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Chet’s kids organise blog mob

Comments received yesterday from anonymous students at Chetham’s School of Music aroused suspicion. Certain phrases and sentences were sometimes identical. It looked as if a campaign was being orchestrated to dominate the conversation on Slipped Disc.

Sure enough, the evidence dropped into our inbox this morning. Here are some exchanges between the organisers:

students …have been holding an intense conversation about the unfair media ashing of Chets (as they see it) since last night. They orchestrated an attack on Norman’s blog and have also started a fb page entitled COME ON CHETS STUDENTS!! We can conquer this blog by storm!! Come on let’s TAKE THEM OUT!!!

All I’m seeing is gwen fucking gwen. And twat faced Norman!! They need slapping across the face with a cock!

Seeing as Norman lebrecht likes stirring shit so much, let’s put him in a vat of it and shut the lid. Tight.

chethams 3

And more of the same, clearly the products of an enlightened education.

We have reluctantly raised the barrier on comments on this topic, refusing to accept identical posts or those from anonymous and pseudonymous contributors. More worrying is the hysterical atmosphere that is being fostered within Chet’s, a state of siege mentality that cannot be helping the students and their education.

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  1. Gary Carpenter says:

    Current students at chethams probably feel under attack, given the endless negativity poured upon the institution. I’m not surprised that they react spiritedly. They probably feel bullied. It might be time to see this whole issue from the point of view of current students who love the place and are happy there but feel they are being vilified by association with events that took place before they were born rather than from the Olympian heights of greater age and experience – and journalistic power.

    • Ben Daura says:

      I agree. Norman, may you remove if not the posts them selves but atleast the comments from the chets related articles?

    • Well said Gary. I feel very sorry for current students who love the school and benefit hugely from being there. I am saddened to read Norman’s view ” More worrying is the hysterical atmosphere that is being fostered within Chet’s, a state of siege mentality that cannot be helping the students and their education.” I can assure you that a hysterical atmosphere is not being fostered within Chet’s. I am sure that some of the outspoken opinions from people who do not seem to have any current association with the school are to blame for creating any such disturbance to the current students. Genuine concern for their education should surely be concern for the students now, and how they are being affected by outsiders’ strident views.

    • Derek Polasky says:

      I wholeheartedly agree!!! Who can blame these ‘chet’s kids’ for simply defending the reputation of an institution they care for so much?! So much of the media and independent journalistic coverage is simply trying to manipulate the public perception of this institution. Instead of simply patronising these young, intelligent, humorous musicians, why doesn’t someone ask them about the state of there school nowadays?

      • Derek Polasky says:

        Excuse my grammatical inaccuracy, Polish is my mother of tongues

      • There is defending your Alma Mater and sock-puppetry.

        The former is laudable and understandible, the other is despicable and underhand.

        If the comments made by students were simply the former then I’d be the first to support them, unfortunately due to the amount of vitriol, I suspect the latter.

        Please will contributers not insult my intelligence and state that bad behaviour is simply due to superior intellect and talent. There is no excuse. Living within 12 miles (by road) of Cambridge, and having family links with the University blows that idea out of the water for starters.

        • Nicola king says:

          Joanna if your hypothesis were true, I’d be qualified as a doctor because I live just a few miles from a big hospital and could also claim that as I only live 12 miles from Chethams that I am a stunning musician. Neither of which are true! To claim intellect because you live within 12 miles of Cambridge is clearly rather stupid. I also happen to know many of the individuals personally including those who’ve made vitreolic comments. One is, in fact, a current student at the aforementioned prestigious educational establishment. The source of vitreole is simply enthusiastic anger directed at those who see fit to comment on things that have no personal knowledge and connection with and who are simply enjoying the excitement of others anguish. Shame on you all.

          • May I point out that I have my degree, my GCSE equivalents and A levels.

            May I point out that I do not give two hoots how prestigious an establishment you may be attending.

            May I point out that I have two grade 8s, an LRSM and other musical qualifications and work as a musician.

            The point re Cambridge was to do with the pupils level of ettiquette not intellect.

