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UNBANNED: Chetham’s denies blocking staff and students from reading Slipped Disc

We have been contacted by three internal sources who report, with varying degrees of stupefaction and outrage, that Chetham’s School of Music has instructed its internet server to block access on the internal system to this site.

What prompted that? Possibly, some observations we made on Saturday in the Daily Telegraph. We have sought clarification from Chetham’s.

UPDATE: We have just received the following assurance from an executive at Chetham’s: The School has not blocked access to this blog as you allege. If anyone using the School system has had difficulty accessing your blog it may be for other reasons, such as bandwidth, and the School did experience some intermittent problems with its internet access over the weekend.  It is certainly not due to deliberate steps the School has taken. Our IT support team has run tests this morning and confirms it has no trouble accessing the blog. We are grateful for that assurance and trust there will be no further diffilcutly accessing the site.

The school has our sympathy and support in these very difficult times. It is in the middle of a firestorm of allegations of sexual abuse. According to the Guardian today, nine past teachers are under police investigation. The school’s reputation is in tatters, and will degenerate still further when former music head Mike Brewer and his ex-wife Hilary are brought back to court for sentencing.

So what’s its next course of action? A word of advice to the head, Claire Moreland: the bunker mentality doesn’t work. What you need to do, ma’am, is open up, not shut down channels of communication. Staff will read Slipped Disc at home. students can read it at Starbucks. Both will continue to send us information. [one sentence redacted]. This is the 21st century and Chetham’s is not Colditz (much as they may look alike on a rainy day).

 

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Comments

  1. George King says:

    Very well put, Norman!

  2. Concerned parent says:

    Your report about censorship Norman is shocking. This response by the school suggests that the powers that be think the way to deal with their problem is to control the information people receive and the opportunities they have for speaking out.
    No – the problem is not everyone else finding out about what has been going on at Chets and verbalising their concern; the problem is the abuse that has been occurring and continues to do so.

    Until the school management realises that this kind of censorship and control is what has allowed abuse to go on unchecked for so long and is what fuels continuing distrust in the management, things for Chets are likely to get worse before they get better.

    • Thanks, CP. I have now inserted the head’s full name. She complains of rumours and ignorance, while actively fostering them.

      • An astonishing misrepresentation of the school as it is now. The pupils are all fine and certainly not suffering as Mel would imply – past events have nothing to do with them. The Headmistress is doing an excellent job in very difficult circumstances and if this your way of giving sympathy and support you have a bizarre way of showing it.
        As to the “2 for 1 tickets” comment, surely, with all the bad publicity the school is worried that there won’t be an audience and not unreasonably assumes it could perhaps rely on some support from some ex-students.

        • Edmund Coxon says:

          The ‘parent’ woefully underestimates the strength of feeling within and among the alumni. I know of not dissimilar circumstances where the Head Teacher does/did have a hard job in keeping things together in another music school establishment. Nobody said it would be easy but the spread of the damage is immeasuarble at present so it might be more prudent to permit some verbal blood letting for the time being assuming no libel or slander.

        • Concerned parent says:

          “The pupils are all fine and certainly not suffering — past events have nothing to do with them.” How does Parent know? No doubt this is what every parent wants to think, but that doesn’t make it true. As the parent of a child who most certainly has suffered, and also been disturbed by the suffering of other children at Chets, I know the pastoral care has left a lot to be desired. and is non-existent when it comes to what occurs in the hallowed relationship between instrumental teacher and pupil. Thank God for this blog and Ian Pace’s petition – there might be a chance that there will be some real cultural change. The first step, though, has to be to have the courage for some critical self-reflection, and genuine readiness to hear what complainants are saying.

        • Charles Boney says:

          Here, here to Parent says – As a proud dad of a current sixth form cellist I am angry about the way so many of you are sounding off without any knowledge of what is going on at Chets in the current generation. Pupils are happy, secure and loving the fantastic environment that nurtures them at Chets. The historic allegations are dreadful, must be investigated and followed through in the proper way.
          But does this give you lot the right to slag off the present Staff and culture of Chets? Have you any idea of the stress, hurt and upset that is being caused by you to the children there today.? It is not the current staff that are the abusers but the unwarranted hysteria that is being created that is causing real damage.

          frankly many of you should feel ashamed.

          • Ian Pace says:

            @Charles Boney: maybe you think that the fact that reporting the fact that at least 12 former teachers are being investigated for sexual crimes against children at Chetham’s, and there are many allegations concerning other music schools and colleges, and some suggestions (including on this blog) that things are far from fine today at Chet’s, constitutes hysteria – I think the real hysteria is from those unable to even countenance the possibility that there might be and have been very serious issues of culture and behaviour in these schools, leading to sustained abuse, rape, destroyed lives, lifetimes of chronic depression, self-harm, suicide attempts and so on.

            I wonder if you have any idea how upsetting it is to the real victims of these events – some of whom have spent decades blaming themselves, unable even to confide in friends or family, and only now starting to be taken seriously – to hear you and others attacking the very fact that this is finally being brought to light? Frankly (to use your term), I think those who take that attitude are the ones who should feel ashamed.

        • current pupil says:

          I’m glad that your child’s experience at Chet’s was so positive, but there are deep-rooted issues and failings in the management and ethos of the school that remain to this day.
          Highlights include: a year of misery at the hands of my former instrumental teacher who had no experience with young children and a complete failure by the school to acknowledge the problem because he was regarded as a top teacher; being told repeatedly by a member of senior management that “that’s just how girls are” and that I was the problem during almost two years of bullying from another student; numerous occasions where I have quite simply been unable to cope with the workload and met with no support (two assessments, three concerts, exams and two hours of instrumental lessons as normal in one week was one example).
          Your assertion that the pupils are “all fine and not suffering” is completely false and more than a little offensive.
          Not to say that I haven’t had some great experiences at Chet’s, but those were a result of individual teachers and the support of my friends. The ethos and figures at the head of the school are corrupt and there is a general sense that psychological abuse is acceptable if it produces star pupils. Some people have indeed had only positive experiences at Chet’s, but that does not mean that other pupils are not suffering. To hold that view is to insult and belittle those (and I can list a number of recent cases) who have been adversely affected by abuse.

