything like the same degree of shock and public attention as the trial, conviction and sentencing of Michael and Kay Brewer in 2013, which has served as a major catalyst for a wider debate on the dangers of abuse in musical education. As mentioned earlier, Michael Brewer had been Director of Music at Chetham’s since 1975, appointed at the age of just 30 to the most senior musical position in the school, and had remained in that position until resigning in 1994 (though he was still working on some collaborative projects with two teams from Chetham’s in coaching and leading workshops for hearing and vision-impaired children on a project based around Sir Michael Tippett’s A Child of our Time in 2005 – see Susan Elkin, ‘Breaking sound barriers’, Daily Mail, 29/3/05). The complainant, Frances Andrade, nee Shorney, who studied at Chetham’s as a boarder from 1978 to 1982 (leaving at the age of 17), had been known for some time to others concerned about abuse in musical education for her own campaigning activities. After hearing about Roscoe’s stance against Layfield in 2002, Andrade contacted Roscoe, to tell him about her abuse at the hands of Brewer (As revealed by Roscoe interviewed by Channel 4 News, 26/3/13). She had been pursuing the cases not only of Brewer but also various other teachers at Chet’s, and had spoken both to police and the Headteacher at Chetham’s, Clare Moreland (previously Claire Hickman) about these (Information communicated to the author by e-mail from a close friend of Andrade, February 2013; also through communications with Martin Roscoe and others).
In 2009 (sometimes reported as the summer of 2011), Andrade had confided in a friend, singing teacher Jenevora Williams, who worked with choirs in St Paul’s and Westminster Abbey, and was teacher-in-residence at the National Youth Choir of Great Britain (NYCGB), that she had been sexually abused by Michael Brewer and his then-wife Kay from the age of 14 when at Chetham’s (Nick Britten and Duncan Gardham ‘Frances Andrade ‘traumatised’ by reliving abuse of 30 years ago’, The Telegraph, 8/2/13; Russell Jenkins & Lucy Bannerman, ‘Choirmaster’s victim wanted to put past behind her’, The Times, 9/2/13; Nick Britten, ‘Suicide of choirmaster’s victim’, The Telegraph, 9/2/13; Tom Henderson and James Tozer, ‘Choirmaster who abused girls and the twisted wife who joined in’, Daily Mail, 9/2/13; James Tozer and Nazia Parveen, ‘Ordeal of Rape Trial’, Daily Mail, 9/2/13). Brewer was at this time still the principal conductor of NYCGB (of which singers ranged between the ages of 9 and 22), which he himself had co-founded and served as artistic director since 1983 (see ‘National Youth Choir’ and also this site); he was also internationally well-known for his choral work with young people and led the BBC programme Last Choir Standing in 2008 (see ‘Interview with Mike Brewer’, BBC, 17/7/08). Without Andrade’s permission, Williams (whose daughter Andrade was teaching violin) took this information to the police in 2011, on account of fear for the safety of children with whom Brewer was still working, saying later ‘I’d been wrestling with my conscience as to the most appropriate course of action…I knew raking it up would cause difficulties for people but I am a teacher and disclosure of sexual abuse is something we are trained to deal with’ (see Williams’ one interview after the verdict, in James Murray and Eugene Henderson, ‘I told police of abuser to save other children’, Sunday Express, 10/2/13.). Andrade would come to say in court that she was ‘being put under pressure to give evidence’ (ibid).
Michael Brewer was arrested around August 2011 (see Lucy Bannermann and Richard Morrison, ‘Paedophile choirmaster Michael Brewer worked with children after his arrest’, The Times, 15/2/13, in which it is asserted that there was an eight month gap between Brewer’s arrest and being charged), and following the police investigation, both he and Kay Brewer were charged with rape and multiple cases of indecent assault in April 2012 (Kim Pilling, ‘Choir Director charged with rape’, Press Association Mediapoint, 27/4/12. At the time of the arrest, one former Chetham’s student, Kathryn Turner, wrote as a comment on the blog of Norman Lebrecht that ‘Sexual abuse by staff was endemic at Chetham’s school which I attended between 1969-1980’. See Lebrecht, ‘Dreadful news: Chethams teacher and wife are charged with student rape’, Slipped Disc, 27/4/12). The NYCGB suspended Brewer from his position following his being charged and quickly issued a statement on behalf of their chairman of trustees, Professor Chris Higgins, that ‘These allegations relate to events over 30 years ago, before the choir was founded, and have nothing to do with the NYCGB nor Mike’s time as artistic director’ (‘Choir Director charged with student while at top music school’, The Telegraph, 28/4/12). Chetham’s themselves, understandably unable to comment on any specifics following the arrest, issued the following statement:
“Chetham’s School of Music takes all matters regarding the safeguarding of children extremely seriously and the welfare of our students is of paramount concern to all staff and governors.
“We are aware that Michael Brewer has been charged with offences that are alleged to have happened while he was employed by the school many years ago.
“We are co-operating with this investigation but while this matter is ongoing it would not be appropriate to comment further.” (cited in Russell Jenkins, ‘Music school couple in court on rape charge’, The Times, 8/6/12).
The trial of the Brewers took place beginning on January 15th, 2013, with Michael Brewer charged with one case of rape and 13 counts of indecent assault, and Kay Brewer charged with one count of indecent assault and aiding and abetting rape. Brewer was alleged to have regularly sexually abused Andrade in his office, touching her private parts, in his camper van, kept on school grounds, whilst he would also ask her to perform oral sex upon him outside of school, sometimes by a canal. She herself was said to have felt at the time, as a vulnerable teenager, that the abuse was a ‘small price to pay for the affection’; he had used ‘his power, influence and personality to seduce her’, using ‘flattery and affection’; Peter Cadwallader, prosecuting, had described Brewer’s personality as ‘dynamic and very charismatic’. After Kay Brewer had learned about Michael’s sexual interactions with Andrade, she was said to have confronted her when she visited their house (which appeared to be a regular occurrence, including after Andrade had left the school, at which time this particular event was said to have occurred), and said that she herself (Kay) had always wanted a sexual relationship with a woman, and so that Andrade ‘owed her’. Despite Andrade’s protestations that she was not interested, Kay made her go upstairs and performed sexual activity upon her, with Michael present and Andrade tied to a bed loosely with a belt (though apparently able to escape if required); after this Andrade was required to show Kay what she had done with Michael earlier, and he had non-consensual sexual intercourse with her. From the beginning of the trial, it was made clear that Andrade had had a troubled childhood, and was rebellious and drawn to drink from a young age, though was academically and musically talented (Kim Pilling, ‘Music School Boss denies Rape’, Press Association Mediapoint, 15/1/13; Russell Jenkins, ‘Choir director and wife ‘sexually assaulted pupil’’, The Times, 15/1/13).
Furthermore, Brewer was said to have pinned another 17-year old girl to a wall during a school trip, telling her ‘you want it really, don’t you?’, though no sexual activity resulted after the girl ran off, and had had a sexual affair with a further girl, then aged 16 in the early 1990s (involving highly explicit comments about her legs and breasts, leading to her being asked to strip topless, and Brewer exposing himself when she was in his office), leading to his being asked to resign from the school after being discovered by the then-headmaster (Peter Hullah) (Pilling, ‘Music School Boss denies Rape’).
Andrade herself first appeared in court on the second and third days (January 16th and 17th – see Chal Milmo, ‘Violinist found dead after testifying against her abuser’, The Independent, 8/2/13) and told the court that she now realised that she was in the hands of paedophiles, detailing how her relationship with Brewer had proceeded from kisses through intimate touching to full sex (intensifying when she was 15), with Brewer using various techniques of flattery and seduction, saying:
I felt nurtured in many ways, I felt cared for. I felt special, I was very flattered. I did not feel at the time I was a victim. It was a relationship that developed in a completely normal way. We would kiss, he would touch me.
Andrade also revealed how she had earlier been abused by an uncle as a child, and had not known any type of other relationship before Brewer. She described how he liked her to perform oral sex upon him whilst he drove, and how Kay Brewer apparently knew everything and also said how she ‘loved’ her. After leaving the school to study abroad, she continued to receive letters from Brewer, but lost interest after finding a new boyfriend. Andrade said that she had relegated the abuse to ‘a place where I could emotionally handle things’, traumatised by those others who would be affected by it, and had initially not wanted to go to the police herself, but had changed her perspective after being asked by detectives if the allegations were true. She was apparently suspended from the school for bad behaviour, and at this point had gone to live with the Brewer family (see below for further information on this which came to the author’s attention subsequent to the trial), and would travel with them on holiday and stay with them rather than other pupils on school trips. She also described Kay Brewer asking her to touch her breasts after undergoing reduction surgery. She had also confronted Brewer in 2002 about what he had done at the time of the Layfield affair, and given him an ultimatum to confess to the police (which he did not do) (Kim Pilling, ‘Woman tells of Music Boss Sex Abuse’, Press Association Mediapoint, 16/1/13; Russell Jenkins, ‘Choir leader sexually abused musician, court hears’, The Times, 16/1/13). She affirmed that it had been a friend who had told police, and that she had initially been unhappy (Jenkins, ‘Choir leader sexually abused musician’; a further report, James Tozer and Mario Ledwith, ‘Choirmaster began relationship with rape victim when she was just 14’, Daily Mail, 16/1/13, suggests that she told a ‘doctor’ about this, and that person told police, but this is probably just a confusion arising from the fact that Williams possessed a doctorate), whilst also mentioning that she had thought Brewer to be the ‘bee’s knees’ and a special teacher ‘who needed to be worshipped’ by pupils (James Tozer, ‘Choirmaster tied girl aged 16 to his bed and raped her while his wife watched’, Daily Mail, 16/1/13). Also especially notable in terms of Andrade’s perception of Brewer’s legitimising of abuse from other teachers was the following comment, made in the context of discussing Layfield:
This was where my anger came out. Several friends of mine had been raped. I rang Mike and blamed him for it, because he was having a relationship with me and hid what was going on at the school because of it. (cited in ‘I was subjected to brutal sex attack by former Chets boss and his wife’, Manchester Evening News, 17/1/13).
The following day, however, Andrade underwent intensive cross-examination at the hands of defence counsel for Michael Brewer, Kate Blackwell QC, who told the complainant that she was ‘indulging in the realms of fantasy’ and that she had ‘told this jury a complete pack of lies about the visit to this house’ (referring to the night when the rape was alleged to have taken place), asking how she could have ‘spent the night lying next to two of your rapists?’ Andrade replied in strong terms, claiming that she had felt guilty, had not known how to get out of the situation, and attacking Blackwell for having ‘no feminine understanding of what someone goes through like that. What shock your body goes through. How you almost feel you deserve it’. Bernadette Baxter, who represented Kay Brewer, also suggested that the allegations were ‘a complete fantasy’ which were ‘designed to get attention’, to which Andrade replied ‘If I wanted attention I would have done this an awfully long time ago’. One interesting detail from this day’s proceedings, however, was Brewer’s admission that ‘I’m always in a room with an adult now because I recognise I have a problem with being attracted to younger girls’ (Kim Pilling, ‘Woman ‘lied over choir boss rape”, Press Association Mediapoint, 17/1/13).