            When I stated that I did not want my intellegence insulted it was as a lady with post nominals who does not have to prove her self worth, I’ve already done that.

            Coming up with a specious arguement does not make you look clever when you completely miss the point of my original post.

          • Oliver Closoff says:

            Insecure much Joanna? Pseudo-intellectual much? perhaps. In the real world, qualifications are just pieces of paper. Majority of the greatest minds in history weren’t known for their degrees. So stop waffling on about it like a child. Maybe you and many others ought to wake up to the real world, probably live quite a cosy life I suppose? Not all at Chethams are rich kids hence the music and dance scheme which supports many of the students and some I’m sure live in deprived areas where they couldn’t give two sausages about all these ‘issues’ stop taking all of this to new and unbelievably ridiculous heights. Grow up kids. (adults and children alike)

          • Olivier. On a blog I would like to know how else one shows any “proof” that they are what they say they are without relying on their own certificates.

            I refuse to use the phrase “Intelligent Quotient” as the IQ test is born out of poor psychology. It is with the exception of certificates, another well-known method of determing someone mettle.

            Your remark is offensive (but you know that- surely!).

            If your remark “grow up kids” is aimed at me, may I remind you of a well known phrase “pot calling kettle black.”

            However, this is the first attack aimed at you and not the umpteenth.

          • John Millner says:

            Address Joanna’s arguments rather than making personal attacks.

            It is precisely because the music and dance scheme is so important that Chet’s needs to sort out its failures. The current management must be properly open or step aside. They could start by working with parents to establish a parent-school body. It could meet at term beginnings/ends and include an online element for those unable to visit the school. There should be effective parent, teacher and student representation on the governing body. If these problems endlessly roll on because of ineffective leadership and oversight, the music and dance scheme may well be lost and that would be an appalling loss to the musical life of this country.

          • Thank you John Millner.

            Enough of the personal attacks.

          • Oliver Closoff says:

            Basically what I was getting at, I know people with Masters Degrees who are complete morons, so don’t try to use qualifications to qualify your intelligence. Acute awareness and a sense of irony are never amiss amongst the refined intellect. I don’t feel particularly remorseful about any remarks I’ve made seeing as the vast majority of remarks that I’ve seen you make just reek of pretentiousness and elitism. Maybe I will apologise for the bluntness. I just find this whole affair should be relinquished in the media seeing as it is a matter for the school and is none of our business. If the government deems the school unfit then fine so be it. But it is none of our place to be pontificating nonsense over a blog which ought to be informative (which majority of it is Norman). Ultimately it comes down to the simple fact that no student is ‘suffering’ per se at the school and so we should all get off our high horses and ride the wave of change. To use school lingo ‘chill out’. The children this day and age are much better off than ever before with regards to child protection almost to the extreme and so just all of you give it a rest and let the students and staff be at peace at this time of unnecessary unrest.

    • Wow. Another spectacular own goal for Chet’s management. And what was their pupils’ go-to means of venting anger? Conjouring up images of sexual abuse. Oh dear.

  2. Sue Denim says:

    Thank you Norman, It’s nice to see that I can now return to my usual reading of your blog without being harassed by the antics of school children. If ‘Chets’ is fault free then why does it need so much defending?

    • AnnBenton says:

      Whilst not wishing to in any way to detract from the suffering caused by the now jailed sexual predator, who was once, many years ago, a tutor at the school, the response recently by many highly paid adults, jumping on the passing band wagon has left me furious, but not yet inarticulate. The repeated references, in the present tense, to something which happened many years ago, leaves me questioning the intelligence, education and motives of the individuals concerned. Have any of these people actually visited the school, talked to the pupils, talked to any of the full time staff of the school? Has it been suggested that the BBC be closed because of its blatant harbouring of Jimmy Saville? Has it been suggested that Stoke Mandeville Hospital be shut because of its links with the man? Chethams School of Music is a wonderful school, and should be defended for several reasons, not least of which is the fact that there will be parents of talented youngsters who may now be worried about their children attending the school. No one, least of all an ex convent educated woman, wants a return to he 60′s and 70′s when women were physically harassed – Bum pinching of professional women was a regular occurrence; women were asked at interview about their contraception; women’s earrings were taken by the tax office to pay their husbands taxation shortfall; women were told to get a sense of humour when complaining about the behaviour of perverts. The constant question being asked about this and much more serious cases such. As Saville, is ‘could this happen again?’ The answer is, it could not. These days, children are listened to, are believed, know that adults are not always trust worthy , are willing to challenge their elders and not always betters! Chets is a a fantastic school with dedicated staff who are attempting to nurture some of our most talented s individuals, as anyone who takes the time to visit will discover.