          Sorry about the rant.

          • Another concerned parent says:

            Re: current pupil March 3. You are absolutely right, and I am astonished to read about your experience which is almost an exact repeat of what happened to my child within the last two years – but with a different tutor: ‘a year of misery at the hands of an instrumental teacher who had no experience with young children and a complete failure by the school to acknowledge the problem because he was regarded as a top teacher’. I am sure Mr. Boney is not intentionally joining the ranks of those who tried to ignore and silence other abused children in the past – but that is effectively what he is doing. It is completely wrong for anyone to attack current students, and make them feel guilty for the disgraceful treatment that they have received – very recently – at the hands of the school.

  3. Well said Norman. I should imagine any pupils at the school who are suffering in any way whatsoever, whether because of the events of the last few weeks, or, god forbid, in a more direct way, now feel even more isolated.

  4. Well, the attempt to shut down Slipped Disc as an information source will only give it more power and influence by making the families and, most of all, students want to read it more. Keep writing “Banned,” Norman, and you’re guaranteed to have students finding a way to read.

  5. Well it’s lucky that absolutely no students will have a phone you can view the internet on or anything…muppets.

  6. Edmund Coxon says:

    This is a worrying development – the sort of thing one might come to expect of the Chinese or Syrian authorities but not the administrative regime of a music school under review! Do they somehow think the students will not find other means to access information and discussion groups on the one subject which directly effects their daily lives? Have they not heard of iPhones or android devices? Perhaps they have been confiscated and banned too? I wonder if the dreaded ‘Dansker’ and his comrades sinister ways are afoot?

  7. Leo Nicholson says:

    As both a former Chets student and somebody that now works a fair bit with content-blocking systems in schools, I find it ridiculous that C.M. et al don’t seem to realise that the students (and staff) WILL read Slipped Disc! I know better than most that if you tell a child not to do something, they’ll try harder to do it. In this age of iPhones, Android-phones and Blackberries, the boarders have umpteen ways to access this site (and pretty much any other).

  8. It is worth pointing out too that as far as I’m aware no ex Chet’s students affected have been offered any advice or help from the school. They were kind enough to send me an offer for two for one tickets to concerts tho..

    • Mel, I find this particularly shocking, considering it is quite likely that there are some ex students affected either directly or indirectly by the recent incidents and revelations. This action shows a general lack of care and the inability to do what is right.

      • I received exactly the same ‘e’ mail, about an hour or so after the news concerning the arrest of Wen Zhou Li had been announced last week, and I did wonder whether it had occurred to anyone at the school that such an ‘e’ mail at such a time might be construed as offensive, or at the very least improper.

  9. It sounds like the U.S. State Department banning its employees from accessing Wikileaks (though there an employee is banned even from accessing it from a private computer at home). Norman, you have created a veritable firestorm to reveal a serious problem that needs to be fixed. Does this mean you will join in solidarity with Julian? Musicians of the world unite!

  10. Tony Firshman says:

    Don’t worry, Norman. I am sure the pupils will be reading your articles on their smartphones.

  11. John Daszak says:

    Ha! Surely they have smartphones and can use internet cafes anyway…..

    • Right. And the younger the pupil the more sophisticated the technology they will use. (Which maybe means they shouldn’t be studying music at all.)

      • John Daszak says:

        I just now heard from someone at the school, a very reliable source I believe, who says this is untrue!! And I quote….”it came about because the school routinely blocks access to a variety of blogs and social networking sites during the working day to stop the children spending all day on Facebook. Maybe Slipped Disc got caught up in this. They ran tests this morning and everything is fine.” It seems there was an overreaction to this standard procedure…

  12. Martin Locher says:

    It would be important to know when exactly this censorship started and if they have blocked access to many other blogs as well. To my knowledge, some schools restrict access to blogs and social networking in general.

    If they simply block this blog because of those abuse stories, it would seem very wrong indeed.

  13. Good stuff, Norman. Ms Moreland seems to be living in the Middle Ages. Very misguided actions on her part.

    • USSR's victim says:

      To Perry Rees, Don’t all head teachers at private schools live in the MIddle Ages? From what I have experienced as a parent of a private school student,heads are not concerned about your child.They are more concerned about keeping their school’s/brand’s reputation. Private schools in the UK operate like businesses,cold and rational with very strict and customer unfriendly return policies.

      • former chetham's student says:

        Your generalisation of private schooling in the UK is profoundly useless in a conversation such as this. I will not speak for Chetham’s 30 years ago, but I can assure you that today it provides its students with the upmost care and that pastoral care is a great priority for Clare Moreland, who I know will be responding very well in this situation.

  14. a more uplifiting image for Chethams as opposed to the rather grim one in circulation on here, and elsewhere:
    http://www.sir-robert-mcalpine.com/files/project/31344/Chethams_1___Main.jpg

  15. Those in charge at Chethams who made this astonishing decision are doing themselves and the school a grave disfavour by the kind of own goal that would have given rise to overwhelming outrage had it been committed instead by Manchester United…

  16. I am proud of being invited for the second time to Chetham’s Summer Piano Course and Festival. My experience last year was fully satisfactory and I could feel the very special atmosphere of a place in which not only musical training, but cultural, artistic growth and the sharing of enthusiasm for musical knowledge and enjoyment are at the core of their projects. Alongside being ruthless to whoever is truly responsible for those past acts, I think they should look ahead at their future and the musical training of their students.