After Andrade’s defence of her own allegations, things went worse for Brewer the following day, January 18th, with the appearance in court of the woman who as a girl at Chetham’s (becoming head girl) had had a sexual relationship with him in 1994. Evoked by the prosecution in order to prove a pattern of unhealthy interest on Brewer’s part in teenage girls, the woman claimed that whilst she did not see the affair at the time as abuse (and recalled Brewer saying to her ‘I would not want you to think I am abusing my position’, which she then agreed he was not), but saw things somewhat differently now. She portrayed a rather sordid world of encounters in Brewer’s office and practice rooms, then how she attempted to end it before going to university, with Brewer resisting this, then described him exposing himself to her, being bought presents including matching watches (and also being given Winnie the Pooh books by Kay), and how he had admitted to her being involved with one other pupil (having frequently made comments about various pupils), who he called a ‘bad girl who seduced me into bed’. Then they were found together in Brewer’s office by Hullah (after a housemistress had been alerted, who herself started to listen at doors), leading to Brewer’s resignation, after which point he tried further to contact her, which she also resisted. In conversations with the authorities, the then-girl and Brewer agreed to maintain that their relationship consisted entirely of hugging and kissing, and it became agreed by Hullah (who appeared in court the same day) after he had discovered the two that a different reason would be given for Brewer’s resignation. Hullah himself described Brewer as ‘zany and unpredictable’ but with a ‘reputation as a highly professional voice trainer’, who apparently helped pupils with personal problems and strove to help them achieve high things (Kim Pilling, ‘Music Teacher ‘fondled student’, Press Association Mediapoint, 18/1/13. I personally recall it being suggested by some individuals (including a then-teacher at the school) at the time of Brewer’s resignation that this was due to some type of scam he had going with a manufacturer of strings or bows).
Following another day of proceedings, January 23rd, in which Michael Brewer mostly spoke to his defence counsel about his feelings of desolation at the break-up of his relationship with the girl in 1994 (using the phrase that he ‘effectively committed suicide’ after the girl’s mother recorded and passed to Hullah a phone conversation, in which Brewer promised to protect the girl for her remaining time at school), resignation (but then being awarded the OBE very soon afterwards) and also gave his own description of Andrade:
I saw her as a very talented, vivacious musician but I was already aware of her problems and her lack of discipline. She found practice very difficult.
Her creativity was exceptional and her application was really poor.
She was vivacious, dynamic, commanding on stage (but) underneath was insecure, depressive, hysterical and a fantasist.
Brewer went on to deny the charges of sexual abuse (or any sexual encounters) with Andrade, and alluded to the phone call he had received in 2001 [sic] from her accusing him of abusing her and calling for him to give himself up to the police, saying that he had contacted a solicitor and been advised not to respond until he received something in writing. Otherwise he mostly went on to describe his earlier life and career (Kim Pilling, ‘I was in love with teen – choir man’, Press Association Mediapoint, 23/1/13. By this time the number of press articles reporting the trial was increasing, but most of them essentially reiterated some of the material provided by the Press Association).
Perhaps most significant in this day’s proceedings was the fact that Judge Martin Rudland ordered that five of the charges of indecent assault upon a child must be recorded as not guilty due to insufficient evidence about the age of Andrade at the time of the allegations (ibid). This left eight further counts of indecent assault and a rape charge, but it is believed by some that the information about the dropped charges was received by Andrade (now back at her home in Guildford, following the trial through the media) that evening, leading her erroneously to believe that all charges had been dropped. At some point that evening or night, Andrade took her own life via an overdose , without leaving a suicide note; an iPad was found on her bed next to her by her husband Levine, with a story saying how these five charges had been dropped (Her body was found on January 24th. See Milmo, ‘Violinist found dead after testifying against her abuser’).
The extent to which Andrade’s death was provoked by this misunderstanding , or by trauma induced by being branded a fantasist and described in such unflattering terms by Brewer that day, or for that matter in response to Brewer’s own metaphorical evocation of the notion of suicide (bearing in mind that Andrade had had a previous history of suicide attempts) remains unclear, even after the recent inquest in which the coroner felt unable to deliver a verdict of suicide, on the grounds that he was unsure Andrade intended to kill herself (see Gemma Mullin, ‘Coroner slams mental health services for failing concert violinist who dies days after giving evidence against predatory paedophile former choirmaster’, Daily Mail, 25/7/14; Andy Crick, ‘Suicide is ruled out on victim of pervert’, The Sun, 26/7/14; ‘Violinist Frances Andrade ‘failed’ by mental health services’, BBC News England, 25/7/14; ‘Violinist Frances Andrade ‘did not kill herself”, BBC News UK, 25/7/14). However, news of the death quickly spread around the music world – together with the clear knowledge that this must not be mentioned publicly until after a verdict (and would be kept secret from the jury) – causing widespread shock and horror.
As the judge struggled with dealing with the fact of the chief complainant having taken her own life during the course of the trial, no further proceedings ensued until January 29th. Also at this stage, some further private discussions developed between myself, Roscoe, another woman who was a contemporary of mine at Chetham’s, D, and Philippa Ibbotson, a freelance musician and also occasional columnist on musical matters (but who had also written an article on sexual abuse – Philippa Ibbotson, ‘The hidden offenders’, The Guardian, 3/9/08) for the Guardian. I had already resolved at this stage to organise a petition calling for a public inquiry into abuse at Chetham’s and possibly elsewhere, having been aware of the allegations about Ling for over 20 years, and knowing some things also about Layfield, as well as recalling from my time at the school various male teachers having had sexual relationships with sixth-form girls (and in one case a woman having had a relationship with a boy); some of this was at the time gossip and hearsay, but often relatively clear to many who saw some of the ‘couples’ together, their body language and so on.
The editor of The Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, had been a pupil at Cranleigh School whilst John Vallins, headmaster of Chetham’s from 1974 to 1992, had been a housemaster and English teacher there; Rusbridger had invited Vallins to write a regular Country Diary for the newspaper following the headmaster’s retirement (John Vallins, ‘The Countryman and the Editor’, Cranleigh Contact No. 33 (April 2007), p. 5), which still continues to the present day. Nonetheless, Rusbridger was prepared to back comprehensive coverage not only of the continuing Brewer trial, but also wider stories about Chetham’s to be published after the trial’s conclusion. During the following two weeks, Ibbotson worked together with the young Northern editor of the paper, Helen Pidd, in consultation with Roscoe, myself and D (all of whom had connections to networks of former alumni from the school), determined to use this opportunity to reveal more of the wider abuse which had gone on at Chetham’s, concentrating above all on the cases of Layfield, Ling and Bakst (about whom evidence was coming to light of widespread groping and molestation of the majority of his female students over a period of almost three decades), seeking first-hand accounts such as would be demanded by The Guardian’s lawyers before allowing named accusations to be printed.
The trial finally resumed on January 29th with now relatively banal denials and cross-examinations of Michael Brewer by the prosecuting counsel concerning both the affair with Andrade and the former head girl in 1994, in which Brewer denied the former and minimised the extent of the latter (though admitting ‘chats’ with her when she was stripped to the waist) he did however admit that Andrade had stayed with his family at their house in Chorlton, south Manchester, allegedly because she had become too disruptive to remain in boarding (Pat Hurst, ‘No interest in schoolgirls: accused’, Press Association Mediapoint, 29/1/13; Helen Pidd, ‘Choir master accused of raping girl admits affair with another pupil’, The Guardian, 29/1/13; Russell Jenkins, ‘Music director enjoyed ‘wonderful’ chats with student stripped to the waist’, The Times, 29/1/13). Kay Brewer appeared in court the following day and tearfully denied any sexual contact with Andrade when questioned about the alleged rape, but admitting giving the girl in 1994 the Winnie the Pooh book, inscribed with a comment ‘Don’t worry about things, he is just a normal human being with all the same insecurities and doubts as you, love Kay’. By this time Michael and Kay Brewer had become estranged), and Kay described how she hoped this would provide another lasting relationship for him, whilst denying that he slept around and drawing attention to her own churchgoing activities (Kim Pilling, ‘Ex-wife denies ‘abetting’ rape’, Press Association Mediapoint, 30/1/13; Chris Riches, ‘Tearful wife denies helping choirmaster to rape girl, 18’, The Express, 31/1/13).
Earlier that week, the former Deputy Headmaster of Chetham’s, Brian Raby (who had retired in 1985), had been scheduled to appear as a character witness for Michael Brewer, but was dropped in favour of John Vallins, who was asked if aware of Brewer’s indiscretions with Andrade being ‘the talk of the school’, and of the deputy head calling in various students to make inquiries, both of which Vallins denied, saying of the later ‘I feel confident he would have passed on to me anything like that if he thought it merited serious concern’ (Pilling, ‘Ex-wife denies ‘abetting rape”).
Other figures provided character references for both of the Brewers. Lady Eatwell OBE, previously Suzi Digby nee Watts, founder of The Voices Foundation and conductor of multiple choirs, as well as a former judge on the BBC show Last Choir Standing which featured Brewer so prominently, spoke of him as ‘the world’s biggest influence in choral music for the young’, who had made the UK choral movement ‘one of the jewels in our crown’. Eatwell said that ‘Mike’ was ‘deeply concerned with the development of young people’, that ‘His personal integrity is 100 percent intact’ and ‘I’ve never heard a hint of impropriety’ (Riches, ‘Tearful wife denies helping choirmaster to rape girl, 18’). Conductor, flautist and music teacher Anastasia Micklethwaite described Brewer as a ‘wonderful man’ who had been an ‘inspiration to thousands of musicians across the world’, whilst harpsichordist Robyn Koh, a contemporary of Andrade’s at Chetham’s who had become her birthing partner and godparent to her sons, claimed Andrade had been known for being ‘prone to exaggeration’, and had never told her of being abused by the Brewers (Helen Pidd, ‘Ex-wife knew choirmaster accused of rape had affair with another student’, The Guardian, 30/1/13). Two different priests, Rev Richard Gilpin of St Clement Church in Cholrton, and Rev Stephen Brown of St Peter’s in Haslingden, spoke up for Kay Brewer, calling her ‘a very caring and responsible person’ and ‘sensitive, reliable and trustworthy’ (Riches, ‘Tearful wife denies helping choirmaster to rape girl, 18’; ‘Vicars in praise of shamed pair’, The Express, 9/2/13). Brewer’s second (and current) wife Sandra called Andrade ‘manic, hysterical and very loud’ when she had called and demanded to speak to her in 2001, but said that Brewer had revealed his relationship leading him to leave the school, and called him ‘a gentleman’ (‘Choirmaster admits being in love with sixth former’, Manchester Evening News, 30/1/13). Jenevora Williams, however, appeared to attest to her reasons for going forward to the police with the information provided her by Andrade (claiming that Andrade had agreed that she could pass on her name), and the moral dilemma she had faced, though also pointing out that she knew of no present incidents involving Brewer (Kim Pilling, ‘Teacher ‘wrestled with conscience”, Press Association Mediapoint, 8/2/13. This release is somewhat misleading as it gives the impression that Andrade had appeared again in court, when she was already dead by this point).
