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What Chetham’s is telling parents about student abuse

The School has refrained from public comment on the abuse crisis. The following letter went out last night to parents. It contains no mention of the nine past teachers at Chethams and RNCM who are under police investigation, nor that the police have appealed again for information from any pupil who may have been abused at these institutions. Nor is there an expression of regret for the death of past pupil, Frances Andrade.

Dear Parents and Carers, As Half Term approaches, I am sure that you will be talking with your sons and daughters about the difficult events of the last few weeks and the ensuing media attention. With that in mind I would like to let you know that we have invited Manchester City Council Children’s Services into the School after Half Term to carry out a collaborative review with us of our Safeguarding Policy and Procedures. We welcome this visit which will take place during the week beginning 4 March. It is an opportunity for the School to demonstrate that we have robust Policies and Procedures in place which are applied routinely and rigorously. We are confident that students are well protected. This has been borne out by inspections carried out by various government bodies in recent years. As you are aware, our procedures are also annually reviewed and approved by the Governing Body and have been regularly and independently reviewed by Ofsted and the Independent Schools Inspectorate. Once the Police investigation into historical allegations has concluded we will of course be instigating an independent review of past events. I thank you for your continuing warm support and your understanding at this difficult time. Please do not hesitate to give me or any member of the pastoral team a call with any concerns, and in the meantime I wish you all a peaceful and happy Half Term break with your families. Yours sincerely, C J Moreland Head

© Copyright of Chetham’s School of Music <> . Registered Charity No. 526702

We are aware of the copyright notice. Parents were not required to sign a confidentiality agreement. The letter ceased to be private once it was circulated and we publish it here in full, in the public interest as an indication of the prevalent atmosphere of unreality.


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  1. Malcolm James says:

    I suspect that they are under instructions from their lawyers not to say anything about this. I know of instances where drivers have hit pedestrians who stepped from between parked cars without looking and the driver has been instructed not to visit the pedestrian in hospital, lest it be taken as an admission of guilt.

  2. It's That Steve Again (ITSA) says:

    Not only that, but police investigations need to be completed unhampered or confounded. Once the police are onto a problem, they need to be given a chance to sort it.

  3. Michal Kaznowski says:

    I am dismayed also. Recent events have clearly shown the schools inability to monitor itself, or to me monitored effectively by ISIS, or OFSTED. Above all it has shown that the school can absorb any number of complaints about abusive teaching without any response.

    The way forward is not more inspection. It is opening up lessons to visits from heads of departments, governors, parents even(!), so that grooming and inappropriate language becomes hard to conceal. The instrumental teachers are left on their own, isolated, and soemtimes abusive. The nature of the organisation of the schools has to change so that collegiate working predominates, with peer to peer review, inset courses, frequent departmental meetings and including the visiting instrumental teachers in the schools management. These are all good teaching and management suggestions and well known as such. Child Abuse in Specialist Music Schools problem comes out of poor working methods.

    Will this be suggested by Manchester City Council Children’s Services, ISIS or OFSTED? I do hope so, or there will be little change in the core arena – the instrumental lesson.

    • Steve Hawker says:

      Silence, control of information, isolation. These are the responses of institutions to allegations of abuse. It’s ironic that these words also describe the effect on those abused. Providing a forum for people to share their experiences on this blog can help form a part of the healing process. It’s a deeply unsettling and uncomfortable experience for anyone affected, but a positive one. The same applies to the institutions – acceptance of the facts, communication, and openness to change are a necessary part of the healing process, even if its uncomfortable. The majority of British specialist music schools and conservatoires have been implicated in some way or another by people reporting their experiences of abuse on Slipped Disc and elsewhere.

      Whilst Chets and the RNCM are the main focus in the news currently, the other institutions might fare better if they voluntarily respond by opening a discussion on how to prevent further abuse, rather than waiting for it to be forced upon them. In the post about the Curtis Institute, Robert Fitzpatrick made some suggestions that music schools might benefit from some help from the Association of European Conservatories. Might there be the possibility for suggesting a conference of music schools to address the issues and find a solution? This could help provide a more positive and less damaging outcome to the music schools which are yet to be caught up in the firestorm (and surely they can’t have their heads buried so deeply in the sand that they think they can avoid it forever). In such a conference the suggestions you make about how to fix “poor working practises” might have a chance of being put into action.

  4. Pira Beresford says:

    Norman, you seem to be confusing copyright and privacy issues. There remains copyright in the letter regardless of whether or not the correspondence is private and, technically, re-printing the letter on this site is a copyright infringement – albeit not a situation where trying to enforce the copyirght would be meaningful or useful.