  17. Ex Student says:

    I would just like to point out as I have very recently left Chets (last July), that the school do have a general filter to lots of blogs and social networking during the schools working day. This is to discourage students to spend their day on Facebook rather than working. This may have been why this website has been blocked. I am not trying to back the school up in anyway. I feel what has gone on is disgusting. I personally never had any major problems there, but what I will say is that it is very obvious that the school cares about what they look like to the public/musical world, than about their students. That is why the pupils with a bit of edge, the ones who break a few rules (nothing serious) and have some guts very rarely get any performance opportunities or generally any opportunities. A good example of this is being able to guess who head boy/girl would be before the shortlist had even been released (yes me and a few friends got it spot on). Another good example is guessing orchestra positions for CSO (Chetham’s Symphony Orchestra) before they had been announced. The school had their favorites and not one person who I have spoken to from Chets disagrees with me, even the favorites know it and have happily admitted it. The is a mess and is going to take some serious help to get it back on it’s feet. I would also like to point out the very important fact that not all the teachers/staff there are bad. I think that a lot of people will forget this. A handful of the staff where very good to me and my peers during my time there (4 years).

    • former chetham's student says:

      I think that it is false to say they care more about their public image than the students, and i think given a few more years away from the school you will see that your interpretation of favouritism etc is childish. This is certainly not my view of the school. The pupils ‘with a bit of edge’ don’t get as many opportunities if they are presenting themselves to not take their music as seriously. I was suspended several times from the school but received more opportunities than I could have asked for. Your head boy/girl and CSO list insinuations do not ring true for me either. As far as I could tell, you got from Chet’s what you put in. It is an elitist institution because thats the way the music industry works. Not everyone can lead an orchestra. Music conservatoires share the opportutnites far less than Chet’s did. To be honest, it sounds more like a way of interpreting the disappointment of not being given the opportunities that works in your favour.

  18. It is good to see, Norman, that you have now received an assurance from Chethams that no attempt has been made at censorship; I have to admit that it did seem to be a quite extraordinarily draconian step when first I read it. Accordingly, I withdraw my comment about this on the grounds of its having been a response to the assumption that such censorship had actually taken place when we now know that it did not occur.

    I imagine that few if any people – even the victims of abuse at any music school or those who know them – seek a witch hunt for its own sake or relish the prospect of ongoing deterioration of the reputations of institutions such as Chethams and others including those that have been mentioned in various threads here; that will do no one any good and will risk irreparable damage to the teaching of music in Britain.

    The sheer gravity of the alleged activities that are coming to light following the tragic death of Frances Andrade need nevertheless to be brought into the public arena and investigated and dealt with appropriately and guidelines set up for the purposes of ensuring as far as possible that these kinds of behaviour in such institutions are consigned to history so that the institutions themselves can thrive and develop as they should and be recognised for the “musical training…cultural, artistic growth and the sharing of enthusiasm for musical knowledge and enjoyment” referred to by Carlo Grante.

  19. Ex Student is right. Many HEIs, colleges and schools have generic filters in place which automatically block “social” web content like FB and blogs. Sometimes a block is triggered by content, and given that Slipped Disc has been discussing the child abuse cases in music education a LOT in recent days, perhaps the Chet’s filter software kicked in.
    Any fule kno that students (and staff) will circumvent nannying software with their smartphones anyway

  20. Hello.. I am another very recent ex-student and would just like to let readers know that I totally believe Chets when they say that the blocking was an accident – I’m sure any recent pupil would agree with me that the Firewall on the internet is incredibly random and sometimes blocks the most harmless of sites for quite amusing reasons – I once tried to access a website to help me with some Science homework and it was blocked as the Firewall detected that it was ‘Portuguese pornography’ which I found amusingly specific, and of course COMPLETELY wrong. I’m sure this could be said of pretty much every school in the country, and I think, actually in the light of everything that has been coming out in recent weeks, it is commendable that the current school has an incredibly sensitive internet protection system – even if this does mean that often completely harmless sites get blocked. Whenever this happened to me while browsing the internet, I found that one quick email to the IT manager sorted the problem and got the harmless site in question unblocked.

    I know this thread has now become more of a discussion about the current scandal at Chets and while I do not want to get involved as I do not know enough about what has gone on, I would just like to say that all victims have my utmost sympathy and that i was devastated and appalled when I read about their ordeal in the press. The current students and staff of Chetham’s have my full support and I hope that the ongoing press attention does not affect their education or happiness – Chets was my home for a significant amount of years, and I enjoyed every single minute of it, mainly due to the incredibly friendly and supportive environment that both students and staff nurtured there.

  21. current Chets parent says:

    Norman, you could not be more mistaken about Claire Moreland having a ‘bunker mentality’. She has bombarded parents with emails ever since – and, in fact, even before – the Brewer trial to keep us up to date with the scandal. This has been of particular benefit to those of us who don’t live in the Manchester area and do not, therefore, read the Manchester Evening News which had been covering the Brewer case long before the national press took notice. There has also been a reference to the case on the school website, certainly since last autumn. Every ghastly development since Brewer’s conviction has been met promptly with direct communication to parents from Mrs Moreland and her emails have kept us better informed than even your (normally) fine blog.

    • Concerned parent says:

      Not true. I am a current parent. The school has and continues to be extremely cagey and unresponsive both to queries from the press and from particular parents. Without the press and this blog both students and their parents would know much less. I am pleased you feel happy about the school’s response; very many people both within the current Chets community and outside do not.

    • @current Chets parent

      Might you share of few of those emails? These would be public documents by virtue of their being sent to a group. It would support your point, naturally. Without them, we have only general comments.