After a further delay occasioned by a juror having to be absent for several days, the jury retired following summings-up. Following two days of deliberations, they returned with a verdict on February 8th, finding Brewer guilty of five of the charges of sexual assault, and Kay Brewer guilty of one, though clearing both of the charge of rape (Nick Britten, ‘Woman sexually assaulted by choirmaster killed herself after giving evidence against him’, The Telegraph, 8/2/13).
The Aftermath of the Brewer Trial – Further Information on Chetham’s and Elsewhere
Press coverage following the verdict was overwhelmingly focused upon the dreadful news of Andrade’s death (See Nick Britten, ‘Woman sexually assaulted by choirmaster killed herself after giving evidence against him’, The Telegraph, 8/2/13; Nick Britten and Duncan Gardham, ‘Frances Andrade ‘traumatised’ by reliving abuse of 30 years ago’, The Telegraph, 8/2/13; Russell Jenkins and Lucy Bannermann, ‘Sex abuse victim killed herself after trial ordeal’, The Times, 9/2/13; Nick Britten and Duncan Gardham, ‘Destroyed by reliving abuse she hid for 30 years’, The Telegraph, 9/2/13.), which could now be published (and Andrade could be named as she was dead). Her son Oliver (one of four children) revealed his mother’s earlier suicide attempts, and claimed that her death had come about as a result of her having been called a ‘liar’ and ‘fantasist’ at the court. He also revealed that she had been advised by police not to receive any type of therapy until after the end of the case, which had dragged on for almost two years and become a big strain, and went onto criticise various aspects of the court system in such cases (Lauren Turner and Kim Pilling, ‘Teacher ‘let down’ by court system’, Press Association Mediapoint, 8/2/13; Kim Pilling and Emma Clark, ‘CPS defends itself over abuse case’, Press Association Mediapoint, 9/2/13), criticisms which were taken up by numerous other commentators, some focusing upon the harsh cross-examination she had undergone at the hands of Kate Blackwell, and various drawing upon comments from police chiefs, lawyers, politicians and rape counsellors (see Cahal Milmo, ‘Violinist found dead after testifying against her abuser’, The Independent, 8/2/13; James Tozer and Nadia Parveen, ”This feels like rape all over again’: Violinist driven to suicide by ordeal of trial after being branded a ‘liar and fantasist’ by woman QC’, Daily Mail, 8/2/13; Joan Smith, ‘For the victim trials can be a second ordeal’, The Independent, 8/2/13; Helen Pidd, Philippa Ibbotson and David Barry, ‘Sexual abuse victim’s suicide sparks call for review of court procedures’, The Guardian, 9/2/13; Nick Britten, ‘Suicide of choirmaster’s victim: Victim’s court ordeal raises questions over pressure on witnesses’, The Telegraph, 9/2/13; James Tozer and Nazia Parveen, ‘Driven to Suicide’, Daily Mail, 9/2/13; Chris Riches, ‘Suicide of choir director’s sex victim’, The Express, 9/2/13; Dan Thompson, ‘My tragic mum was driven to suicide by being branded liar in Chetham’s rape trial. Trial showed a dark past at Chet’s’, Manchester Evening News, 9/2/13; Elizabeth Sanderson and Tom Hendry, ‘My wife killed herself because she was on trial, not the choirmaster’: Husband’s anguished account of how abused wife spiralled to suicide after court ordeal’, Daily Mail, 9/2/13; Jerry Lawton, ‘Sex victim suicide after trial ordeal: Tragic violinist accused of lying takes own life’, Daily Star, 9/2/13; Stephen White, ”Cross-examination made me feel I’d been raped all over again’: Violinist who killed herself after giving evidence against her choirmaster abuser’, Daily Mirror, 9/2/13; Nafeesa Shan, ‘Choir perv’s victim kills herself after court ordeal: Fury over sex case trauma’, The Sun, 9/2/13l see also the Attorney General’s written answers to questions from Emily Thornberry MP on 27/2/13 and 1/3/13); the Labour MP for Stockport, Ann Coffey, backed by Childline founder Esther Rantzen, would later initiate a parliamentary debate on whether specialist courts were needed for sex abuse victims (Jennifer Williams, ‘Coffey’s Commons fight for sex abuse victims’, Manchester Evening News, 18/3/13; the House of Commons debate on 18/3/13; and ‘MP’s fight to protect abuse victims’, Manchester Evening News, 20/3/13). A string of articles portrayed a rather idealised view of Andrade, though some did mention her being given up for adoption as a baby, the death of her adoptive father soon before she auditioned for Chetham’s, her previous history of suicide attempts (dating right back to her time after first arriving at Manchester) and self-harm, and the fact that her abuse at the hands of her uncle had continued right up until her wedding (to Indian violinist Levine Andrade) in 1988 (see various previously mentioned articles, and Helen Pidd, ‘Michael Brewer’s victim told how much-loved teacher became abuser’ and ‘Frances Andrade: ‘a force of creativity”, The Guardian, 8/2/13′ ; Russell Jenkins and Lucy Bannerman, ‘Choirmaster’s victim wanted to put past behind her’, The Times, 9/2/13; Britten and Gardham, ‘Frances Andrade ‘traumatised”; Britten and Gardham, ‘Destroyed by reliving abuse she hid for 30 years’; Peter Walker, ‘Frances Andrade killed herself after being accused of lying, says husband’, The Guardian, 10/2/13; David Barrett, ‘Police argue over who told abuse victim: don’t get help’, The Telegraph, 10/2/13; Martin Evans, ‘Abuse victim Frances Andrade was told not to seek therapy, family claim’, The Telegraph, 10/2/13; Rachel Dale, ‘Sex victim death not our fault, says CPS’, The Sun, 10/2/13; David Leppard, ‘Violinist’s suicide: judge attacked’, The Sunday Times, 10/2/13; Jane Merrick and Brian Brady, ‘Chris Grayling’s rape comments raise fury after abuse victim’s suicide’, The Independent, 10/2/13; Peter Dominiczak, ‘Death of Frances Andrade will put other victims off coming forward, says Home Secretary’, The Telegraph, 11/2/13; Tom Rawsteon, ‘Rape trial ordeal drove my wonderful mother to six suicide attempts’, Daily Mail, 11/2/13; Chris Riches, ”Sacrifice’ of suicide wife in sex case trial’, The Express, 11/2/13; Martin Evans, ‘Police review after sex abuse victim’s suicide’, The Telegraph, 11/2/13; Nick Britten and Peter Dominiczak, ‘Violinist’s suicide could stop abuse victims coming forward, warns May’, The Telegraph, 12/2/13; Jonathan Brown, ‘Defence lawyers exploit the weakness of sex abuse victims, says police chief Sir Peter Fahy’, The Independent, 12/2/13. In a few other places some wider information was given about Brewer, mentioning how he had been nicknamed ‘Brewer the Screwer’, had likely groomed Andrade from the time she first entered the school, and was known by others to have asked girls in class to massage his shoulders and the like (Tom Henderson and James Tozer, ‘Choirmaster who abused girls and the twisted wife who joined in’, Daily Mail, 9/2/13).
The headteacher of Chetham’s, Claire Moreland, made a statement outside court to saying:
What we have learned during the course of the last four weeks has shocked us to the core. The passage of time between the offences and now does not lessen this shock.
“Mr Brewer has been found to have committed the most appalling acts which took place during his time at the school and he breached the trust placed in him by the school, its staff and, most importantly, the students.
“On behalf of the current school staff, I wish to express my profound and sincere apology and regret. And most of all I wish to express the sorrow and sympathy we feel for the family of our former student who died under such tragic circumstances and had to endure so much. (Cited in Pidd, ‘Michael Brewer’s victim told how much-loved teacher became abuser’. See also ‘Hurt caused by choirmaster Michael Brewer ‘must never be forgotten’, The Telegraph, 8/2/13)
Further ire was directed at the school’s having allowed Brewer to resign from his post on health grounds and thus remain working with children (Russell Jenkins, ‘Abuser quit on ‘health grounds”, The Times, 9/2/13). The NYCGB (who in an early statement went so far as to say ‘we hope that Mike Brewer’s legacies for young singers – including vocal excellence, outstanding performance opportunities, and exploring a vast repertoire – will remain core to NYCGB’s work’ (see Pilling and Clark, ‘CPS defends itself over abuse case’)) would in due course issue a statement denying all knowledge of any problems with Brewer prior to his being charged (without clarifying whether they knew of the circumstances of Brewer’s resignation from Chetham’s), and assuring readers of their operation of strict child protection policies (National Youth Choir of Great Britain, ‘News: Thu, Feb 14th 2013: Important Statement’; see also Norman Lebrecht, ‘National Youth Choirs of GB on its convicted ex-director’, Slipped Disc,. Further criticisms were aimed at NYCGB and their chairman, Professor Christopher Higgins, for allowing Brewer to continue to work with the choir during the eight-month period between his arrest and being charged, even following a concern being raised by a child protection official from Durham County Council back in October 2011; trustee Judy Grahame, chief executive of M&C Saatchi Arts, said that ‘The chairman seemed to be more concerned about protecting Mike Brewer than looking after the interests of the children, and I thought that was wrong’ (Lucy Bannerman and Richard Morrison, ‘Paedophile choirmaster Michael Brewer worked with children after his arrest’, The Times, 15/2/13; Nick McCarthy, ‘Abuser left in choir job after arrest’, Birmingham Mail, 15/2/13; Mark Tallentire, ‘Accused abuser kept in choir role’, The Northern Echo, 16/2/13).