  5. Helen Cooke says:

    I’m glad you have so much faith in the police and their ability to sort ‘problems’ I hope it’s not mislaid! Unfortunately I believe this is more than a ‘problem’, this sort of abuse was (is?) a way of life for far too many!

    • I imagine that the privacy issue would depend upon whether or not the intended recipients of the letter were required to sign a confidentiality agreement; the copyright one, however, is surely limited to the matter of infringement which usually only happens when people trying to pass off as their own – and/or derive benefit from – someone else’s copyright material without the copyright owner’s prior written consent and knwoledge. I imagine that Norman has checked this with copyright lawyers before publishing the letter in full here, which is something that any of its intended recipients could surely do without fear or favour in any case should they so choose.

      I accept that there has to be a certain degree of circumspection when a police inquiry is in progress, but that rather obvious fact does little to defend what strikes me as the inadequacy and insensitivity of this letter which I imagine may go down like a lead balloon with at least some of its recipients.

    • It's That Steve Again (ITSA) says:

      Indeed you are right Helen, that this sort of abuse is a way of life for far too many. Control and intimidation are key techniques used by perpetrators to try to get through their lives without consequence for their actions.

      Remarkable really: some do succeed. Saville was such a case. Fritzl was for a while.

      I can think of a publicized case outside the U.K. where the perpetrator of rape, torture, and false imprisonment managed to get through his entire life without having to go to trial, because by the time anyone was game enough to bring his acts to the notice of the police, the perpetrator was an elderly man with dementia, and not fit for trial according to both defence and prosecution psychiatrists. So this fellow (who I think is still alive), got to live his life without consequence. I think he has a perpetual caregiver/watchdog now, but that’s a consequence of his dementia, not his crimes, for which he will never face justice.

      So it matters for people to come forward. And it matters for police to be able to follow through. And it matters that we have, or get, generations of people – usually young people – who are aware enough, and empowered enough, to speak out to someone who can take action, such as the police. Now these folks are only human, operating in systems run by humans: but they are our best option in many circumstances, at least in the countries we like being fortunate enough to live in.

  6. Is it normal for a letter like this to have a copyright sign at the bottom? Seems strange to me for a letter going out to all parents and carers?

    • I imagine that it is unusual indeed; after all, it’s also redundant in the sense that such letters are already by definition the copyright of their writers unless otherwise specified. In this context, it’s hard to see it other than as some kind of attempt at a veiled and unspecified request to its intended recipients not to publish it or enable or encourage it to be published.

  7. itrinkkeinwein says:

    Well, logically, they would “welcome” the visit if they “invited” them in.

    Less logically, how can it be a demonstration of “robust Policies and Procedures in place” and also be a “collaborative review” of those policies? Is the outcome of the review already known?

  8. Concerned parent says:

    It sounds as if Chets is on the back foot. Did they invite in Manchester City Council’s Children’s Services or were they left no option? If the latter, they should be straight about it because this letter suggests that they seem to think it’s all about policies and procedures.

    The defensive tone (“It is an opportunity for the School to demonstrate that we have robust Policies and Procedures in place which are applied routinely and rigorously. We are confident that students are well protected. This has been borne out by inspections carried out by various government bodies in recent years. As you are aware, our procedures are also annually reviewed and approved by the Governing Body and have been regularly and independently reviewed by Ofsted and the Independent Schools Inspectorate’) jars given what is now coming out and suggests the management still doesn’t get it.

    Of course there will be legal advice, and of course the school has to be careful not to hamper police investigations (why didn’t this letter give contact details for the relevant police officer in case any parent has questions or wishes to report something? Is it because it would make a bad impression?) – but equally institutions often hide behind such advice when under pressure and use that to try to close down discussion and further “bad publicity”. I suppose it’s inevitable that the public image of Chets is paramount in management’s mind, but if they really want to persuade people they are putting the welfare of students at the heart of all they do, then the focus should now be on student welfare, not public image.