      • Richard Miller says:

        I completely agree Ann, but for one point: in this case (though in a different context to the one to which you were referring), the children are NOT being listened to! (Stand up Norman Lebrecht, Helen Pidd and Gwen)
        Has no one considered that the reason for such strong language from the students is the passionate defence of their educators, rather than the disrespect of others’ opinions?

        • Irena Statszka says:

          Thanks for voicing What So many pupils feel.

          • Concerned Parent says:

            Ms Statszka – are you the Miss Statszka who is currently a teacher at Chets? Or is this a trick by a student impersonator? If you are the real Miss Staszka, I am afraid you are exhibiting an important aspect of the problem – which is that only some students are listened to at Chets. These are the ones who say what teachers and management want to hear or believe – the mess Chets is currently in is directly attributable to teachers and others failing in the past to listen to victims of abuse. In particular the school does not have an atmosphere where all pupils feel that if they are distressed for whatever reason they will be heard, respected and helped. One of the most disturbing things about the current outpouring of defensive pride by some (older) Chets students is their complete lack of awareness of – and even contempt for – those who have struggled and suffered at the school. To this extent they mirror attitudes of some of the teachers and managers.

        • The cyber bullying and sexualised abusive language demonstrated yesterday obviously do those involved, the school and the adults around them no credit. Now many above are insisting on defending and excusing this behaviour and even blaming it on the victims.This is a strange attitude to have in the cold light of day, not the heat of the moment. It is curious that so many of you don’t get this. It is hard to know who is who at this stage but some of you are ostensibly adults who seem to consider yourselves very respectable, yet this is the example you set. It is clear who has been attacking. There are unanswered questions about who has been doing the stoking and created this unpleasant hysteria. Everyone has certainly had more than their say. Far from being invisible or unheard the pupils in question are now infamous and apparently glad of it and happy at how they have represented themselves and their school. Being listened to, being agreed with and being able to control what others say and think are all different things. People will discuss things and have their own opinions. Fact of life.

      • Jean Langfield says:

        Im sure many students will thank you for treating them seriously

      • Ms Benton, you can not be certain of that fact.

        My motivation is
        1) I studied with students who were abused whilst students at Chets when I was an undergrad.
        2) I have a degree of empathy with this as I was indecently assaulted at my own school.
        3) I work as a Private Music Teacher and therefore take issues of Child Protection with reference to the industry that I work extremely seriously.
        4) I have children of secondary school age, and as a mother feel uncomfortable about the reports that have come out about Chets.

        i) My children do not attend Chethams School of Music
        ii) It has always been an educational institution whose reputation I cared about in that it is one of the few Specialist Music Schools in the country.

        Now, given these are the case (there are more that I do not want to state on an open forum that Norman is aware of) am I jumping on the band-wagon.

        I think not.

        Perhaps you will find that other adult contributers have their own back-story too and that this means they are not ‘jumping on the band-wagon either.

        Please would you have the courtesy to allow Adult Contributers that you believe are simply ‘Highly paid and jumping on a passing band wagon” that this is not necessarily the case.

        For your reference Jobbing sopranos and freelance music teachers are not well paid.

        • Joanna, since you ask, possibly yes, I would suggest you might be tempted to clamber on board ‘the bandwagon’. The numbered points you mention would surely give you plenty of desire to talk about what you know, have found, and felt, either from your personal experiences years ago, or the second-hand experiences of others you have worked with; and more to date your possible worries for your own children. Seems pretty string motivation to jump on!

