The IICSA Report into Residential Schools – material on specialist music schools and some initial thoughts – Part 2Posted: March 4, 2022 | |
This post continues from that which I posted earlier this week following the publication of the IICSA Report into Residential Schools, including specialist music schools. This received fairly widespread coverage in the UK media, with reports in the Guardian, Independent, Telegraph, Manchester Evening News, and for the BBC (here and here), ITV and Sky News. A direct overview from the inquiry itself can be read here.
In the earlier post I linked to an earlier post of my own giving links to the videos and transcripts of the evidence given to the inquiry over three days in Autumn 2019. This transcript is especially key for Chetham’s, and includes my own evidence, while this transcript is particularly important in relation to the Purcell School.
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:
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 notes the lack of any statutory governance requirements (such as a board of governors) for independent schools, with some overseen by a sole proprietor. While proprietors and governors are themselves required to undergo checks from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), Her Majest’s Chief Inspector for Education, Skills and Children’s Services, Ms Amanda Spielman, believes these are insufficient. It would be interesting to consider, had any equivalent to the DBS (or its predecessor, the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA), working together with the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB), from 2002) been in place, in the 1980s, whether this would have prevented Robert Waddington, former Dean of Manchester Cathedral, against whom many allegations of abuse have been made (in which context IICSA in an earlier report were sharply critical of a lack of action on the part of the Church of England), becoming a governor of Chetham’s from 1984 to 1993, including during the time of disclosures of abuse in 1990 against Chris Ling, who left the country. Unfortunately the IICSA report makes no reference to Waddington, and a governing body containing someone for whom all evidence points to his being an abuser himself, but this subject is mention in Fiona Gardiner’s book Sex, Power, Control: Responding to Abuse in the Institutional Church
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.
I would also draw people’s attention to the recommendations submitted to the inquiry by lawyers Slater & Gordon, who represented a range of survivors. When IICSA produces its final report, then it will be time to reflect more widely on these.
The IICSA Report into Residential Schools – material on specialist music schools and some initial thoughts – Part 1Posted: March 1, 2022 | |
Today, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse have published their long-awaited report into residential schools, including specialist music schools, following their hearings in Autumn 2019. As a participant in the inquiry who gave verbal evidence and also a wide range of written data, submitted via lawyers Slater and Gordon, I wanted to draw attention to the sections relating to specialist music schools (as the report is 223 pages long), and offer some comments. I earlier published a post with a wide range of links to the testimonies and videos from the inquiry, and also an extensive range of testimonies collected at the time from former pupils at my former school, Chetham’s School of Music. Other relevant posts are indexed on my home page – perhaps most relevant are my digest of reported cases of abuse from 1990 to 2012, and detailed account of the trial of Michael Brewer and the aftermath.
Chetham’s School of Music, cloister buildings.
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.
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.
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 the role. 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:
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
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.