The fruits of Pidd and Ibbotson’s investigations for The Guardian were printed over the course of the following week, creating a storm of negative publicity for Chetham’s and also the Royal Northern College of Music. First up was a story published on the day of the verdict concerning Layfield (Helen Pidd and Philippa Ibbotson, ‘Claims of sexual misconduct against second former Chetham teacher’, The Guardian, 8/2/13; see also Nick Britten and Peter Dominiczak, ‘Violinist’s suicide could stop abuse victims coming forward, warns May’, The Telegraph, 12/2/13), and a redacted version of the correspondence between Martin Roscoe and Edward Gregson concerning Layfield’s appointment (and Roscoe’s subsequent resignation) from 2002 (‘Correspondence over appointment of Malcolm Layfield at Royal Northern College of Music’, The Guardian, 8/2/13). Roscoe was widely perceived in the music world as having been vindicated and courageous for taking his stand (at considerable personal and emotional cost to himself, as he would reveal in interview) (see Charlotte Higgins, ‘After Michael Brewer: the RNCM teacher’s story’, The Guardian, 13/2/13), whilst four days later, Layfield would quit the RNCM board (Helen Pidd, ‘Ex-Chetham’s teacher quits RNCM board amid claims of sexual misconduct’, The Guardian, 12/2/13), and a week later than that would resign as Head of Strings at the college (Helen Pidd, ‘Teacher quits music college amid sex allegations’, The Guardian, 19/2/13). [This paragraph has been especially heavily redacted because at the time of writing, Layfield has been charged with one count of rape and is awaiting trial]
Next up was a series of horrifying accounts, featuring on the front page and in a large spread of the paper, bringing home to many the nature of the abuse of female students by Chris Ling, for which ten of his former students agreed to speak to the paper about their experiences, some when as young as 14. They spoke of his grooming and manipulation techniques, repeated groping, sexual touching under the pretext of a massage, requests for oral sex, use of systems of rewards and punishments (involving indecent spanking), requests for pupils to play naked in lessons and various else. One student spoke of how she took her complaints to headmaster John Vallins but nothing came of them (Helen Pidd and Philippa Ibbotson, ‘Pupils accuse third teacher of abuse at top music school’; ‘A musical hothouse where ‘Ling’s strings’ say they fell prey to abuse’; ‘Chetham’s school of music: former pupils speak out’, The Guardian, 10/2/13). Other victims contacted Pidd soon afterwards and there were further accounts of his abuse, his evocation of the figures of Myra Hindley and Ian Brady during lessons, or asking students to imagine being injected with a syringe of the HIV virus if they made a mistake, whilst one who used to clean Ling’s house at Reading at age 15 also detailed sexual assault involving nudity, blindfolding and spanking (Helen Pidd and Philippa Ibbotson, ‘Chetham’s school of music: further abuse allegations emerge’, The Guardian, 12/2/13; Helen Pidd ‘New claims emerge of sexual abuse at Chetham’s music school’, The Guardian, 13/2/13).
Pidd and Ibbotson also published accounts of five students of Ryszard Bakst from both Chetham’s and the RNCM, detailing how he would sexually assault them (sometimes as young as 13) on the sofa of his house, force their hands down his crotch until he became aroused, grope their breasts and place his hand up their skirts, sometimes disappearing in the middle of a lesson to masturbate. Bakst’s status at the school was made clear; it was said that ‘his general demeanour was quite intimidating’ and he exerted a ‘Svengali-like influence on many of his pupils’, how much of a privilege it was said to be to study with him, and how one pupil who confided in another teacher was told that this complaint should not be taken further as it would ruin some of his male students’ careers (Pidd and Ibbotson, ‘Chetham’s school of music: further abuse allegations emerge’).
Then, just six days after the verdict, many were further shocked by the news of the arrest of prominent flagship violin teacher Wen Zhou Li (who had earlier taught for a long period at the Menuhin School) on charges of rape (Helen Pidd, ‘Chetham’s music school violin teacher arrested on suspicion of rape’, The Guardian, 14/2/13). At the time of writing, Li has not yet been charged . Other journalists started to look more deeply into the culture of cover-up which had allowed Brewer’s abuse of Andrade to continue, asking various ex-students (including myself) about their knowledge of events at the time, and considering more deeply whether such abuse was an especial danger in the environment provided by a music school (see Amy Glendinning, ‘Chetham’s child sex abuse investigation widens’, Manchester Evening News, 14/2/13; Neil Tweedie, Nick Britten and Joe Shute, ‘Frances Andrade: A culture of abuse, denial and cover-up’, The Telegraph, 15/2/13; Richard Morrison, ‘The very act of teaching music made Chetham’s school ripe for fear and exploitation, say two famous alumni’, The Times, 20/2/13).
Immediately after the verdict, former Chetham’s pupils, many of who had been following the trial avidly, organised into new communities on social media to discuss their often conflicted responses to the conviction of Brewer, who had played such a prominent part in most of their schooling (as director of music, aural teacher, conductor of both orchestras and choirs at the school, and writer of reports on every single student’s progress). Divides quickly emerged: some were in denial about the verdict, others became angry about the aftermath with the new revelations about the school, many wanted to separate Brewer from anything else to do with the school, especially as it existed at present, whilst another equally large community was angered by the whole phenomenon, and began avidly discussing many other incidences of molestation, groping or other abuse, as well as a good deal of wider neglect and psychological abuse; these would remain topics of conversation for a good while. Some expressed the view that now was the time for former pupils to get behind the school at its time of need (a refrain which would be echoed soon afterwards by the management and their representatives), and for a while in amongst a 1970s and 1980s alumni community there grew bitterness towards mounting press coverage and intense hostility towards some of those (including myself) who clearly had some involvement with this. It became clear that many former pupils’ own sense of identity and reputations were quite intimately tied up with the reputation of the school, and any suggestion that the institution itself shared some responsibility were strongly rejected by that reason. Other hostility was directed towards Williams, blamed for forcing the court case in the first place (There are some hints of this perspective in Russell Jenkins and Lucy Bannerman, ‘Choirmaster’s victim wanted to put past behind her’, The Times, 9/2/13. However, Jenkins and Bannerman do quote Oliver Andrade, saying of Fran that ‘Sticking to her morals she knew she must do what was right, to tell the facts as they were and leave it to the law to decide, even as she was only just beginning to see that Brewer’s actions were indeed abuse’).
Great Manchester Police made clear that they were now investigating the new allegations, and at first mentioned nine ‘key’ suspects (Helen Pidd, ‘Music schools sex abuse inquiry focuses on nine key suspects’, The Guardian, 18/2/13). This investigation (still ongoing) would come to be known as Operation Kiso. Meanwhile, in the light of continued negative press coverage, Claire Moreland wrote to all Chetham’s parents on February 18th to say the following:
As Half Term approaches, I am sure that you will be talking with your sons and daughters about the difficult events of the last few weeks and the ensuing media attention. With that in mind I would like to let you know that we have invited Manchester City Council Children’s Services into the School after Half Term to carry out a collaborative review with us of our Safeguarding Policy and Procedures. We welcome this visit which will take place during the week beginning 4 March. It is an opportunity for the School to demonstrate that we have robust Policies and Procedures in place which are applied routinely and rigorously.
We are confident that students are well protected. This has been borne out by inspections carried out by various government bodies in recent years. As you are aware, our procedures are also annually reviewed and approved by the Governing Body and have been regularly and independently reviewed by Ofsted and the Independent Schools Inspectorate.
Once the Police investigation into historical allegations has concluded we will of course be instigating an independent review of past events. I thank you for your continuing warm support and your understanding at this difficult time. Please do not hesitate to give me or any member of the pastoral team a call with any concerns, and in the meantime I wish you all a peaceful and happy Half Term break with your families. (Claire Moreland to Chetham’s Parents and Carers, 18/2/13, forwarded to the author)
Together with two other former Chetham’s students, both pianists (and Bakst students), Paul Lewis and Tim Horton, a petition was launched in mid-February, for publication in The Guardian and then submission to the heads of the music schools and colleges, and all appropriate ministers and their shadow counterparts. The text was as follows:
In recent weeks, the ongoing allegations of historical sexual abuse at Chetham’s School of Music have put many aspects of music education under intense public scrutiny. Following the conviction of the former director of music, Michael Brewer, the tragic death of Frances Andrade, and extensive testimonies in the press of other abuse, it is clear that there should now be a full independent inquiry into the alleged sexual and psychological abuse by Chetham’s staff since the establishment of the institution as a music school in 1969. Such an inquiry would ideally extend to other institutions as well, some of which have also been the subject of allegations of abuse.
Recent press reports have suggested that during this time many students complained to senior members of staff about the sexually abusive behaviour of a number of Chetham’s teachers, but that no satisfactory action was taken. While it is of primary concern that those who stand accused should be investigated as soon as possible, if these allegations are shown to be correct it will be important to understand the wider implications of a school culture which facilitated such abuses of trust, and afforded alleged offenders long-term protection. For this reason, we ask senior members of staff from that time to account for what appears to be the severe failure of the school system to protect its pupils from those who exploited their positions of power. The prevalence of sexual abuse which appears to have continued unhindered over many years suggests an alarming lack of responsibility and competence in the management of a school which had, above all, a duty to protect the welfare of its students and to nurture the artistic potential of every pupil. That Chetham’s appears to have failed in this respect, and with such devastating consequences for the personal and professional lives of the alleged victims, now requires some considerable explanation from those who held senior positions of authority. (see Ian Pace, ‘Re-opened until May 31st, 2013 – Petition for an Inquiry into Abuse in Specialist Music Education’, Desiring Progress, 9/5/13, and the earlier entries (all replete with comments, some giving detailed information on abuse) from 16/2/13 and 19/2/13)
By February 19th, when it was published in The Guardian (Pidd, ‘Teacher quits music college amid sex allegations’, and ‘Call for inquiry into abuse allegations’, The Guardian, 19/2/13), the petition had gained around 550 signatories including over 200 former Chetham’s students; by the 24th, when it was closed for the first time, there were over 1000 signatories including over 300 from Chetham’s (including a number of former teachers), and various luminaries from the musical world (for my own reflections on the petition, see ‘Q&A: Ian Pace’, Classical Music Magazine).
During the short period when the signatures were being compiled, and also for a while afterwards, I myself received a huge amount of private correspondence, with many giving sometimes graphic (and deeply upsetting) details of much more widespread abuse spanning all five music schools and all the four major music colleges (as well as a few relating to other colleges, and to several choir schools). By this point I was now in possession of a huge amount of highly sensitive information which – if even only half of it were definitely true – pointed to there being a vast network of abuse in musical education over a long period.
For obvious reasons of confidentiality, I cannot divulge anything more than the overall gist of this information here. Suffice to say that, with respect to Chetham’s, further allegations relating to a very wide range of teachers (some of them familiar to me from my time there, but I was unaware of their being abusers), and to the situation also of students being sent away in the 1970s and 1980s to live with other people, including one especially alarming case involving kidnapping. I became aware of a very large number of alleged victims of Chris Ling, and of the fact that there might be as many as 50 (or even more) of Bakst over a period of several decades. Some claimed that when they went forward to the authorities or (in the case of Ling) to the police, they were ignored, or ostracised by teachers, houseparents and fellow pupils.
Over and above this, there were legions of stories emerging of physical and psychological abuse (some of which were unfortunately familiar): 11-year olds being violently struck over the head with large objects, blunt objects being thrown at pupils across the class, another student punched in the face by a 6’4″ teacher in front of a whole class, girls being pushed down to squash their breasts against desks by male teachers, students being publicly humiliated in front of others in wantonly cruel fashion, teachers casually smacking students on their behinds (in 2012!), liberal and enthusiastic use of corporal punishment, widespread bullying encouraged by teachers. Many stories came forward of long-term emotional instability and severe depression (and several successful suicides) from former pupils; whilst while at the school there were a great many serious eating disorders (including a hunger strike on the part of some girls which went unnoticed), much self-harm, and in the late 1990s an epidemic of suicide attempts; many were expelled afterwards. Various teachers would take out their own emotional insecurities on their instrumental pupils, one teacher regularly throwing her bags at them in a violent rage in lessons. Another would insist that she only needed 3 or 4 hours sleep per night and would insist that her teenage boys should make do with the same, to save more time for practice; one followed her instructions leading to a nervous breakdown.