          That said, it’s a moot point anyway as I have generally found your comments throughout this saga to be very level and appropriate, rather than the slight hysteria I think you might have felt accused of.

    • James Carter says:

      “No smoke without fire” eh? That’s how they conducted witch trials, y’know. Unfortunately we work under something a bit more sophisticated these days.

    • Irena Statszka says:

      Dear Sue, Nobody is saying chets is perfect. No school is perfect. But some of The allegations made by both pupils and The media have gone a bit too far :)

  3. Lorraine Roberts says:

    Why is it that those who know the least about Chets have the most to say? It is a great shame that triumphs of the school receive very limited publicity. You clearly have a lot to say about Chets, but where have you shared your thoughts on the new school building and “world-class” concerts which are continually produced? The community that is Chets is like a family and when any member of that family feels threatened and under wrongful attack they will quite naturally stand up in defence!

  4. This is a very difficult situation.

    I understand the anger of some students, and I understand that their age makes them more prone to hysterical outbursts. Further, I understand that seeing shades of gray is not the strong suit of teenagers.

    I also understand the views of some parents and journalists.

    There are many teaching moments here, and one hopes that this situation is being dealt with that way within the school. There is much to examine about transparency, journalism, bureaucracy, the historical record on dealing with abuse, the justice system, debate, and how to process the fact that incredibly complex issues like these cannot be “slapped” away by anything.

  5. Richard Miller says:

    What is worrying is that everyone seems to ‘want to do what’s best for the students,’ but in this storm of accusations, reports, inspections and media, these people are failing to actually listen to what the students want. Why can’t you take the time to ask what the students want of and for their school? I’ll tell you a few things – they want continued safety (which they most definitely have), freedom to express their art (which again, they have), and for the media to stop shining a bad light on them.
    Please, if anything, don’t attack the students you claim to care about so much.

    • “…hese people are failing to actually listen to what the students want.”

      Is that true? I have no horse in this race, but I always become concerned when a loud and very active group claims to represent everyone. Surely, there are more than 20 or 30 students at the school? I believe in listening to everyone, but we must be very careful not to attempt to portray the feelings of one group as the feelings of all.

      The ideas that “no students are suffering” (mentioned above) and that everyone agrees with what has been repeated here are suspect until examined by an outside party.

      What you think isn’t necessarily the full truth – in fact, one person’s opinion rarely is. Perhaps you all should step back and ask yourselves whether there is a possibility of a silent minority. There usually is.

  6. Gary Carpenter says:

    Sue Denim = pseudonym. I saw what you did there!

  7. Jacob Lund says:

    As a former pupil of Chetham’s, I can perhaps see why some of the comments from current pupils have such a confrontational and insulting tone: the intensely competitive and rarefied culture of a school like Chetham’s is often a major force in shaping the identity of the young people within it; once that culture is attacked, it can feel as if your own identity is under attack. This is also, arguably, one of the reasons why so many former pupils have waited so many years to come forward with allegations of abuse, and why people like Michael Brewer, and allegedly other members of staff, could behave with such impunity.

    I don’t know if it will help to allay the suspicions of commentators here, but I wanted to add that I am not a journalist, a parent of a pupil at the school, or in any way disappointed or embittered by my own personal experience there – on the contrary, I made many good friends and was very successful as an instrumentalist.

    • AnnBenton says:

      ‘ so many former students have waited so many years’……exactly how many former students have made complaints against EX members of staff?

      Remember that Mike Brewer jumped before he was pushed and his next employer was told why! Is anyone suggesting closing the National Youth choirs because of their historical error in employing this man?

      • Jacob Lund says:

        To Ann. The anonymised accounts of, I think, nine, former pupils alleged sexual abuse in articles in The Guardian during February. These are against former staff members. My own understanding of the Police investigation is that they are pursuing a number of other allegations made by former pupils against other staff members, some dating from very recently. But this is all in the public domain.