  22. As a current student at Chethams, I want to just clear up a few things that have been flying around here, first of all, One of the “ex students” who commented on here, about Chethams having favouritism and speaking in a purely pejorative sense, I will be the first to admit that I have not been the finest exemplar of studiousness and obeying the rules but I have been given opportunities by the school as have majority if not all other students have done. One must appreciate that certain students who will remain unnamed are bound to have a greater number of engagements including “high profile” because of the simple reason they are immensely talented and perform at a high quality and naturally the school wants to help boost and promote their career as much as possible. You can argue a point of “equality” but one must appreciate that in music we are not all “equal” people vary in standard and also vary in talent. It would be more unfair logically speaking to give high-profile engagements to a student who hasn’t the ability to deliver a performance of a high-standard simply because we must also remember that the students are effectively a representation of the school and also they are performing to a potentially international audience. Ok, enough about that, secondly, I have been a student at Chethams for 7 years now, the school provides great facilities, great teaching, and not only that but great child-care. There are many outlets within the school and not to mention outside which are there to help any students who may feel they need to ‘report’ any abuse or need help coping with the immense pressures of a high-intensity music-academic boarding school. Ultimately, we have to review the blinding fact that these incidents occurred at a time when social thinking was very much different to what it is today and the previously mentioned outlets weren’t as prominent as they are today. My parents have been well-informed with regards to the details of the investigations, and do not fear for my welfare simply because of the huge changes that have obviously happened within management of the school. Thirdly, I would like to just point out that the school today has a great many things to be thankful for not to mention the Chethams International Summer school (ran by my current teacher and Head of Keyboard at Chethams) at which thanks to Murray McLachlan I was able to come in contact with Carlo Grante whom I will be studying with in Campobasso/Italy after I leave Chethams this year. The course is a great success, in that many great pianists and teachers are invited onto the course, many lectures and masterclasses take place, all entirely for the benefit of students. Also at Chethams, many of the departments have international soloists to come and give masterclasses and provide 3-6 big orchestral concerts each year. Ultimately, now that I am leaving the school, I have had time to reflect on my time and realised it is very easy to take for granted all of which we have at our disposal because of the school, and the efforts of the staff, and it would be worth saying that the school is hugely different place to the time when many of these hideous crimes took place. And I would give my full support to the school and its efforts in dealing with the added pressure which have come about due to the disgraceful and thoughtless actions of a few.

  23. I would just like to confirm from official sources within the school that Mr Lebrecht was mistaken. It was never the case that his blog was deliberately blocked. I wish he had taken the trouble to check this.

    • Paul, You work for the school and are hearing one side of the story. Your criticism of me is unjustified. I was contacted by several people at Chetham’s – staff, parents and pupils – telling me my site had been blocked. I sought a response from Chetham’s. Some hours later, I posted the blog about the ban. When Chetham’s responded, I reported their denial, inserting it in both headline and text. You should read Peter Donohoe’s second thoughts on the subject.

      • Concerned parent says:

        Norman – where are Peter Donohoe’s Second Thoughts?
        I think those criticising you are missing the much bigger point here Norman. Chets may not have banned your blog, but the assumption – and appearance – that it did is very telling.
        People inside and outside the management are still not getting
        (1) there is now a huge problem about trust with regards the management of the school (they were slow and evasive and possibly deceitful in the past about dealing with their dirty linen – have they changed?)
        (2) the way to deal with that problem is NOT to attack the people voicing concerns or suspicions or to ignore them hoping they will go away or to wheel out staff, pupils and parents saying how completely happy they are with everything at Chets (and especially the management)*
        The way to deal with the problem of trust is to listen to your critics, be respectful and responsive, be open – and have the confidence to admit you are not perfect and need to learn all the time.
        After all we are all on the same side aren’t we?
        *These have been standard responses by Chets to parents in the last few years when they have raised concerns about pastoral care.

        • Peter Donohoe’s second statement on Facebook: Regarding the apparently false information I received that Chetham’s School was blocking access to some of the sites in which there was discussion of the sexual abuse issues : It has been brought to my attention that my statement of withdrawal of that false information on my Facebook page gives the impression that I blame Norman Lebrecht’s Slipped Disc as the source. It is of paramount importance to me that everyone realises that that was not my intention. From my point of view, Norman’s Slipped Disc site has reported on this issue very correctly, and I was horrified when I realised the possible implications taken from my post. Apologies Norman.

          Just to be clear, it was quite widely circulated that the school was intentionally blocking access to these sites, including Slipped Disc. I and many others reported this. The school has since contacted both Norman and me, and I am sure many others, to assure us that this was not what they were doing, and that students enjoyed free access to such sites.

        • Dear CP, I agree almost entirely with both of your points. 1 There is an issue of trust, founded on the school’s past misconduct. It remains to be seen how the isues are handled in 2013 and I am more than prepared to be persuaded that they are being handled correctly and with the best interests of pupils as the first priority. 2 The school needs to be transparent and trustworthy, respectful of its critics, prepared to admit mistakes and open to change. Again, you and I both hope it will be.

        • current Chets parent says:

          Just want to make it clear that I, for one, have not been ‘wheeled out’ by Chets and choose to defend the current management because, being within the school community (as a parent), I can see how hard they are trying to restore trust, not only for public relations purposes but for the good of the pupils. Also, I don’t think the school has attacked people for voicing concerns or suspicions has it? Let’s not confuse the leadership of the past, which apparently harboured a culture of iniquity, with today’s above board team.

          • Concerned parent says:

            To CCP: you are right of course that the management has not attacked people publicly for voicing concerns about Li, Layard or Brewer – it could hardly do so. But there has been plenty online by others (pupils, parents, past students) attacking those who have expressed concern that there are continuities between the culture of the past and the present. That is not to say that sexual abuse is still on-going at Chets or that the situation regarding pastoral care and psychological abuse is anything as bad as it was 10, 20 or 30 years ago (I am fully aware of the stringent P&Ps for checking who enters and leaves the school etc although as Peter Donohoe points out in today’s Times these do not rule out the opportunity for visiting teachers, or indeed permanently employed teachers, to abuse their students). No – the concern is that the culture still allows considerable scope for psychological abuse which is exploited by some instrumental teachers and condoned or even supported by the management of the school. The management of the school most certainly has attacked parents who have raised such concerns in the very recent past, and I have seen no indication from the management in the light of the recent crisis that they recognise that there still is a problem with psychological abuse which needs to be addressed. It is because the wider musical world – including many Chets alumni – sniff a continuing culture of denial among the management at Chets that hundreds have signed Ian pace’s petition for a full independent enquiry.

