The physical abuse of young teenaged children at residential music schools – spotlighted this week by the conviction of Mike Brewer and the suicide of Frances Andrade – was by no means confined to Chetham’s, the jewel of the north.
We hear accounts of misconduct by teachers at other residential schools in the 1970s and 1980s. We expect more living teachers to be named later this week. The following account of abuse at YMS has been submitted to Slipped Disc by Michal Kaznowski (below), cellist of the Maggini Quartet, and a lifelong campaigner against abuse in schools. He offers reasoned proposals for school reforms:
We had to endure a very harsh teaching environment in those days, which in the case of the Yehudi Menuhin School exposed the young boy cellists at the school to cruelty and sexual abuse from the cellist Maurice Gendron, the visiting cello professor.
Gendron attempted to discuss my personal sex life at the age of fourteen in a cello lesson. I refused, and mentioned it to no one for many years. More public at the YMS was his cruelty. The expression ‘he preferred crying to playing in cello lessons’ is absolutely appropriate. I think I cried in every cello lesson, once a month over a three year period, except for three or four. This is, of course, also child abuse. This was a miserable time for me, but has fortunately been useful in my later teaching life in that it showed me how instrumental teaching is not to be done.
Yehudi and Hephzibah Menuhin with Maurice Genrdron. Photo (c) Gendron family/Festival Grez-sur-Loing
In these schools the children have many hours of one to one contact. This is fabulous with the extraordinary range of superb teachers these schools have, and horrendous with the sex abusers who are effectively unmonitored and undiscovered. It is in the specialist music schools that children are most vulnerable in Education. The instrumental teachers are treated by most of the schools as visiting hourly paid workers, who have the minimum training under the law for working with children. This usually involves a one or two hour lecture in child awareness. That is all! Proper training should be devised and offered by the schools. After all, the instrumental lessons are the primary reason that the students are at these schools. The schools normally treat the instrumental teachers as if they are just hire and fire bolt ons with no attempt to have any collegiate and coordinated teaching environment for the students. Totally out of place in a state school and completely inappropriate and unacceptable in this era of thoughtful teaching. This is teaching structure pre 1970′s.
This must stop. The public should demand that. So should the Department of Education which funds the places and then has no effective regime for checking on pastoral care in a boarding music school, as past history abundantly shows.
The Governors of these private schools should be trained and be active – just as in State Schools. Their protection in all the cases I know was as good as a chocolate fire guard. Governors are notable in the Specialist Music Schools for turning up to drinks and concerts. Otherwise they are invisible, and when informed, inactive. Their roles need to be taken by properly trained professionals.
Publicly monitored pastoral change should happen in these schools, then there can be hopes for a better future. The schools can’t self monitor as they are in huge competition with each other, which completely eradicates any public confessions and therefore public scrutiny.