        I don’t quite follow your line of argument in relation to Michael Brewer. Had the school behaved properly, it would have dismissed him with immediate effect and with a full disclosure of why he had been sacked. My understanding is that he officially left for ‘health’ reasons.

    • I agree completely. I am also an ex student and now have no links with Chets. I was a pupil during the “Brewer years” and as opposed to the statements of other pupils, I was not aware of the “rampant culture of abuse” or anything even close.OK, there were a few rumours (stuff to be sniggered about in the toilets” but it was not a hot bed of vice or anythign close. I made a lot of good friends there and I learned a lot. I am not a pro musician now but that was my decision and nothing to do with the education i received.

      • Lindsay Edkins says:

        Perhaps it is worth bearing in mind that the rumours people were “sniggering about in the toilets” may have concerned the ongoing and serious abuse of some of their fellow pupils. No-one is blaming the students, whether or not they were victims themselves, for not recognising that possibility at the time. The very nature of an abusive culture is that it makes such behaviour seem normal/less serious than it is.

        Please remember that there are multiple allegations of abuse here, over a period of many years, which the police are taking extremely seriously. The newspapers and broadcasters who have reported these allegations have not done so without speaking to multiple sources and conferring with their lawyers. No-one is suggesting that alleged abusers (or the school itself if there has been a failure in its duty of care) will be convicted without trial. What they are suggesting is a full and open investigation of the allegations which are being made.

        The fact that many students, including yourself, had a lovely time at Chetham’s does not entitle you to dismiss the misfortunes of others out of hand until all the allegations and evidence have been properly examined. Everyone is entitled to a proper hearing.

      • Lizzy, a few of my school mates (completely separate school) sniggered that a lad in my year had placed his hand up my skirt when I was in the equivalent of year 10.

        For many this was a joke.

        It was in fact an indecent assault.

    • david owen says:

      ‘the intensely competitive and rarefied culture of a school like Chetham’s is often a major force in shaping the identity of the young people within it; once that culture is attacked, it can feel as if your own identity is under attack’.

      that’s an important observation.

  8. Jean Langfield says:

    Clearly there is no need for this kind of language used by some students. However, many of the students on here seem to be putting across their points with maturity and with integrity. I think it is time we all considered the shades of gray in a case like this. It is not good enough to ignore the recent stories and carry on regardless (for the record I dont believe anyone is guilty of this) but nor is it good enough to assume and to attack on the basis of media coverage alone. If it is true that we are all in it for the students’ best interest, then we should be listening to what they have to say

  9. Liam Wright says:

    It’s a shame that some students feel threatened by the blog. The point of it was to stimulate observable topical discourse, and I think it’s a good way of ‘letting the steam out’. That pupils have organised a raid is a bit farcical, besides, Sue Denim has a point. The misconduct of an individual cannot partially represent the conduct of the institution, but a mass mentality shows some evidence of the latter, at least. Thanks Norman, your blog has helped me through this.

  10. I shall continue to remain polite and courteous as ever!

    The attacks on Norman other contributors are unwarranted.

    …although I can appreciate the reasons for their passions.

  11. Jean Langfield says:

    Hi Norman. I wonder if you could provide a link to the facebook group you cite from (it should be visible even if private)? I cannot find any evidence of it? Thank you.

    • I don’t have it and, for all I know, it may have been taken down. The comments were passed to Slipped Disc by a trusted third party.

      • James Q says:

        Well thats a suprise! Having been at chets with these pupils I know for a fact that no such group ever existed and that at least one of those comments was a private status, written by someone letting off steam, to their friends and not meant for prying eyes of either yourself our this so called trusted third party!

        May I also suggest that these comments were written by pupils to their friends which they believed (rightly our wrongly) to be private. I very much doubt that any student at chets would be so rude to anyone directly, especially someone from outside of chets.