          • Thank you, Norman, for clarifying the text of Peter Donohoe’s statement. It is also clear that, whilst the benefit of hindsight reveals that it was arguably unfortunate that Chethams’ alleged blocking of access to this blog was reported, it seems clear to me that the retraction posted here within minutes of receipt of information that it had not done so is wholly satisfactory.

            As to arguments that the alleged culture of abuse of various kinds at Chethams is something that no longer applies today, it will of course be good to have incontrovertible evidence of this. There is currently a police inquiry and, whilst the fact of its progress will inevitably tie Chethams’ hands to some extent in terms of what it can publish until it is completed and its findings published, one would hope that its scope will be sufficient to enable it to investigate alleged abuse and alleged failure to act on reports of it right up to the present day. It may well be that these findings endorse a view that this culture has changed over the years – and it is true that the allegations so far made seem largely to date back to earlier times – but we must never lose sight of their gravity or ensure that due action be taken in all cases when they are found to be true.

      • Peter Donohoe’s statement: Regarding the apparently false information I received that Chetham’s School was blocking access to some of the sites in which there was discussion of the sexual abuse issues : It has been brought to my attention that my statement of withdrawal of that false information on my Facebook page gives the impression that I blame Norman Lebrecht’s Slipped Disc as the source. It is of paramount importance to me that everyone realises that that was not my intention. From my point of view, Norman’s Slipped Disc site has reported on this issue very correctly, and I was horrified when I realised the possible implications taken from my post. Apologies Norman.

        Just to be clear, it was quite widely circulated that the school was intentionally blocking access to these sites, including Slipped Disc. I and many others reported this. The school has since contacted both Norman and me, and I am sure many others, to assure us that this was not what they were doing, and that students enjoyed free access to such sites.

      • current student says:

        First of all, I know for a fact that many websites of this nature are automatically blocked in the Chethams internet. This is due to the fact that the School internet is mainly used for work purposes, and these sites are blocked as they are distractions. Seccondly, if the school has purposley blocked this website,’slipped disk’, then it is rather obvious why. Students at Chetham’s are already suffering due to the vast media coverage Chetham’s has been experiencing recently, and as many students are young and “vulnerable”,they will believe any information they read on the internet. Considering the fact that this is an open website, and that anybody can write whatever they please, I find this quite dangerous, as information posted here may well be false, and can be very upsetting for current students to read. I would finally like to state that I have been at Chethams for 7 years, and what has happened in the past has most certainly stayed in the past, as Chetham’s is nothing like the dark and mysterious place which it has been represented as in the recent weeks. I have had the best time there, and am looking forward to another two years at Chetham’s

        • Correction: this is not an ‘open website’. It is a moderated site. Abuse and defamation are spammed out.

          • Current student says:

            Sorrry Norman, i didn’t realise that posts from this site were moderated, as it was the first time I had posted anything. But even posted which aren’t ‘abusive’ still may have negative effects on the reader.

          • You’re quite right.

        • Concerned parent says:

          “Students at Chetham’s are already suffering due to the vast media coverage Chetham’s has been experiencing recently, and as many students are young and “vulnerable”,they will believe any information they read on the internet. Considering the fact that this is an open website, and that anybody can write whatever they please, I find this quite dangerous, as information posted here may well be false, and can be very upsetting for current students to read.”
          What is your evidence that students are “already suffering due to the vast media coverage”?
          Also surely it rather misses the point to blame the media; suffering has been inflicted on Chets students by the convicted abuser Brewer, those who have covered up the abuse or allowed it to continue, and the nine other suspected abusers now under investigation by the police.
          I also think you have extremely little faith in the critical faculties of Chets students if you think they will believe “anything they read on the internet”. It’s much more consoling to believe they are just idiotically gullible than to wonder if their inclination to believe the allegations of abuse on the internet and the media might be because they are quite consistent with aspects of the culture at Chets.
          A standard justification for censorship by the powerful is the protection of the so-called vulnerable. If Chets were really interested in protecting the vulnerable, they would be doing everything they could to investigate all aspects of the abuse allegations and they would welcome with open arms the inquiry Ian Pace and over a thousand others are calling for. That they remain tight-lipped as more and more teachers come to the police’s attention only reinforces the impression that the present-day management still has plenty to hide.

          • Current student says:

            My evidence is the fact that i am A CURRENT PUPIL at the school, therefore Iv’e experienced what effects the latest allergations have made to Chets Pupils more than most. Many pupils including myself, have been shocked and horrified, to discover that these awfull events had taken place in are own school! How do you think pupils felt when there own teacher had been accused of rape, and the story was plastered all over the press!? very upset is the answer, as I saw myself.
            I hope that is strong enough evidence for you.

          • Ian Pace says:

            To ‘Current student’: short of the school closing, there are always going to be current students at the place at a time when allegations appear. And this story is not going to go away in a hurry, I’m afraid, and will likely affect numerous other schools as well. Are you saying that these horrific allegations should have been ignored for this reason? If it were not for some of the press coverage, more victims might not have felt empowered to come forward.