  9. Frank Chalmers says:

    Social workers and local government officers in general are often accused of doing either too little or too much…they are the butt of the full range of public opinion and so often seem to be responding inadequately. After all you cannot please all of the people all of the time as they say….and for chets, who really are between a rock and a hard place, it’s an easy target.
    Should they go the whole hog and do what many on the outside advise? That is be very transparent, acknowledge the depth and seriousness of the current situation, and also speak to the next damaging wave that could sweep away much of what is good in the current chets or harm it? Should they ( or rather should the Head) write about matters that are the likely subject of legal action in the near future? If you were their legal team, what would you advise? I’m fairly sure you would make sure they reserved their position, pending any more known matters that had to be addressed.
    My guess is that the staff may wish to engage and argue their corner from the basis of their confidence in chets systems and people right now, having taken regard of the improvements in safeguarding. I know when visiting that I am restricted in movement and supervised on site – quite properly. But they are certain to be entirely constrained by their legal team and by the people who control chets. The Head – a professional teacher and leader can only say what it is agreed she is proscribed to say. I’m sure they will take this stage by stage and deal with pressure and revaluations as they appear, having already considered most of the likely scenarios and future dangers.
    I don’t think that trying to force the issues too hard or fast actually helps any involved, even us on the periphery. Beware of dragging down something that, later, you wish you had taken a more measured approach with.
    Virtually all of us want to know the facts and find out what went wrong – for so long….I would like to understand this as one who needn’t to chets, leaving in the late 60′s. I do not feel that this is a test to destruction exercise, fact finding and apportioning blame should do as little damage to the present chets as possible. And that is what the management of chets is surely doing, as well as news management and reputation protection – what would you do in their place?

  10. these are all the symptoms of a repressive system. They have learned nothing. Parents of potential (or current) pupils can only ask themselves whether they really want to expose their children to such instititutions.

    • Good point. My children had an assessment audition for Chetham’s this year and/were preparing for a main audition in a few weeks time. This news has thrown us into complete disarray.

  11. Chets is an amazing institution. Filled with children that NEED to make music. Unfortunately, a CRB check, as deep and thorough as it possibly can be, will only ring alarm bells once someone has been charged for an offence. So how can we police it?? On gut feeling? Rumour? Looks? Help. Suggestions please.

  12. I find the phrase “It is an opportunity for the School to demonstrate that we have robust Policies and Procedures in place which are applied routinely and rigorously” which I find chilling.

    It is the standard response to almost anything these days. I’m sure the BBC had policies and procedures and I’m certain that, if forced to, Jimmy Saville would have completed all the paper work and attended all the right training courses, made sure that he was *usually* chaperoned.

    The “policies and procedures” don’t make the blindest bit of difference because we are not talking about old men in dirty raincoats trying to chat up 14 year old girls at the school gates.

    We are talking about people who are very clever and completely used to leading double lives. Lying and keeping secrets is second nature, they are very skilled at manipulating other people and charming and engaging.

    Above all else, in positions of power. I wouldn’t be in the slightest bit surprised if the people who’s job it was to define and enforce the “policies and procedures” back in the 1970s are actually the people who were abusing teenage girls. This is the way these people work.

  13. Ex Student says:

    This should make very interesting reading for many of you:

    • what, exactly?

      • Ex Student says:

        Click on ‘View Second Cycle Report 2008′. It is an independent school’s inspectorate inspection of Chet’s from 2008…the most recent one and it rates pastoral care and student welfare as outstanding….

        ‘The quality of pastoral care of pupils and their welfare is outstanding and a major strength of the school.’

        • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

          There is nothing surprising in the 2008 report but it does mention significant improvement in many areas since the previous inspection (usually a 5 or 10 year cycle). Remember that no inspecting team can see everything during their short stay so there is usually a self-report prepared by the school in advance of the visit. A team, in my experience, also usually speaks to students, teachers, and possibly parents and alumni during their inspection visit without administrators present at those sessions.

          Aren’t most of the abuse complaints at least 10 years old with some dating back 30 years? I take a wait and see approach on this. If there is a police investigation of past allegations of sexual abuse, it might be a while before there is public notice of the results. I am inclined to give the current management a chance to come to grips with the errors of their predecessors. That said, counseling and pastoral care are extremely difficult for an external team to judge during a short period of time. If there is active student government at Chethams, visitors can usually count on some honest answers during their time alone with a group of elected students. I have even been on such visits when individuals (students, teachers or administrators) would ask for private time, off campus, with one or two visitors to discuss problems that the visitors should know.

          If current reality at the school is on the same level as the report, Chets at least seems to be on the right track.

  14. “Child protection training and management have a high profile and all the required policies and procedures are in place”

    Quoted from above…..again “policies and procedures”.

  15. As a parent of a child currently attending Chetham’s, I was one of the intended recipients of this letter. Every email sent out by the school has the Copyright notice and the Charity registration number at the bottom. There is nothing sinister about this.

    Clearly I can not comment on what has gone on in the past, but I can comment on the school today. It is a school full of happy, motivated children who are being nurtured in a unique environment, gaining an outstanding musical and academic education. There is an atmosphere of openness and dialogue between kids, parents and staff. Every few days my daughter tells me, ‘I love Chet’s.’