  12. Many of the pupils’ comments do seem to be representative of a siege mentality, and are unfocused. It may have been presented to the pupils as if they are personally under attack, by a distorted argument which makes ‘the pupils’ synonymous with ‘the school’. However, the ISI and MCC reports, commissioned by Chet’s, point to serious failings on the part of management, whilst the arrests, convictions, and widespread (well-documented and researched) allegations more widely in the media, and which underlie the petition, are all about illegitimate and illegal acts on the part of teachers, the cover-up of these by other members of staff, and the acceptance of a teaching culture in which various abusive practices are ‘normalised’. No-one has suggested that the pupils who have suffered are themselves to blame for this; far from it, it is precisely that stigma which needs to be removed. Unfortunately it appears that a twisted message has been instilled whereby the pupils of today are being made to feel personally responsible, which they are not, not under any circumstances. This is the root of such defensiveness, I believe.

    It is perfectly legitimate for pupils to challenge some of the perspectives on the workings of the school which have been aired in recent months, or for that matter the reports. But to do that in a meaningful way, they need to address the specific charges which have been made, not just produce hysterical reactions at the very act of criticism per se.

    • John Millner says:

      I wholly agree with this. In particular, it would be of real value for current students to address seriously the two reports published rather than dismiss them as mere slips of bureaucracy. In particular (and with apologies for cross posting):

      Manchester Council Child Services
      Section 4.1 (b) (viii)
      No evidence was provided of any formal, minuted governing body/school committee meetings called so that leaders and governors could reflect on the implications of recent allegations in connection with the school, carry out appropriate scrutiny, audit and self evaluation and consider the need to conduct a comprehensive review of current safeguarding policies, procedures and practice;

      There was no evidence to confirm that governors had sought assurances about current safeguarding arrangements, given the context of recent allegations, resulting in convictions and arrests of individuals connected with the school. A current employee was arrested on 14th February 2013 in relation to an historic allegation, is presently suspended and is the subject of ongoing police investigation.

      Did they meet without keeping a record? Or did they fail to meet at all? Governors are supposed to establish the framework of procedures within which child protection operates and they are, crucially, supposed to ensure the school’s compliance with those procedures. Yet even given the conviction of the former director of music, the death of a former student, a full-scale police investigation and the arrest of a current teacher, they did nothing. Or, at least, there is no record of them doing anything. I find that extremely shocking.

      We know that Malcolm Layfield got teenage girls at Chet’s drunk and had sex with them because he has admitted it. We have seen in the correspondence published in the Guardian the attempts by Martin Roscoe and others, including Frances Andrade, to block his appointment at RNCM. The correspondence also shows that, despite Layfield’s acknowledgement of his behaviour, the then principal of RNCM Edward Gregson continued with the appointment. How can it be thought reasonable that this individual should be a governor at Chet’s? Will he decide otherwise when the next set of allegations are made?

      From the first public statements about the Brewer case, the school has been claiming that all allegations are historic (20 – 40 years ago) and that the school is wholly different now. But the police, it turns out, are investigating contemporary allegations. Did the parents and/or students involved in those allegations make no attempt to raise them with the school? Do such allegations only exist for Claire Moreland and the senior management when they are submitted to the police?

      With many of the parents posting here, I have attempted to raise concerns with Claire Moreland and the governors at Chet’s. I expected that the concerns raised would be assessed carefully and fairly. In fact, they were dismissed. That’s why parents are posting here and elsewhere.

      If you have had a positive experience at Chet’s then that’s good. But it is not to be set against the awful experiences of others. The institution of Chet’s is not the same as the current management of Chet’s. It is perfectly reasonable to point to failings of the current management and to insist they respond with change. The kind of idiotic language and behaviour seen from some current students towards Norman Lebrecht, “Gwen” and others is totally unacceptable. Attempting to bully people out of their complaints is self-defeating.

  13. Katie Orchard says:

    I am no longer at Chets, but I do feel I must say something here. Whether you put this comment forward onto the actual blog or not, as long as you read it! The facebook page certainly shouldn’t have been made, and neither should the unkind comments have been posted, but you must understand that this is a home you are attacking. Most likely the ones posting are older and should probably know better, but there are 8 year olds who know and love Chets and will be bewildered and scared by what’s going on and being said.
    If there are problems with the school and how it is run then yes, they should be resolved, but this direct and aggresive approach isn’t right! Please think of the young children that are being exposed to all this and the effect it could have on them.