          • Concerned parent says:

            To ‘Current student’: do you think people who have been abused by their teachers shouldn’t have come forward because it would be upsetting for those who weren’t? Do you think newspapers shouldn’t have reported it for the same reason? As a parent of a student at Chets, I know that there are also plenty of pupils who are not suffering in the way you suggest – in fact some of them were very upset and angered by Mrs Moreland’s line that all the abuse was “historic” and that everything at the present-day Chets was tickety-boo. They knew this was a lie because they knew there have been reports made to the senior management over the years about abusive relationships (not necessarily sexual) between instrumental students and tutors and failings in pastoral care have been very obvious.
            It is a recognised phenomenon that individuals in families or institutions who come forward to report abuse evoke extremely strong defensive reactions in their peers who were in the same family or institution but who were fortunate enough not to be abused or to notice the abuse being inflicted on others. This is what is now happening at Chets, and it will only make things worse as it leads people to make ridiculous denials which are self-evidently false or to suggest that the emotional needs of current pupils are best served by censorship. The same thing happened over the resignation of Peter Crook at the Purcell School last year – check back on this blog.
            I am sorry recent news has been upsetting for you and your friends – how could it not have been? – but attacking those who raise concerns about the current regime at Chets or the media who report them are key features of a culture which has allowed abuse to go on unreported and unchecked for so long.

          • Edmund Coxon says:

            Concerned Parent makes perfectly valid points. It is not unreasonable to defend some of the issues highlighted but equally it is completely understandable and wholly justifiable for all concerned in these appalling revelations to highlight areas of weakness both in management and the hierarchy as well as the suspected culprits of the alleged abuse. Throughout this difficult time we all have a duty to remain tolerant and patient and concerned!

          • Another concerned parent says:

            To Concerned parent of March 4th – I am with you there 100%. You have put it in far better words that I could have done. I don’t know how many of us there are since we are all isolated, and cannot give our names for fear of being accused of ‘Chet’s -bashing’, and, of course, our current pupils would certainly suffer as a result. Mrs Morelanad clearly does not think we exist, and the survey/inspection that is underway this week is unlikely to unearth anything since I believe it only relates to academic provision within the school – and the survey asks all the ‘wrong’ questions anyway. Nevertheless Mrs Moreland will, no doubt, claim a successful inspection as an endorsement of the operation of her school – both in academic AND musical education – even though the ISI does NOT inspect the musical provision. The whole situation is very sad. It should never have been allowed to develop – and instead of trying to deny the problems, Mrs Moreland should be facing up to them and trying to find solutions.

          • current student says:

            to ‘concerned parent’ and ‘Ian pace’
            The thought that these allegations should be ignored never entered my head, and I never even mentioned it! I was merely explaining my evidence that pupils are upset! Of course these allegations should be investigated! I was just saying how the fact that these awful things happened had upset many students at the school. Having said this, I do believe that too much speculation and ‘gossip’ does not improve the situation.

          • Concerned parent says:

            I’m sure speculation and “gossip” can be damaging, and indeed are illegal which is why newspapers are extremely careful about what they print, as Norman is on this blog. In my own case I am neither speculating nor gossiping in what I write. Everything is based on my own experience (for which I have extensive email evidence) and the motive is not pleasure in salacious gossip but a passionate wish that Chets deals with the current crisis in the best possible way for all concerned. For me, this means some far-reaching reforms to the culture, ethos and management of UK music schools.

  24. Dear Norman – I should clarify that I don’t work for the school. I happen to be here at the moment as a guest conductor. (With impeccable timing, some may say…) I’m a former student of the school and as I’ve posted elsewhere on my personal page, while I am as determined as everyone else to root out the evils of the past, to seek justice and ensure this never happens again, I don’t believe that all the current Chet’s bashing in the press is helping. I felt your report fell into that category. I was determined to stay out of all this in public, but after a week of making music here, experiencing at first hand the effect all this is having on the kids here right now, it has made it impossible for me to do so.

    • It is indeed unfortunate that current students and indeed staff at Chethams who have never experienced or encountered any kinds of abuse there are having to face the same media coverage as do the rest of us on this but, whilst there will inevitably be some unwelcome press sensationalising and inadequate research on the part of certain of its journalists (as is almost always he case), the media has a duty to report that allegations have been made, arrests have taken place, charges brought, trials conducted, convictions secured or not, sentencing handed down in respect of any convictions and police or other inquiries instigated when any or all of these things occur, because they are news – deeply unpleasant news, to be sure, but news which is nevertheless about a matter of genuine and rightful public concern.

      I agree entirely that this can be done without undue “Chets bashing” – especially as allegations are now also being made against other institutions – but the rooting out of past evils and the justice that you and the rest of us all seek has not been and indeed cannot be achieved behind closed doors at all times.

    • Another Ex-Student says:

      I completely agree with Paul Mann. I left in July 2012 and had the best few years at Chets – I am extremely proud to have been a student there and think that the criticism that the Chets of today is receiving is undue and unnecessary. At a time when current students, staff, ex-student, parents etc are having to deal with the horrific revelations of historic abuse and the ensuing media storm, the way this blog is writing about the current management is in bad taste and completely uncalled for. Chets isn’t perfect, but what school is? The vast majority of students are very happy there, and the musical and academic tuition is second-to-none. Two years in the presence of like-minded students, inspiring and committed teachers, brilliant opportunities and a friendly, supportive atmosphere have left me with greatly increased confidence; I have no hesitation to call my two years at Chets the best of my life.
      I still have younger siblings at Chets, and our parents have been kept well informed about the ongoing inquiries. Chets has the full support of a huge number of ex-students at this time, and we will do all we can to ensure that its current reputation survives the historic investigations.

      Paul – best of luck for the CSO concert tomorrow, I wish I could be there. Playing Tchaik 5 under your baton two years ago is one of my favourite Chets memories. x

      • thank you – Great memories for me too!

        • Ian Pace says:

          Paul – those great memories which you had from your time at the school would have come from a time when many of the alleged abusive acts took place. Clearly your time there was not poisoned by knowledge of these, and you left with a good impression. How can one be so sure that this situation might not equally apply to current students?