The defenders of Chetham’s were now starting to become more public, and some of the community of parents and current pupils were enlisted in support of the school. Football correspondent for The Independent Ian Herbert, whose 12-year old son George was a pupil at the school, learning trumpet, piano and composition, wrote a spirited defence of the current school, standing up for head teacher Claire Moreland and director of music Stephen Threlfall, citing the conductor Paul Mann (who had interrupted applause at a concert he had recently given with the Chetham’s Symphony Orchestra in London to say ‘In case you’ve been wondering, this is what the real Chet’s is about’) on how the current child protection checks ‘bear out a world unrecognisable from the Brewer days’, and saying how current pupils ‘don’t recognise this picture which has been presented of their school’ (Ian Herbert, ‘The two sides of Chetham’s: what the press reports – and what the parents see’, The Independent, 1/3/13). Two leaders of one alumni group on social media posted an appeal for people to write to Judge Rudland to urge a lenient sentence for Michael Brewer (but were met with contempt by many others).
With the information of which I was in possession (further details below), I was concerned to find a way of making more of it public (subject of course to the consent of those who had entrusted me with it) in order to strengthen the case for an inquiry. I had already sent my petition to the appropriate people, but in time received non-descript responses from the heads of the specialist music schools (in the case of Chetham’s, only the bursar, not the head, replied), whilst after a while the Department for Education made it clear that they had currently no plans for an inquiry. A similar response was received by various others who had lobbied their MPs to write to the DfE. After being contacted by Channel 4 News, and receiving various assurances in terms of victim support and legal guarantees, as well as gauging that they were the news organisation most likely to treat this responsibly whilst having the potential to communicate to a wide audience, I worked for a while with a group of others to help both GMP with general information relating to Chetham’s, and also help Channel 4 News with a major feature looking at abusive behaviour in each of the major specialist music schools.
Whilst this was going on behind the scenes, for several weeks media coverage was quieter, until the sentencing of the Brewers on March 26th – Michael Brewer received a sentence of six years whilst Kay Brewer was sentenced to 21 months (Helen Pidd, ‘Chetham’s music teacher Michael Brewer jailed for sexually abusing pupil’, The Guardian, 26/3/13; Russell Jenkins, ”Predatory’ choirmaster Michael Brewer and wife jailed’, The Times, 26/3/13; Nick Britten, ‘Jailed: predatory sex abuser who drove victim to her death’, The Telegraph, 27/3/13; Anthony Bond, ‘Paedophile choirmaster and wife are jailed for sexually abusing former pupil who was found dead after giving evidence against him’, Daily Mail, 26/3/13; James Tozer, ‘Free in three years, abusive choirmaster whose victim killed herself’, Daily Mail, 27/3/13; Chris Riches, ‘Jailed, paedophile choirmaster and wife whose victim committed suicide’, The Express, 27/3/13; Nafeesa Shan, ‘Choir perv jailed: Suicide case paedo’s 6 yrs’, The Sun, 27/3/13). Brewer was said by Kate Blackwell to ‘extend his sorrow for Mrs Andrade’s death’, but he nonetheless ‘continues to deny any offending towards her’ . The judge’s verdict during sentencing was especially telling in terms of the responses of supporters of Brewer (a significant number of whom, including many prominent figures in the music and Manchester business communities, had apparently written to appeal to him for a shorter sentence):
14. It is surprising that all those who have spoken so well of you at your trial, when called by you in your defence, did so, it seems, in the full knowledge of your relationship with M. It may well be that they were not aware of the detail of the way in which you exploited her but they were apparently nevertheless more than happy to overlook one of the most shocking aspects of this case.
Then in early April the reports by the Independent Schools Inspectorate and Manchester City Council into Chetham’s were made public, and it became clear that the school had been found severely wanting. The ISI report included the following:
On Child protection policy generally:
Discussions with staff indicated that not all are clear about the process to be followed when concerns are reported or allegations made, and the procedures specified by the school are not always implemented in practice – for example, the safeguarding concerns form is not always completed and informal discussions are held instead.
Parents’ views – in response to survey carried out recently by the school about music experiences provided by school and progress made by children in music: Approximately one-third of parents responded, the majority positively, but a very small minority of parents indicated their dissatisfaction with the information they are given about their child’s progress in instrumental tuition, a factor mentioned at the time of the previous ISI inspection. Comments from parents in response to the ISI questionnaire confirmed that this remains an issue.
On Child Inspection regulatory requirements:
At the time of the inspection visit, the school’s child protection policy was found to cover most of the requirements which are the duties of proprietors of independent schools. However, the school’s written policy is not suitably comprehensive and has not been properly implemented. (ISI report downloadable here)
The Manchester City Council report included the following:
Section 4.1 (b) (viii)
No evidence was provided of any formal, minuted governing body/school committee meetings called so that leaders and governors could reflect on the implications of recent allegations in connection with the school, carry out appropriate scrutiny, audit and self evaluation and consider the need to conduct a comprehensive review of current safeguarding policies, procedures and practice;
(ix) There was no evidence to confirm that governors had sought assurances about current safeguarding arrangements, given the context of recent allegations, resulting in convictions and arrests of individuals connected with the school. A current employee was arrested on 14th February 2013 in relation to an historic allegation, is presently suspended and is the subject of ongoing police investigation.
Section 4.1(h) There are inconsistencies in relation to the CPO, designated governor for safeguarding and the head of academic music’s understanding of school policy and procedures for teaching at the home of a tutor. This ranges from an understanding that pupils ‘wouldn’t ever have home tuition’, to it is not encouraged or sanctioned by the school and would only be agreed and arranged by parents, to if there was an exceptional circumstance that required teaching at the home of a tutor, there would be a risk assessment completed and parental consent sought. No reference is made to home tuition in the staff, pupil or parents handbooks. During interviews with pupils some pupils stated that home tuition regularly takes place.
Section 5.1(i) It was the view of some pupils however, that there was little point in raising issues or concerns because they would not be listened to or acted upon. This was borne out in the pupils’ response to the ISI questionnaire. 36% of pupils responded negatively to the statement: ‘the school asks for my opinions and responds to them’, when a negative response of more than 20% is seen as significant by the ISI.
Section 5.1(d) The named governor for safeguarding has been identified as the person other than a parent, outside the boarding and teaching staff of the school, who pupils can talk to if they feel the need. No reference is made of this in the pupil or parent handbooks. When pupils were asked about who, other than a parent/guardian they could turn to, some pupils cited the named governor for safeguarding, others did not know about such a person and one pupil referred to them as ‘some random person’ that they were told to contact if they needed to and added that they were told about this person in a recent assembly.
Section 6.1 The Local Authority saw little evidence that the Governing body/school committee have sufficiently held the senior leaders of the school to account regarding providing assurances that the current arrangements for safeguarding are actually being implemented, applied robustly, monitored appropriately or evaluated effectively. In the context of recent convictions, allegations and ongoing police investigations, where extra assurances would be expected, this is a cause for concern.
6.2 Arrangements are present to promote a culture and climate of effective safeguarding at Chetham’s School of Music but the arrangements are not routinely and reliably implemented, robustly applied, monitored or evaluated by the senior leadership team, governors and Feoffees. This demonstrates inadequate oversight of safeguarding by the proprietors and therefore the Local Authority is not confident about the overall effectiveness of the leadership and governance of safeguarding arrangements in the school.
6.3 The Feoffees as proprietors of the school have not effectively discharged their duties with respect to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of pupils. They have not ensured that the Headteacher has fulfilled her duties for the effective implementation of the school’s policies and procedures in regard to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of pupils.
6.4 It is our view that in similar circumstances, in a state-maintained school setting, the nature of these findings, including the current context referred to in 6.1 above, would lead us to invite the chair of governors or trustees to a formal review meeting to discuss the capacity for governance and senior leadership to address the failings identified. (full report accessible here)
Chetham’s responded on their website initially as follows:
Unfortunately we believe the time allowed for the Review was insufficient. We have made detailed written representations and submitted further documentation to both MCS and the ISI, seeking meetings with both organisations to discuss these points in detail. There is enormous interest in the School at the current time and it is imperative that Chetham’s, and all students, staff and parents associated with it, are treated and represented accurately.
Schools have a legal and moral duty to protect children in their care. It is clear from the Independent Schools Inspectorate and Manchester City Council’s reports of their joint visit that the standard of care at Chethams school must be improved.
“Today (Tuesday) under section 165(3) of the Education Act 2002, we have served a notice requiring the school to produce an action plan setting out what it will do to meet the regulatory standards. The law requires the school to produce an action plan to set out how it will address the deficiencies the ISI inspection identified.
“Chethams now has until May to produce the action plan — if the plan is inadequate the Education Secretary has powers to remove the school from the register of independent schools.” (Statement forwarded to the author by Ciaran Jenkins of Channel 4 News)
Channel 4 News continued to work on their report, which was broadcast on May 7th. The major revelation here, for the purposes of which the Channel 4 team had spoken to multiple pupils from who studied at the Yehudi Menuhin School in the 1960s and 1970s, was about the first director of music and co-founder of the school, Belgian pianist Marcel Gazelle, revealed as a serial abuser of girls as young as 10 in their beds (the broadcast was very careful in terms of what could be said both for legal reasons and because of the watershed, but many from the school at the time privately commented that the scale of Gazelle’s activities, allegedly involving multiple rape of older girls as well, was not always clear). For this broadcast, Nigel Kennedy was tracked down and persuaded to take on the record about Gazelle, revealing that he was the figure to whom he had referred in interview with Lebrecht back in 2003. The former student Irita Kutchmy chose to speak on the record about her own abuse at the hands of Gazelle, lending the broadcast, which alleged that abuse had gone on at all five specialist music schools, a vivid immediacy (Ciaran Jenkins, ‘Exclusive: Sex scandal implicates all five UK music schools’, Channel 4 News, 7/5/13). I immediately published on my blog a long article on Gazelle and the early culture of the Menuhin School, drawing upon accounts by various former students to paint a bleak picture of sexual, physical and emotional abuse at all levels, which brought Gazelle’s wife Jacqueline into the picture as well. This produced bitter responses from their son Didier, denying the allegations, protesting that ‘What was acceptable 50 years ago, is now considered as an offence’ and asking ‘Where is the limit between affection and sexual abuse?’ (Ian Pace, ‘Marcel Gazelle and the Culture of the Early Yehudi Menuhin School’, Desiring Progress, 7/5/13)
These new revelations was widely reported by all the leading UK newspapers (see in particular Victoria Ward, ‘Music school abuse scandal alleged to involve five top schools’, The Telegraph, 8/5/13, drawing upon some new information not broadcast by Channel 4), and also local and international press, and there followed a stream of further allegations, including Michal Kaznowski making more public his memories of Maurice Gendron (Paul Gallagher and Sanchez Manning, ‘Famous cellist was abusive monster, says former pupil’, The Independent, 9/5/13), the violinist Sacha Barlow speaking of inappropriate sexualised touching from the age of 12 by other members of staff at the school in the 1980s (Paul Gallagher, ‘Fresh abuse claims hit top music school’, The Independent, 12/5/13), and a former teacher at two (unspecified) specialist music schools, who had also spoken to Channel 4 News, talking of the ‘toxic’ atmosphere at the institutions, the attempted rape she suffered at the hands of one teacher, and the total lack of pastoral care at the places (Victoria Ward, ‘Teacher describes ‘toxic’ atmosphere at music schools’, The Telegraph, 9/5/13), also (for C4 News) urging against complacency that such abuse could not happen today. In this context, I elected to re-open the petition until the end of May (Alex Stevens, ‘Abuse in music schools: Petition reopens after new press coverage and MP’s support’, Classical Music Magazine, 10/5/13), and it has since received several hundred further signatories, and the backing of Lucy Powell, MP for Manchester Central.