    • I am inclined to agree with Katie… there has been so much intemperate language and personal attack, which does not reflect well on any of the people involved….this has become a very personal attack on Chethams as an institution, on the staff who run it and the people who are responsible over all.
      I think to gather information and work with the proper authorities is correct and to make sure as much accurate information is given as possible so that the relavent authorities can do their work. But the full on campaign, the petitions, the media briefing and the intense levels of attack, the gathering together of individuals and groups to launch attacks – is harrassment… it did not need this personal media warfare with its “heros” to achieve the justice that is in process right now….the intensity creates ever more casualties… but that was part of the objective, wasnt it? to make them suffer..

      • No, I don’t think the objective was to make anyone suffer, Frank. I think it is unfair to make that assumption. What grounds to you have? The petition and media coverage have helped to instigate the large scale police investigation and have helped the police and the victims to make progress. Why is it so hard for some to accept that the objective is what is says on the tin: to combat and guard against abuse in music education.

  14. Ashley Harper says:

    While I can see some students feel under attack, their distinct lack of diplomacy surprises me somewhat.

    What the students must realise is that it is the management, not themselves, who are under scrutiny here. I have never seen students jumping to the defence of a school in this way, which I suppose shows just how passionate they are.

    Clearly the pupils have overreacted, since these really are issues out of their control. Of course they should have a say, but these personal attacks are unnecessary and detrimental to their aims. What can be achieved using their language? It just looks juvenile to the outsiders looking in.

    What did strike me during my time there (Sep 2009-July 2011) is the frequency with which the school was infiltrated by members of the general public, one of whom, having been escorted off the premises, returned later and was able to break a window on the Baronial building. Something’s not quite right if that is able to happen.

    Improvements need to happen, which is true of every institution of any type, and in my view Chetham’s has some catching up to do, despite the excellent experience it provides for promising young musicians.

  15. “This is a home you are attacking” – Let’s change the word home to Pie-Shop, and the proprietor to a fictional Mrs Lovell.

    Does this now sound quite so reasonable.

    “This is a home you are attacking” – Chez Hinchley and Brady – anyone going to say this was a good place to compare.

    “This is a home” – all this means is that the inhabitants are emotionally attached. It does not necessarily make it a good or safe place.

    I have deliberately taken this statement and made it sound ridiculous and sinister at the same time.

    The report by the ISI and Manchester City Council was drawn up to set criteria and is as objective as it could possibly be. To put emotions in the places where there are procedural logic is to fail to understand the nature of this kind of report.

    Not every home is a sanctuary full of calmness and delight.

    • Derek Polasky says:

      Sorry Joanna but reading this I feel like you haven’t listened to the chets students who’s home it is? Could i say the same for your home? Especially for young children who dont understand what has happened.

  16. John Millner says:

    We can understand why students feel threatened by the questions and concerns raised here. But to understand is not to condone. The kind of nastiness reported by Norman (and seen by me on my children’s Facebook feeds) is totally unacceptable and tends to reinforce the sense of a school in which bullying is not properly understood or addressed. Don’t undermine your own arguments by behaving as bullies.

  17. “All I’m seeing is gwen fucking gwen. They need slapping across the face with a cock!”, also “Seeing as Norman lebrecht likes stirring shit so much, let’s put him in a vat of it and shut the lid. Tight.”

    English is not even my second language, but I could recognized a sentence similar during the game between Tottenhan against Basel this week, in the exit of the arena. It’s seems that schools of music also have hooligans full of angry because they lost the game. be careful Norman.

    • ….remind me this in a school under suspicion for an insufficient Child Protection Policy

      “They need slapping across the face with a cock!” I very much doubt this means male chicken and implies penis.

      I don’t let my children get away with language that bad, let alone encourage my elder son post such defamatory rhetoric on facebook!

      I rest my case.