  25. Interested observer says:

    The line between rigorous and demanding tuition and psychological abuse is in fact not at all clear cut, and I think this is an entirely separate issue, not even slightly relevant to that of sexual misbehaviour. The waters are being somewhat muddied, I fear.
    Psychologically abusive teaching methods can have remarkable results with those who can withstand the pressure, and I could name names all morning. For me the ends don’t justify the means in the slightest but I have known many who think that any price is worth paying for the highest success.

    • Concerned parent says:

      I agree that the line is difficult to draw but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be drawn – exactly the same argument has been used about sexist or racist abuse, and indeed about physical and sexual abuse in the past. If we don’t draw the lines, the abusers carry on with impunity.
      Psychological abuse is intimately related to sexual abuse – especially in the very intense relationship between instrumental teacher and student, for whom the latter can become all-encompassing. The sexual abuse between instrumental teacher and student is fundamentally relational – which is why it cannot be prevented by CRB checks or windows in doors or strict protocols about people who aren’t staff or students being on school premises.
      The fact that psychologically abusive teaching methods are perceived to achieve remarkable results is of course what has bolstered institutions like Chets in turning a blind eye (and persuaded students and sometimes their parents to accept them). Abuse is abuse period.
      Equally the justification you offer for psychological abuse has been repeated many times by sexually abusive teachers, trainers and other adults.

      • Interested observer says:

        Really, please don’t think I am offering a justification. The ends do not justify the means.

      • former chetham's student says:

        I’m confused really as to what your point is. Don’t have a teacher-student interaction in case someone gets sexually abused? This is reality and psychology is a fact, you can’t remove if from human interaction and the learning environment. We can’t learn musical instruments from a computer, and a teacher-student dynamic is quintessential to studying music, which is what the school is there for. Charges have been made against Chetham’s for historic sexual abuse and this is what must be accounted for. They are not being charged with, and do not need to be charged with, psychological abuse on current pupils. The school has absolutely no obligation to account to you (as it seems you wish) on the nature of human psychology.

        • I have to confess to being confused as to what YOUR point is! No one here is suggesting that teacher-student interaction should be avoided in case of the risk of sexual abuse; that would be utterly absurd. To be able to have such interaction without any risk of sexual abuse is quite clearly possible and happens in many cases. No one here is charging Chethams or any other institution with psychological abuse on current pupils either, unless a current student comes forward with any such allegation. The school’s obligation is to account to those to whom it has a responsibility to account for misdemeanours past and present and for cover-ups of such misdemeanours past and present and, if there are no present ones, there will be none for which anyone can charge the school; I am unclear as to who is meant by “you” in your last sentence, but it’s not Mr Lebrecht and I cannot see how it could be anyone else.

          • former chetham's student says:

            As indicated by the formatting on the blog, i was replying to Concerned parent, and they are the ‘you’ I was addressing. Cp earlier stated:
            ‘the culture still allows considerable scope for psychological abuse which is exploited by some instrumental teachers and condoned or even supported by the management of the school. The management of the school most certainly has attacked parents who have raised such concerns in the very recent past, and I have seen no indication from the management in the light of the recent crisis that they recognise that there still is a problem with psychological abuse which needs to be addressed.’

            I am trying to separate past from present. To view the allegations on historic sexual abuse and then acuse Chet’s of psychological abuse on current students seems to me ridiculous.

          • To “former chetham’s student”
            February 22, 2013 at 6:06 pm

            Not only do I fully understand and empathise in principle with your desire to separate past from present insofar as they can be separated, I have already indicated here and elsewhere that, if the kind of thing that was once alleged to be rife is no longer so, then we should all be thankful for it and one would hope that a properly conducted police inquiry covering past and present wold reveal this to be the case if indeed it is so.

            I and many others are not interested in “Chets bashing” for its own sake; all that matters is that all the truths that need to be unearthed are unearthed, justice is done and seen to be done, new principles and guidelines agreed and implemented and schools such as Chets continue to do their good work without the risk of this kind of cloud hanging above them, for that will be in the best interests of everyone, not least the schools concerned.

  26. Anna Crookes says:

    I really hope that none of the current Chets students are reading all of this just 24 hours before they give a big London concert – performing is about so much more than just being good at your instrument! It is really important that one is feeling in a happy place mentally too, and I fear that all this “Chets bashing” that seems to be all consuming for so many people at the moment will not be helping the current generation of kids…I would like to wish them every good wish,success and for them all to play their socks off!!! ( And I AM an ex student…)

  27. Anyone who thinks that psychological abuse is justified in the name of achieving ‘high standards’ and the like is not fit to be a parent, nor to work with children – or indeed anyone.

    • These are very harsh words, Ian. Even leaving aside the horrifying possibility that anyone does indeed believe anything of the kind, what you have written is nevertheless beyond argument. What some people fail to grasp, it seems, is that these “high standards” are and can only ever be achieved by human beings, who do not deserve any kind of abuse and who, when they become victims of such abuse, are less able to attain those “high standards” of anything directly because of such abuse. Anyone unable to understand that has not only never suffered or known anyone who has suffered such abuse but is incapable of coming and/or unwilling to come to terms with just what such abuse can do to people and how long its effects can last.

    • Interested observer says:

      Please note that I do not think it is justified, and more particularly so because it can be effective.

      • Interested observer says:

        Just to add that in music at least psychological abuse is always there when sexual abuse takes place but the reverse is certainly not true.

      • I am by no means convinced it is effective, or in any way necessary. And there is an extremely clear line to me between demanding teaching and psychological abuse, which too many teachers cross.

        • Again, Ian, this is surely beyond all argument; any kind of psychological abuse, even if committed unwittingly (which I feel confident that most of it isn’t) can only undermine the value of the teaching. I am not a teacher but, as I understand it, a fundamental principle of teaching is the nurturing of talent and imagination; how can that ever be assured in cases when that clear line is being crossed? Furthermore, teaching is something creative and positive, whereas abuse of all kinds is by definition the very opposite; that does not, however, mean that the highest standards sought by the teacher need in any way to be compromised. One might indeed parallel this issue with the alleged treatment of Frances Andrade in court by defence counsel; persistently aggressive and combative behaviour is demonstrably not the only way – or indeed any reliable way at all – in which to get at the truth and it offers another example of how abusive conduct achieves nothing that’s of any use to anyone.