    I agree that ‘policies and procedures’ are semantics, but these ‘policies and procedures’ have to be in place to deal with issues that arise in any school, particularly a specialist school such as Chet’s. As the mother of a daughter at that school, I must be confident that the alleged systemic abuse could not happen today. I am utterly convinced of that. Whilst my heart bleeds for the victims for what they suffered in the past, we must not forget that Chetham’s is fundamentally different today. Yes, there must be a full investigation into what has gone on in the past. But at the same time, we must not destroy the Chet’s of today, which would result in no funding for the school and parents not wanting to send their kids there. This school is unique in the world, and it fundamentally changes the lives of young people, for the better.

  16. Chet's Mum says:

    Please could I just make two points:

    1) I don’t understand this portion of your paragraph at the top of this page:

    ‘Nor is there an expression of regret for the death of past pupil, Frances Andrade’

    On this matter, I would like to refer you to this Chet’s webpage:

    where Mrs Moreland writes:

    ‘On behalf of the current school staff I wish to express my profound and sincere apology and regret. And most of all I wish to express the sorrow and sympathy we feel for the family of our former student who died under such tragic circumstances and had to endure so much’

    2) All boarding schools have problems. In the time that I have been acquainted with Chet’s, all problems have been resolved quickly and fairly — and always in the best interests of the child. Please don’t pillory current staff for past sins of others.

  17. current Chets parent says:

    It is not fair to say that Chets has refrained from public comment on the abuse crisis. Claire Moreland made a statement immediately after the Brewer conviction and this was aired on various news channels and on the BBC website and was widely reported in the press. And, as mentioned above, the school’s website carries comment on this too. While commentators who do not have children at Chets took issue with Mrs Moreland’s most recent email to parents – and found in it more amunition for their (pointless) attack on the present management – I who do have a child at the school thought it was informative and reassuring. Those who have an axe to grind against Chets for reasons other than the serious ones under investigation by the police will seize on any criticism of the school and exploit it for their own ends. If you believe in specialist music education, Norman, and want Chets to thrive don’t malign Mrs Moreland, who is not the problem but will certainly be part of the solution.

    • Dear CCP, take your point and have removed the first word from ‘all public comment”. The school has, indeed, responded to news developments with statements on its website. It has not, however, to my knowledge, engaged with public media or announced changes in its practice to renew public confidence. We look to Mrs Moreland for those assurances.

      • If you would read what Mrs Moreland writes, you would see that Chet’s doesn’t need to change its current practices. They have been cited by the ISI as being outstanding (see also the Ex Student comment of 20 February).

        Why should Chet’s do anything to ‘renew’ public confidence? The ‘news’ is only about historical abuse. I don’t understand why we would lose confidence in an institution because of something that happened 20 years ago. And why should Chet’s update you (Mr LeBrecht) on whether or not they are ‘engaging with public media’? Did you want a personal phone call from Mrs Moreland?

        My son loves Chet’s and is thriving there.

        • If Chets has no need to change any of its current practices, there would be no call whatsoever for any police or other independent inquiry. There is, however, a police inquiry and Chets has rightly clarified that, whilst it is in progress, there are limits to what Chets can publish either about the inquiry itself or about what it is investigating.

          I see no reason to assume that Mr Lebrecht is seeking to single himself out for some kind of special treatment in terms of updates from Chets as to whether or not or to what extent it is engaging with public media, especially during a police investigation, but I do suspect that this is a question to which by many people besides Mr Lebrecht would eventually like to receive a reliable, truthful and comprehensive answer.

          In the meantime, I am delighted that your son loves Chets and is thriving there, as no doubt are others of its students; we must all hope that every student will be able to do that once the air has finally been cleared and Chets can continue to be the fine school that it can be, has been and deserves to be, unimpeded by allegations of abuse there.

          Wishing to see that full justice be done and all wrongs turned into history does not have to mean bashing Chets for the sake of it.

          • It *may* be the case that this is purely a ‘historical’ problem, but at the moment we only have the word of the school on this, and that of some parents and pupils – not all, as witnessed even just on this blog, and I also know from private correspondence that not every parent is so unequivocal on this matter. And one teacher who has been arrested was teaching at the school right up to the present era.

            I would be quite sure that if someone in the mid 1980s had brought up some shocking incidents from the 1950s and 1960s the response would have been of a similar nature. Right now, as then, there appear to be too many people more concerned with ensuring that the school’s current good name remains unsullied than in seriously asking if such a thing could happen again today. I believe it is highly complacent that take as read a negative answer to this latter question.