On the day of broadcast of the Channel 4 News report, GMP made clear to Helen Pidd at The Guardian that as part of Operation Kiso they were investigating a whole 39 music school teachers from Manchester, of which 10 formed the nucleus of the operation, 12 were known through third-party referrals, another 12 were involved in activities which would probably not lead to criminal charges (in particular those who had sexual affairs with sixth-formers before 2003), and 5 were dead (Helen Pidd, ’39 Manchester music school teachers face inquiry’, The Guardian, 7/5/13). The very scale of the abuse being investigated was now becoming clearer to many.
By autumn 2013 four different teachers had been arrested – double-bassist Duncan McTier (who taught at the RNCM, but not at Chetham’s), violinist Wen Zhou Li (arrested in February 2013 right after the Brewer trial, at which time he was still teaching at Chetham’s), conductor Nicholas Smith (for offences against an underage girl in the 1970s) and violinist Malcolm Layfield (see above). McTier and Smith were charged in May 2014 (Helen Pidd, ‘Music teacher charged with indecent assaults’, The Guardian, 6/5/14; ‘World-renowned conductor charged with sexually assaulting Chetham pupil’, The Guardian, 27/5/14) and appeared in court in June (Helen Pidd, ‘Two musicians appear in court accused of sexually abusing music school pupils’, The Guardian, 13/6/14); McTier pleaded not guilty, whilst Smith did not enter a plea, but his solicitor indicated that he would be pleading not guilty. It was only at this stage that the Royal Academy of Music, where McTier now taught, decided to suspend him from his current job (not after his arrest the previous year). It was also revealed that McTier’s charges related not only to the RNCM but also to the Purcell School. It is anticipated that the trial will take place in the autumn of 2014. In January 2014, Greater Manchester Police indicated that they would seek the extradition of Chris Ling (Helen Pidd, ‘Police may seek extradition of US-based teacher accused of abusing pupils’, The Guardian, 6/1/14; James Tozer, ‘Violin teacher accused of sex abuse against female pupils at prestigious music college threatened with extradition proceedings so he can face trial in UK’, Daily Mail, 6/1/14); Layfield was charged with one count of rape in July 2014 (Helen Pidd, ‘Violin teacher charged with rape over alleged attack at Chetham’s school’, The Guardian, 29/7/14).
Further revelations came to light in 2014 about the knowledge of Moreland about earlier crimes after Paul Gallagher at the Independent was forwarded (by myself, with permission), letters from ex-pupils to Moreland (and also Gregson) in 2002 concerning the abuse they had suffered at the hands of Layfield. These heart-felt and distressing letters were met with stock replies of one or two sentences, just saying that current pastoral care systems meant this couldn’t happen again, rather than acknowledging any concern for the victims (Paul Gallagher, ‘Elite music school Chetham’s loses pupils in backlash at allegations of historic sexual abuse’, The Independent, 28/1/14). Moreland claimed in an self-justificatory interview published after the Independent article that she only heard about anything being wrong at the school in late 2011 (Richard Morrison, ‘Does Chetham’s have a future?’, The Times, 12/2/14).
By coincidence, the appearance of the Channel 4 News report come just before another devastating revelation following a sustained investigation by The Times and The Australian, concerning the late former Dean of Manchester Cathedral (1984-1993), Robert Waddington, about whom various former choristers had come forward to detail the sustained grooming, sexual abuse and sadistic beatings they had suffered at his hands, both in Manchester and when he had worked as a teacher in the 1960s and 1970s in Queensland (see Sean O’Neill, Michael McKenna and Amanda Gearing, ‘Archbishop in ‘cover-up’over abuse scandal’, ‘Accused cleric built reputation at small school in Australia’, and ‘Former Archbishop of York ‘covered up’ sex abuse scandal’, The Times, 10/5/13; Sean O’Neill, ‘Behind the story’ and ‘Victim of clergyman’s abuse was groomed as young chorister’, The Times, 10/5/13; Amanda Gearing, ‘Choirboy haunted by painful memories’, The Times, 10/5/13; Steve Doughty, ‘’I was the boyfriend of a monster’: Victim of paedophile priest speaks out as former Archbishop of York denies covering up child abuse claims’, Daily Mail, 10/5/13; Sean O’Neill,’ Church abuse suspect ‘investigated three times’, The Times, 11/5/13). Chetham’s School provides the majority of choristers for the cathedral and has other close links with the institution (I detailed this in Ian Pace, ‘Robert Waddington, Former Dean of Manchester Cathedral, and Chetham’s School of Music’, Desiring Progress, 12/5/13), and one former Chetham’s pupil soon came forward to detail his own abuse at the hands of Waddington (who was a close friend of headmaster John Vallins); it was also made public that Waddington had been on the board of governors for Chetham’s during his tenure as Dean, thus overlapping with the period of some of the worst abuse scandals alleged to have gone on at the school (Sean O’Neill, ‘Dean preyed on us during his reign at top music school, says former music pupil’ and ‘Dean was still preying on choirboys when Church ruled him too ill to be a risk’, The Times, 16/5/13; Paul Gallagher, ‘Former Dean accused of sex abuse was a governor at scandal-hit music school’, The Independent, 16/5/13; Michael McKenna and Amanda Gearing, ‘Accused cleric link to top music school abuse probe’, The Australian, 18/5/13). The coverage had focused on the culpability of the Church of England in covering up Waddington’s abuse; Chetham’s have not at the time of writing made any public comment about his involvement there other than to confirm his tenure as a governor.
A final complication was provided by the announcement of the abolition of the position of Director of Music at the Purcell School, thus rendering incumbent Quentin Poole redundant (see Norman Lebrecht, ‘Reports: Music School abolishes Head of Music post’, Slipped Disc, 12/5/13 and ‘Why Purcell is back in the headlights’, 14/5/13; both articles contain plentiful comments from individuals associated with the school). It is believed that this relates to a personal feud between the former Headmaster, Peter Crook and the Chairman of Governors. Crook fired the civil partner of Poole (about whom there have been suggestions of impropriety with pupils), and then after Crook’s own firing in 2011 (see earlier in this article), the Chairman fired Poole himself; but this all needs clarification in the face of many conflicting accounts.
Two further developments arising out of the Brewer trial have recently emerged. One is that the Cabinet Office’s honours forfeiture committee decided to strip Brewer of his OBE, awarded to him in late 1994; this forfeiture was announced on May 28th (Matt Chorley, ‘Exclusive: Paedophile choirmaster Michael Brewer whose victim killed herself is stripped of his OBE’, Daily Mail, 28/5/13; Christopher Hope, ‘Convicted child abuser Michael Brewer stripped of OBE by Queen’, The Telegraph, 28/5/13; Helen Pidd, ‘Former Chetham’s director Michael Brewer stripped of OBE’, The Guardian, 28/5/13). The following day, it was also announced that Brewer would appeal against the length of his sentence (‘Sex abuse choirmaster Michael Brewer in sentence appeal’, BBC News, 29/5/13; ‘Choirmaster jailed for sexually abusing pupil seeks to appeal against sentence’, The Guardian, 29/5/13; ‘Sex abuse Chethams teacher Michael Brewer in court bid to have sentence cut’, Manchester Evening News, 30/5/13).
Music schools, in common with other “hothousing” establishments, create pressures that may have a particularly damaging impact on young people who are vulnerable and/or without parental support. These settings are competitive, and feed into expectations already placed on the young person to be “special” and to succeed. The adults around them, who are often prominent performers in their own right, are invested with exceptional power and influence and are in a position of trust from which they exert considerable leverage over whether their pupils achieve success in their chosen fields. The music world is not alone in this regard, -similar pressures arise in elite sports academies, boarding schools, ballet schools, cathedral and choir schools, drama and performing arts courses, art schools and other areas of endeavour that create a backdrop for this very particular and potent form of grooming.
Chethams School provided an ideal environment for this kind of abuse to occur. The school seemed unaware of the risks of sexual abuse and it does not appear to have proactively promoted a child protection agenda. Boundaries were blurred and some staff seemed at times to act with impunity. When, Mrs A was sent, as a teenager, to live with MB and his family it was effectively a private fostering arrangement, put in place without any proper scrutiny or formal overview. The atmosphere of elite performance teaching created what one pupil described as a belief that you were “special”6 and it placed teachers in an exclusive and powerful position in relation to their protégés.
In response to this case another music teacher (MR), a man who had acted as a whistle-blower, published an article offering a window onto the culture in these circles at the time we are speaking of from which it can be seen that Mrs A was not alone in being at risk from abusive sexual relationships and unprofessional behaviour. MR later said,
Music lessons are one-to-one… So, if you’re determined to behave wrongly, there’s the opportunity: “It’s one of the easiest situations to abuse, I would have thought.”
He further discussed how music teaching in particular, takes place in a context of emotional intensity and that pupils’ crushes on staff are commonplace.
So this culture of sexualised behaviour between teachers and pupils that developed in the school at that time was, to some extent, known about and condoned. This culture may also have prevailed at the Royal Northern College of Music as there was considerable overlapping of staff, and this became the focus of contention specifically in relation to the appointment of ML to a senior post at the college. MR publicly confronted the principle of the college about the suitability of this appointment, given widespread allegations about ML’s sexual exploitation of young women students, at considerable cost to his career7. When he made his concerns public, he received many letters of support from students disclosing past abuses and concerns. Mrs A was one such pupil/student. When his whistle-blower’s warnings went unheeded, he recounted that
“Letters from pupils and professional musicians poured in, one was from [Mrs A] … She was a force to be reckoned with …”There was tremendous passion and anger.” Chethams therefore represented a very particular context in which it was possible for MB to target and groom Mrs A from a position of trust, power and influence. Although it seems to have been common knowledge that some teachers within the music network around Chethams and the Royal Northern Music School had sexual relationships with their pupils this was not formally addressed.