          • Alistair – because while that line may be “clear” to you, and is probably “clear” to everybody reading this blog, virtually everybody will place that clear line somewhere slightly different. Indeed, where that line lies between one teach and student A , and the same teacher and student B may be a different place. The area from what we would all agree is ‘demanding’ teaching, and what we would all agree is ‘psychological abuse’ is vast, and very grey. It’s a wide line indeed.

          • @ “Anon”:

            Having spoken to numerous singing and instrumental teachers about this harrowing subject, it is clear that this area does not at all seem to be as vast and grey as you suggest (and let’s not forget the number of such teachers who have supported Ian Pace’s petition) but, even if your statement were to be true, one should
            (a) question whether every single one of those teachers is in every way fit to teach and carry out all of his/her responsibilities towards the students in an acceptable manner and
            (b) treat this as yet another factor that warrants a full public inquiry in order that, ultimately, lines be drawn in law as far as possible, for “vast grey areas” are dangerous phenomena indeed where sexual, physical and psychological abuse of students by teachers is concerned.
            Anything less will be a grave let-down.

  28. Ian, I hope that first remark was not directed at me. No-one is saying that abuse is justified under any circumstances.

    • Ian Pace says:

      Paul, no it was not, but it was a response to such contemptuous comments as :

      ‘Charges have been made against Chetham’s for historic sexual abuse and this is what must be accounted for. They are not being charged with, and do not need to be charged with, psychological abuse on current pupils. The school has absolutely no obligation to account to you (as it seems you wish) on the nature of human psychology.’

      And also the more recent attempts to dismiss the serious nature of psychological abuse just by evoking the idea of a ‘grey area’.

  29. Monica Buckland says:

    Irrelevant to the discussion, but re your final remark: you write as though you are unaware that Schloss Colditz is now, in fact, a music academy.

  30. Proud Chethams Student says:

    Hi Norman,

    I am a current Student at Chethams. In my time at Chets I have questioned the number of websites blocked by the school internet filters and every time the answer is the same, I am repeatedly told that school have set the criteria for websites to be blocked, any website that ticks the boxes set out by the school is blocked, this is not because it may say inflammatory remarks about the school or say something that puts the institution in a bad light, after all I have read most of the articles there are to read regarding Mike Brewer and related trials on school internet. I believe in Chethams as a fine institution who yes in the past ‘things’ did happen, BUT I do not feel it’s justifiable to judge events from 20 years ago in the same way we would judge someone committing the events today. Sexual abuse was wrong then and is wrong now but the way it was looked at has changed dramatically.You however do not ‘believe’ in Chets and the good work it does not only in producing what can only be described as the musical elite but the outreach we/they do in the north of England, I would try and prove that Chets ‘blocking’ ‘Slipped Disk’ was a technological ‘error’ but as the American Writer Stuart Chase said ‘For those who believe, No proof is necessary, for those who don’t no proof is possible.’, yes I can see how this could back fire but I hope I have made my point. On the subject of Chets as a community it i s like a very close-knit village or town, it is not a Utopian paradise plucked straight from the writings of Orwell or Huxley but that is what makes it great. People are always willing to listen to your problems both students and staff and all sides of all stories are listened too and taken into account when dealing with internal affairs. I noticed in one of the earlier comments it was mentioned that favoritism is a problem at Chets, the answer to that is yes, but the ‘Favorites’ are those that excel at there instrument, they are people that devote the lives to the practice room and there skills are clear, an international institution with a great reputation would not want to show it’s mediocre students, it would want to show it’s best and brightest same with any School or University. My final point is that right at the beginning of this rather long list of comments remarks where made about censorship, I feel this is very harsh on Chets, us as students are not discouraged from discussing it, some staff encourage us to vent our frustrations and feelings about everything that is going on for we must remember that we are (well the majority of us) just children or young teenagers and when accusations are ‘flying about’ concerning our teachers it can be very distressing and bottling it up is not good for anyone. Chets does not deny to it’s students what has happened, of course we are told not to spread rumours, we are told innocent until proven guilty but Chethams is not a communist state and we are aloud to speak our mind regarding recent events.

    Anyhow I feel what was intended to be a brief comment has transformed into a long winded rant,

    Yours with Annoyance…

    Anon

  31. Ian Pace says:

    In response to Alistair’s comments:

    ‘Having spoken to numerous singing and instrumental teachers about this harrowing subject, it is clear that this area does not at all seem to be as vast and grey as you suggest (and let’s not forget the number of such teachers who have supported Ian Pace’s petition) but, even if your statement were to be true, one should
    (a) question whether every single one of those teachers is in every way fit to teach and carry out all of his/her responsibilities towards the students in an acceptable manner and
    (b) treat this as yet another factor that warrants a full public inquiry in order that, ultimately, lines be drawn in law as far as possible, for “vast grey areas” are dangerous phenomena indeed where sexual, physical and psychological abuse of students by teachers is concerned.
    Anything less will be a grave let-down.’

    I completely agree. If there are grey areas which have led to past confusion on the part of some teachers, it is paramount to clear these up as soon as possible, for the sake of both students and teachers. Just dismissing the issue on grounds of ‘grey areas’ is highly irresponsible.

  32. Just a thought says:

    Could the reason that a school blocked your webpage simply be due to its firewall, spam protection software or similar?

    I would not know, but my own ‘web of trust’ (WOT) firefox add-on (see http://www.mywot.com/) just a moment ago blocked your webpage as people have reported in the past that there has been spam sent from here. I’m not saying you do, but there may also be ‘rumour’ on this dimension of things.

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