          • @ Ian Pace:
            February 24, 2013 at 2:28 am

            I fully accept and agree with what you say. There are two issues here, one being the abuse itself and the other the covering up of that abuse; if is clear that, whether or not the abuse is less today than once it was alleged to be, the fact that one teacher has resigned over it only recently demonstrates that the cover-up is as current as it can be. Until there has been either a completed police inquiry (and, far better still, the public inquiry for which you are calling and which I fully support) or more cases tried in court, there is no reliable evidence that this kind of abuse is not continuing and the fact that some recent and current students have written to confirm that they have never suffered or witnessed or heard about any doesn’t of itself mean that none has taken place.

            The allegations have been and continue to be made by students at other institutions besides Chethams appears to demonstrate that this problem has not been confined to the one school.

            Whilst I am not in favour of “Chets bashing” for its own sake, I am not ignoring the risk that some might seek to try to prioritise its reputation at all costs over ensuring that the truth be revealed, justice dispensed and steps taken to stamp our the culture of abuse and covering up for the future.

            That the petition recently launched by you, Paul Lewis and Tim Horton has already almost reached 1,000 signatories, including a number of teachers of music, surely speaks eloquently for itself.

        • ‘Chet’s Mum’ – “The ‘news’ is only about historical abuse.”

          Am I the only reader who finds this comment utterly repellent?

          Brewer’s abuse of Frances Andrade was only proven this month and according to ‘Chet’s Mum’ its ‘historical.’

          Discounting, distancing, denigrating, or dismissing – and all in the teeth of a criminal conviction and the tragic suicide of Frances Andrade during the trial. Quite staggering!

          Perpetrators are infrequently lone operators. One perpetrator will often encourage more to join a ‘soft’ environment. It’s called shoaling. Shoals operate much more efficiently than loan perpetrators. There is always a long-term legacy when institutions have been infiltrated in this way. Investigations inot nine people are currently ongoing? I’d be extremely concerned as a parent because only a percentage of perpetrators are ever discovered n a setting.

          The holy trinity sought by those with a unhealthy interest in the young is power, secrecy and opportunity within a target rich environment populated by trusting parents.

  18. PS to my last comment… Norman – I love your blog. There are so many interesting articles and comments. Am just wondering though, have you ever actually BEEN to Chetham’s? I mean… .. within the last 5 years or so?

  19. Parents with children attending any school should read this very good article by Louise Tickle in the Guardian last December :

    In the article Hoyano says:

    “But, according to Laura Hoyano, law lecturer at Wadham College, Oxford, and co-author of Child Abuse Law And Policy Across Boundaries, while a school leader who repeatedly fails to report serious allegations to the Lado can be charged under various pieces of legislation (for a breach of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act, for assisting an offender under the Criminal Law Act 1967 or for complicity under the Accessories and Abettors Act 1861, for example), there are no direct criminal consequences for not following the child protection guidance specifically intended for educational settings.”

    This is “responsibility without accountability.” Confidence inspiring?

    Hoyano would find it impossible to name anyone charged with these offences – it has simply never happened. The Head of Hillside mentioned in the article was merely sacked. No criminal consequences stem from non reporting of abuse. So any school (defined as a ‘Regulated Activity’ under the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006) presented with allegations of abuse or witnessed abuse – up to and including rape – is not required in law to report anything to the LADO or the police. No criminal consequence exists for failing to report – its all too tempting. Now add to the mix a ‘fee receiving’ institution, with a balance sheet, reputation and waiting list to defend – and as a result of there being no law mandating the LADO to be informed, such institutions are presented with a conflict of interest when the worst happens. But worse still that lack of law undermines the protection of children and vulnerable groups, yes it Care Homes as well!

    I can almost hear the cries of ‘he’s wrong.’

    Here is a link to the NSPCC site which now at last provides “An introduction to child protection legislation in the UK”

    Please refer to P3 paragraph #5 :

    “Whilst local authorities have a mandatory duty to investigate if they are informed a child may
    be at risk, there are no specific mandatory child abuse reporting laws in the UK that require
    professionals to report their suspicions to the authorities.”

    So there you have a brief insight into this complex subject. In reality Child protection is grounded on ‘contract law’ except LSCB’s + Regulated Activities mistakenly tell you law DOES exist and of course policies ‘conform to it.’ It is nonsense. As a result almost all child protection policies are hopeless. It is simply appalling – Louise Tickle is getting it and I hope many more lift the stones to discover the scandal.

  20. JayJackson says:

    Correct Solei to Soleil, guess I did not hit the kel hard enough

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