1. THIS REVIEW DID NOT HAVE A MANDATE TO COMMENT ON ISSUES OF CHILD PROTECTION BUT URGES CHILDREN’S SAFEGUARDING BOARDS AND THE INDEPENDENT SCHOOLS INSPECTORATE TO PAY ATTENTION TO ALL SCHOOLS ESPECIALLY, BUT NOT EXCLUSIVELY, BOARDING SCHOOLS INCLUDING THOSE CONCERNED WITH “SPECIAL” PUPILS OR THOSE THAT HAVE ELITE STATUS. THIS INCLUDES SO CALLED “FREE” SCHOOLS THAT EXIST TO SOME EXTENT OUTSIDE OF LOCAL NETWORKS. (Brown, ‘The death of Mrs A’, pp. 8-10)
One of the most serious cases to come to light in recent times is historic, that of Alan Doggett, conductor and composer who was closely associated with Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, and conducted the first performances of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat and Jesus Christ Superstar, about whom I have written at length (Ian Pace, ‘UPDATED: Alan Doggett, first conductor of Joseph and Jesus Christ Superstar, and the Paedophile Information Exchange’, Desiring Progress, 28/3/14). Over a dozen former pupils at Colet Court School in London (prep school for St Paul’s) have testified to Doggett’s abuse of boys aged as young as 10, sometimes in front of others (raping boys in dormitories), regular sexual touching of genitals of almost all boys, and even a form of child prostitution whereby they would be paid for allowing Doggett to use them. Doggett also taught at City of London School for Boys, St Mary’s School for Girls and Culford School, as well as running the London Boy Singers, a group of around 1000 boys drawn from schools all over London, before committing suicide in 1978 when facing molestation charges against a boy. There are many further allegations of abuse at some of these institutions. Since my own work and pioneering articles by Andrew Norfolk at The Times, a whole police investigation, Operation Winthorpe, has been set up to look at a mass of allegations at both Colet Court and St Paul’s (though I have been informed that Doggett is no longer part of the investigation) (Andrew Norfolk, ‘Teachers ‘abused boys at Osborne’s old school”, The Times, 25/3/14; ‘The teacher sat us on his lap until his face went very red’, The Times, 25/3/14; ‘Friends to stars had easy access to boys’, The Times, 25/3/14; ‘Boys punished for telling of abuse by teacher’, The Times, 28/3/14; ‘Police look into ‘decades of abuse’ at top school’, The Times, 9/4/14; ‘Abuse claims against 18 teachers by ex-pupils at top public school; St Paul’s co-operates with police inquiry led by head of Savile investigation’, The Times, 1/5/14; ‘Accused teacher kept on working for 24 years’, The Times, 1/5/14; ‘Teacher kept job for 16 years after pupils found sex tapes’, The Times, 20/5/14; ‘Colet Court and St Paul’s: a culture of child abuse’, The Times, 20/5/14. See also Benjamin Ross, ‘My Sadist Teachers at St Paul’s Prep School Betrayed a Generation’, Daily Mail, 1/6/14); at the time of writing, there have been seven arrests to date (‘Man arrested on suspicion of sexual assault at St Paul’s school’, The Guardian, 1/8/14).
The pianist and composer Ian Lake was revealed to have been a serial abuser of both boys (as young as 10) and girls at Watford School of Music and the Royal College of Music (RCM) (Paul Gallagher, ‘Decades of abuse by Royal College of Music piano teacher Ian Lake boosts demands for inquiry’, The Independent, 29/12/13). Lake had received a little-reported conviction for a sexual offence (of which details remain hazy) in 1995. One of his RCM victims spoke of telling the then principal, Michael Gough Matthews (Principal from 1985 to 1993, died in 2012), and whilst she was given a change of teacher, nothing else happened, so Lake was free to do the same to others. This type of process has been described by multiple victims at different institutions (including, for example, victims of Ryszard Bakst at the Royal Northern College of Music). Matthews’ successor as Principal, Dame Janet Ritterman, who was Principal at the RCM at the time when Lake was convicted (and is now Chancellor of Middlesex University), has been contacted for comment about what was known about Lake, but has declined to respond. Another late teacher at the RCM, Hervey Alan, was identified as having attempted a sexual assault on a student; again, when she complained, she received a change of teacher, but no further action was taken (Paul Gallagher, ‘Royal College of Music hit by more sex abuse allegations’, The Independent, 10/1/14). Furthermore, the victim (who was also a student of Lake’s on the piano) underwent a second attempted assault from a college porter, about which nothing was done after she complained. This woman has also detailed the ways in which not being prepared to respond to sexual advances in the professional world could hinder one’s career, a story which is all too familiar, and needs to be considered seriously alongside all the other dimensions to this issue. I have argued for a while that the granting of unchecked power to prominent musicians, administrators, and fixers almost invites the corruption of such power, and more, rather than less, state intervention is needed to ensure that proper employment practices are observed in a freelance world. Many musicians would hate this, for sure, and claim it represented an unwarranted intrusion by government into a field which should be driven by ‘purely musical’ concerns, but in my view the latter serve as a smokescreen for cynical and callous power games.
Robin Zebaida, pianist and examiner for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM, responsible for the ‘grade’ exams that many young musicians take) since 1998, was convicted of sexually assaulting a 15-year old girl at the same time as he was seducing her mother; Zebaida received a two-year conditional discharge, was made to sign the sex offenders register for two years, and pay a £15 victim surcharge. The trial heard of romantic evenings with plentiful alcohol with Zebaida kissing the mother whilst groping the daughter; Zebaida would also claim he touched the daughter lightly on account of back problems she suffered following a car crash which had killed her father and brother (‘Concert pianist fondled girl of 15 while kissing her mother, court told’, The Telegraph, 21/11/13; Jennifer Smith, ‘Oxford-educated concert pianist ‘French kissed fan on his sofa while simultaneously fondling her 15-year-old daughter’, Daily Mail, 21/11/13; Hayley Dixon, ‘Concert pianist denies fondling girl, 15, while kissing mother’, The Telegraph, 26/11/13; Lucy Crossley, ‘Internationally renowned concert pianist found guilty of groping a 15-year-old while French-kissing her mother’, Daily Mail, 2/12/13; ‘Pianist guilty of sex assault on teenager’, The Telegraph, 3/12/13). I am not aware of the ABRSM having made any comment, but gather that Zebaida’s nature was well-known to others (private communications from an examiner).
In November 2013, Philip Evans, music teacher at the private King Edward’s School, Edgbaston, Birmingham (which dates from 1552 and was set up by Edward VI), pleaded guilty to seven sexual assaults, ten charges of making indecent photographs of children, and six counts of voyeurism; more than 400 000 indecent images were found on his computer (Teacher Admits Sexual Assault’, Press Association, 28/11/13). The trial found that Evans, who had also acted as an RAF ‘leader’ in the school’s Combined Cadet Force, had abused teenage boys whilst pretending to measure them for their school uniforms, and installed high tech equipment in changing rooms and showers to film pupils. Evans was sentenced in December to three years and eight months imprisonment (‘Paedophile music teacher jailed’, Evening Standard, 20/12/13; Jonny Greatrex, ‘Music teacher jailed for sexually abusing teenage pupils while pretending to measure them for uniforms’, Daily Mirror, 21/12/13; ‘Music teacher who rigged up hidden camera to film himself sexually abusing boys has been jailed’, Daily Mail, 20/12/13).
In February 2014, the early music conductor and former Guildhall School teacher Philip Pickett was charged with eight counts of indecent assault, three counts of rape, two counts of false imprisonment, one count of assault and one count of attempted rape (see the press release from City of London Police reproduced at Ian Pace, ‘Philip Pickett arrested on 15 charges, and interview with Clare Moreland in The Times’). Quite incredibly, Pickett’s trial was allowed to be postponed from October 2014 to January 2015 so that he could finish touring. Defence barrister Jonathan Barnard said at the Old Bailey ‘My client is a world famous musician and therefore earns his living on a job to job basis and has tours across the globe throughout the autumn – but the season slows down in the new year’. The Crown agreed on the grounds that ‘the allegations are at the latest 20 years old and the earliest, 40 years old’ (Ben Wilkinson, ‘Musician’s historic sex crimes trial put on hold’, Oxford Mail, 18/3/14).
On the basis of all the many published articles and reports, and also the wide range of information communicated to me privately, I have been able to surmise the following situation for the various schools and colleges, which has been presented to various politicians involved in abuse campaigning. It would not be appropriate to reproduce this here, but some other issues can be addressed.
Psychological and emotional abuse is believed by many to be rampant in the profession throughout education and elsewhere (Definitions are difficult in this context, as various studies have indicated. See in particular Kieran O’Hagan, Emotional and Psychological Abuse of Children (Buckingham: Open University Press, 1992), pp. 18-35, and O’Hagan, Identifying Emotional and Psychological Abuse: A Guide for Childcare Professionals (Maidenhead: Open University Press, 2006), pp. 27-40, in the latter of which several writers are cited on a preference for the term ‘psychological maltreatment’ (p. 30). The definitions examined here definitely encompass the types of abuse which can be identified within musical education. This subject is definitely in need of wider research in a musical context). To give just one of many examples of how this has been reported by many: a teacher looks to reduce a vulnerable student to tears at the beginning of most of their instrumental lessons, thus enabling them to take the student on their knee or otherwise physically comfort them. They aim to destroy the student’s fragile confidence and sense of identity and remake them in their own image. This can be a prelude to sexual abuse or simply a strategy for control and domination.
Why Focus Specifically on Musical Education?
Sexual and other abuse have been discovered – and in various cases the perpetrators dismissed, banned from working with children and/or faced criminal convictions – in many fields of life. However, there are reasons why its manifestation in musical education deserves special individual treatment. My own article, written in February 2013 and published in May in the Times Educational Supplement, on why those studying music might be particularly vulnerable to abuse, is included at the end of this article. A recurrent issue for many commentators has been that of one-to-one tuition and the power accorded to individual teachers to dominate students who are utterly at their behest (see Britten and Dominiczak, ‘Violinist’s suicide could stop abuse victims coming forward’; Tweedie, Britten and Schute, ‘Frances Andrade: A culture of abuse, denial and cover-up’; Jonathan West, ‘Sexual abuse at music schools’, 2/3/13; Pidd, Ibbotson and Carroll, ‘A musical hothouse in which ‘Ling’s strings’ say they fell prey to abuse’. Some rather crude sub-editing made an interview with RNCM principal Linda Merrick – Helen Pidd, ‘One-to-one music tuition ‘may be abolished”, The Guardian, 1/3/13 – characterise Merrick’s views in a simplistic fashion. Merrick merely argued that this mode of teaching might be looked at again, as I argue in ‘Q & A: Ian Pace’, Classical Music); this type of teaching is significantly more prevalent in musical education than elsewhere.
