Skip to main content

0800 917 1000   Open weekdays 9am-5pm

IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

The residential schools Investigation Report

Contents

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.[1]

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.[2] It became a co-educational specialist music school in 1969, having been a boys’ grammar school since 1656.[3] 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).[4] 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.[5]

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.

Michael Brewer

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.[6] Brewer was a powerful figure, having complete autonomy over all matters relating to music.[7] Mr Peter Hullah (headteacher from 1992 to 1999) told the Inquiry that “the Director of Music was the School”.[8] Brewer was also highly regarded outside the school.[9] 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.[10] 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.[11]

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[12] 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.[13]

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.[14] 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.[15]

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.[16] 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.[17]

12. The governing body accepted Brewer’s resignation with immediate effect, which brought the headteacher’s investigation into the matter to an “abrupt halt”.[18] Brewer faced no disciplinary action. The reason given publicly for his departure was that he had retired due to ill health.[19] Brewer told the court in 2013 that this was Mr Hullah’s suggestion, and accepted that this had been a “cover-up”.[20] 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.[21] Mr Hullah stated that he had informed the governing body of all the circumstances of Brewer’s resignation from the school.[22]

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.[23] 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.[24] 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,[25] although there was a statutory duty to notify the Department for Education of such resignations.[26] Mr Hullah did not consider that the circumstances of Brewer’s resignation were such as to require any referrals or notification.[27]

14. In February 2013, Brewer was convicted of indecently assaulting Frances Shorney on multiple occasions when she was under 16.[28] 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”.[29] 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”.[30]

Christopher Ling

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.[31]

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.[32]

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.[33] 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.[34] 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.[35] Mr Vallins recalled that the police said there was sufficient evidence to charge Ling but that the offences were not extraditable.[36] 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.[37]

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.[38] 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.[39] 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”.[40]

Operation Kiso

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.[41] 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[42] 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.[43] He sexually assaulted her by knocking her to the ground and groping her while his wife was in the bath upstairs.[44] 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.[45]

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.[46] The charges were withdrawn before trial due to evidential issues.[47] 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.[48] The judge found that “Mr Li exploited the opportunities presented by being [RS-A165’s] teacher and by being her guardian”.[49] 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.[50]

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.[51] 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.[52]

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.[53] 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”.[54]

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.[55] All allegations were referred to the police, who logged the reports but took no further action as Gazelle was deceased.[56] 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.[57]

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.[58] 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.[59] When the director of music brought the allegation to the attention of Dr Hillier in 2013, Dr Hillier arranged to meet and speak with RS-A218 before referring the matter to the police, without naming her, in accordance with her wishes.

RS-F13

30. In around 2006, a female student complained that her tutor, RS-F13, had made sexualised and inappropriate comments in one-to-one instrumental lessons, which made her uncomfortable.[60] 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.[61]

31. In 2013, another female student, RS-A204, made an allegation that RS-F13 had attempted to kiss her a year previously.[62] The allegation was referred to the local authority designated officer (LADO).[63] A disciplinary investigation concluded that the disputed allegation was “unsubstantiated”.[64] 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.[65]

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.[66] 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.[67] 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[68] (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.[69]

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.[70] 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.[71]

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.[72] There are 556 pupils in the senior school, approximately half of whom board, and there are 188 pupils whose parents live overseas.[73] 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.[74] 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.[75]

Julien Bertrand

35. In 2006, Julien Bertrand, a former member of staff at Wells Cathedral School, was convicted of sexual offences against RS-A202 and another boy at a school where he had worked previously, and was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment.[76] 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.[77] 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.[78] 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.[79] In 2005, RS-A202 disclosed to a member of Cathedral staff that he had been sexually abused by Bertrand.[80] The deputy headteacher was informed and he immediately reported the allegations to the police.[81] 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.[82] 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.[83] 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.[84]

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.[85] 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.[86]

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.[87] 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.[88] 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.[89] 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).[90] 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.

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.[91] 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.[92]

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.[93] 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.[94]

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.[95] 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.[96] RS-A160 was not willing to support a prosecution and the investigation concluded that the allegation was “unfounded”.[97]

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.[98] No disciplinary action was taken against RS-F20, and his subsequent behaviour and contact with students was not monitored.[99] No records of the allegation or of any steps taken were kept by the school.[100]

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.[101] 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.[102]

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.[103] 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.[104] 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.[105]

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.[106] 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.[107]

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”.[108] 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.[109] 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.[110]

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.[111] Mr Crook described it as a personal, social and health education (PSHE) lesson and a “sexual talk”.[112] 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.[113] 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.[114]

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.[115]

52. A group of school staff wrote anonymously to the chair of governors, Mr Graham Smallbone, about the meeting at the headteacher’s house.[116] 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.[117] 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.[118] The local authority sent social workers to the Purcell School to ascertain the welfare of the boy who was alleged to have been bullied.[119]

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.[120]

54. The substantiated case was referred back to the school for the board of governors to take disciplinary action against Mr Crook.[121] In September 2009, Mr Smallbone requested that the LADO reconsider the conclusion that the allegation was “substantiated”.[122] The LADO declined to do so.[123] 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.[124] 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.[125] The governing body convened a disciplinary meeting in November 2009, when they decided not to discipline the headteacher with a formal warning or otherwise.[126]

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.[127] 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.[128] 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.[129]

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”.[130] 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.[131] 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”.[132]

References

Back to top