The classical music profession is highly competitive and often highly aggressive as many people jostle for a relatively small amount of available work. This fact is often mobilised in order to justify cruel treatment of young musicians, maintaining that they require such treatment in order to be ‘toughened up’ for the demands of a professional career. The effects upon those who do not succeed can and have been devastating.
Classical music depends upon a large degree of state money in order to function, yet there is little in the way of wider state intervention in the workings of the profession – because of the dangers especially in education but more widely in terms of abuse and maltreatment of adult musicians, I argue that the ‘hands-off’ approach of the Arts Council may no longer be most appropriate. When it is possible for some powerful musicians to build their own fiefdoms, and use the fact of their holding such power to dictate that others may have to sleep with them or artificially please them in other ways, there is immense potential for corruption. A state-subsidised world featuring individuals reigning over unchecked power must be reconsidered.
Whilst the UK conservatoires have their roots in the nineteenth century, and in particular the move towards a degree of professionalization of musical education in the last few decades of that century, when most of those schools were either founded or began to move towards their modern form, the five specialist music schools were all founded between 1962 and 1972, and so are a recent phenomenon. Whilst the first two of these – the Purcell School (previously the Central Tutorial School for Young Musicians) (founded 1962), and the Yehudi Menuhin School (founded 1963) – were essentially created ‘from scratch’ to provide a more intensive level of musical education from a young age, the remaining three – Chetham’s (founded as a music school in 1969), Wells (music school section founded 1970), and St Mary’s (founded as a music school in 1972) all had existing choir schools prior to taking on their specialist music form. Furthermore, both the Menuhin School and St Mary’s in particular (the latter of which was viewed by Menuhin as a sister school in Scotland to his own institution) drew inspiration from existing models of specialist music tuition as provided in the Soviet Union – during a time at the height of the Cold War, in which this country was dedicated to the production of soloists who would win international competitions (following the shock provided by the victory of American pianist Van Cliburn in the 1958 Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow), in such a way that all other considerations were secondary . How these various aspects of the schools’ pedagogical history and roots affected their development – permitting widespread psychological abuse and much sexual abuse, the latter arguably an extension of the former – requires comprehensive and detailed scrutiny by experts. It is worth pointing out in this context the fact of a huge sexual abuse scandal affecting the Central Music School in Moscow (founded 1932, and in some ways the major model for future secondary specialist music education), in which pianist Anatoly Ryabov was accused of abusing 53 different girls, many of them aged 12 or 13, between 1987 and 2011. When the case came to court, the children and their mothers were blamed for over-ambition and destroying the school’s legendary reputation, and seducing a venerable teacher, whilst Ryabov was portrayed in the press as if fighting Putin’s regime, and much of the Moscow musical establishment swung behind him. All of the charges were thrown out and Ryabov found not guilty (information provided to me by one individual closely involved with the trial).
The last relatively comprehensive study of musical education in the UK was undertaken in 1978, commissioned by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (Training Musicians: A Report to the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation on the training of professional musicians (London: Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 1978)), when many of the specialist music schools were still in a state of relative infancy. Nothing was mentioned in this about the dangers of abuse in such institutions, though their role in terms of producing professional musicians remains a consideration throughout. It is now high time, after 35 years, for a new report, more detailed and sophisticated in its methodology than before, to be produced as the outcome of an inquiry. The specialist music schools in particular have inhabited a nebulous and secretive world with insufficient external scrutiny, despite being in receipt of a considerable amount of state money.
In spite of all of the above, various individuals who have been investigating abuse in musical education remain wary or sceptical about positing the existence of a ‘ring’. It would probably be more accurate to refer to large overlapping networks of individuals frequently complicit in facilitating or covering up each other’s actions, rather than something more centrally organised.
Examples of the connections involved include the fact of teachers frequently moving between multiple institutions. Many also teach on summer courses or are involved with orchestral and choral coaching. There are especially intricate networks connecting both former and current staff at Chetham’s in particular.
Factors deterring students from coming forward
There are many factors mitigating against students or former students from coming forward either to the police or the media about experiences of abuse. These include the factor of peer pressure and the strong potential for ostracisation by alumni communities, fears for professional reputation, and minimisation or trivialisation of the issue of psychological abuse. Arguments have also been made about how uncovering of abuse this will hurt funding for classical music at a time when it is most vulnerable (see, for example, Richard Morrison, ‘Music teaching’s dark past is in danger of destroying its future’, BBC Music Magazine, April 2013, p. 25 and for a more fervent expression of this, Denis Joe, ‘Don’t let abuse fears ruin music: A Savile-style inquiry into one of the UK’s top music schools could wreck the informality essential to music tuition’, Spiked Online, 7/3/13). Others have attacked those who have come forward concerning ‘historic’ abuse at institutions on the grounds that revelations of such experiences have a harmful effect upon those studying at the institutions today (this has been a recurrent complaint by many current parents and pupils posting to Norman Lebrecht’s blog). Knowledge of the experiences of Frances Andrade in court also gives fear to those who might have to undergo a similar experience. Furthermore, some of the abuse would not at the time have constituted a criminal act, if consensual, and with victims over the age of 16 prior to 2003.
The difficulties of coming forward are exacerbated for younger victims – it is well-known and often commented how many abuse victims wait several decades before deciding to speak out (See, for example, Connie Burrows Horton and Tracy K. Cruise, Child Abuse and Neglect: The Schools’ Response (New York: The Guilford Press, 2001), pp. 39-40; Thomas G. Plante and Kathleen L. McChesney, Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church: A Decade of Crisis, 2002-2012 (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2011), p. 20; David Gray and Peter Watt, Giving Victims a Voice: joint report into sexual allegations made against Jimmy Savile (London: NSPCC, 2013), p. 20; Kathryn Westcott and Tom de Castella, ‘The decades-long shadow of abuse’, BBC News Magazine, 25/10/12). This very fact unfortunately likely plays a fact in the widespread perception in amongst the music world (and propagated by those managing its institutions) that abuse is primarily ‘historic’, belonging to a more distant era. That this may simply be the result of the fact that victims of more recent abuse do not yet feel ready to speak out should not be discounted. Furthermore, musicians in their 20s and 30s tend to have more precarious careers (unless hugely successful), and are more vulnerable to hostile criticism, whether made explicit or not, such as might come about as a result of their taking their complaints forward. It should be borne in mind that as the professional world of classical music is relatively small and many individuals are closely connected through shared professional and educational experiences, there can be especially great difficulties in victims maintaining anonymity if they go forward, on account of easy spread of gossip and relative ease of identifying them.
Conclusion: Issues for an Inquiry
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 (http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/historical-institutional-abuse (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.
The culture of music education lends itself to abuse
Ian Pace studied piano, composition and percussion at Chetham’s School of Music from 1978 to 1986, followed by Oxford and Cardiff universities and the Juilliard School in New York. He has a dual career as concert pianist and historical musicologist, and is lecturer in music and head of performance at City University London. He writes here in a personal capacity.
My own formative years, between ages 10 and 18, were spent at Chetham’s – better known as Chet’s – from 1978 to 1986, always as a boarder.
I should make clear from the beginning that I do not consider myself to have been a victim of sustained abuse at the school. I received a good deal of valuable teaching that helped towards my professional career as a pianist and musicologist. However, the recent conviction of one teacher and the police investigation of many others have forced me to re-evaluate those times, the values I encountered and absorbed there, and their relationship to a wider classical music culture.
Many among the alumni have come together in recent months, often for the first time in several decades, and frequently with the help of social media. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the conviction of one teacher and allegations against others have been traumatic for many. They have led to varying degrees of disillusionment, regret, sometimes denial or disbelief. There have been attempts to recapture the most positive elements of the past as an antidote to these shocks.
Hardest of all to accept can be the idea that those who played an integral part in shaping one’s own musical identity and development – a deeply personal thing – may have themselves been deeply corrupted individuals responsible for sometimes heinous acts. An almost frantic piecing together of memories from the time can also give cause for sober reflection upon some aspects of the culture of the school.
In particular, there was the relatively common knowledge of affairs between (mostly male) teachers and (mostly female) students, the latter in most cases were over 16, but still students nonetheless. What sort of distorted values were at play when this was apparently not viewed as anything particularly unusual or untoward? From a youthful perspective, this seemed to bestow a certain status upon some of those involved (occasionally boys as well as girls) perceived as especially adult, sexually mature and sophisticated, despite still being children.
Many of the values and attitudes informing classical music today remain rooted in the 19th century. Among these is the idea that solo performance entails a highly intimate expression of the self, dealing with deeply intimate emotions. Or that it entails a seduction, captivation and bewitchment of one’s audience, which can objectify performer and listener alike. Both place the musician in a vulnerable situation that can be withstood from the vantage point of adult emotional and sexual maturity, but that is extremely testing and potentially dangerous for children.
And the focus of attention is not merely upon the sounds produced but also the visual appearance of the performer, their demeanour, gestures and facial expression. The outfits female musicians (and increasingly males as well) are expected to wear are often highly sexualised.
It would be disingenuous to deny that teenagers of all types, not just musicians, look to older, sexualised role models for inspiration, but when this becomes ingrained within their education itself, it can be ripe for exploitation. When music teachers take it upon themselves to mould not only the musician but the whole person of the young performer, that performer may be at risk of seriously damaging consequences if this is not handled with the utmost care. Most obviously alarming is the possibility of sexualised grooming, as is alleged to have happened in many cases at Chetham’s.
But wider patterns of psychological abuse can equally have devastating results upon students’ personal and emotional well-being, with severe consequences in later life. Behind the sometimes monstrous egos of successful solo musicians you frequently find common traits of narcissistic self-obsession, narrowness of outlook, ruthless competitiveness, vanity and the insatiable need for reassurance. They are all frequently conceived as aspects of “artistic temperament”. Their higher calling seems to exempt them from other laws of reasonable behaviour.
Historical examples of musical “great men” such as Beethoven, Liszt or Wagner serve to legitimise these attitudes and traits. Many conflict sharply with the empathy, humility and generosity of spirit that I believe to be vital for productive teaching.
Yet many musicians are engaged as teachers primarily on the basis of their achievements as performers, and the result can at worst be disastrous. It can lead to the cultivation of entourages of adoring young students to be moulded into quasi-clones of the great guru, as extensions of his or her ego. Sometimes, students who do not conform to these teachers’ expectations can be the subject of jealous resentment leading to callous cruelty through attempts to destroy their confidence. They dissect and amplify the student’s every fault while ignoring their strengths, sometimes in order to humiliate them in front of others.
In either case this constitutes psychological abuse in a way that would be completely unacceptable for a regular state school teacher. But institutions’ reputations are often founded on these “great musicians” and they have the power to make or break a student’s future career. Students’ desperation to please has for too long been allowed to mask a pattern of abusive behaviour.