  18. There is a certain irony in the fact that there have been accusations on an earlier blog (later discovered to be false) that the students were blocked from reading said blog by the school when they are actually now being blocked by Norman from commenting. Most comments on yesterday’s blog were articulate and well thought through and possibly less hysterical than some comments from others.

  19. No connection to anyone says:

    Surely by now Chets will have contacted parents asking them to monitor their children’s postings for the sake of the school’s reputation? If not, WHY NOT?

    The pupils are reacting in the way they know how – social media has a lot to answer for really – and would do well to receive some guidance before posting. I wonder how many of them realise that what they post on facebook and blogs will stay in the public domain forever and that many universities and employers do search the internet before offering positions. Wouldn’t it be sad to be turned down for a top university/music college/job in the future because of something that was posted as a misguided angry teen?

    • Quite!

      • Oliver Closoff says:

        I would quite hope that the employer would be sane enough to choose someone on professionalism and skill rather than some previous affair. Or do we live in such a clouded and deluded world?

        • How does that remark relate to my single word response “quite”

          I do hope you are not turning this into a personal vendetta.

          • Derek Polasky says:

            You got that wrong Joanna, Oliver was merely adding to his point. Am i right? Sorry i may misunderstand with English being my fourth language, not bragging or anything.

    • chet'smum says:

      I am guessing that the students are making postings from their own (non Chet’s) accounts. And therefore, posting is beyond the remit of the school (because they aren’t using the school system). The school can’t control what each student says (freedom of speech).

      Additionally, Chet’s has already been accused (on this blog) of trying to censor access to (ironically) THIS BLOG. And so, for someone to suggest (on this blog) that the SCHOOL censure its students (by telling them not to post) is a bit odd.

      Lastly, I will say that my own daughter (who has been distraught – and unable to sleep because of the onslaught on Norman’s site) received excellent advice from one of 6th form prefects to whom she spoke this morning. This particular young man is a fantastic example of a well rounded Chet’s education… his advice? ‘stay away from all of this’ ….

      …and as I finish typing, I can hear her practicing in the next room (it’s Bach… best medicine ever for a confused teen)

      • There is a difference between a school attempting to censure their pupils (wrong) and a school encouraging sock-puppetry.

        I am sorry for your daughter, and for her insomnia.
        The advice from the prefect is sound. She should keep away from this blog and anyone who is upsetting her.

        However you are her mother, why are you unable to do this? Surely it is the Easter Holidays so she is home not at school?

        As for practising Bach, well I’ve taken many doses of that particular medicine. It is no substitute to your role as a parent. If your daughter is in need then you need to behave as a mother and listen to her and comfort her.

        I am not a perfect parent, but I do know better than to point the finger at those who ACTUALLY HAVE YOUR DAUGHTER’S LONG TERM INTEREST at heart. (This is water off a duck’s back I teach after all).

        Be a mother to her. I can’t I’m not her mother and I have my own children to be a mother to. However as a mother I do not wrap children in cotton wool, and I do discuss difficult topics with them. How are they going to cope as adults when they do not know about the evil in the world as filtered by loving parents to make it more palatable.

      • No connection to anyone says:

        @Oliver – many employers look to social media activity now before offering positions. Young people need to be aware that everything they write in the virtual world is traceable.

        @chet’smum – even if using their own accounts the school SHOULD have a policy relating to social media responses etc. in the school’s name. It would be in relation to SAFEGUARDING YOUNG PEOPLE! But therein lies the problem here…………

  20. Former pupil says:

    The Current Head was aware of abuse 10years ago when victims wrote to her telling of their repeated assaults. She failed to conduct an enquiry then andi dismissed these former students as… something that had not happened on her watch. Why should a school that has failed some of it’s students so dreadfully be allowed to continue to fly the flag of musical excellence …. They have failed and by covering up and not dealing with horrific accounts of abuse the institution itself has abused. Why Edward Gregson who promoted
    Malcolm Layfield who has been accused of affairs with students at the RNCM be on the board of governors at Chethams?

    • Quite so.

      Professor Gregson’s treatment of Martin Roscoe was published in February when a bundle of correspondence appeared in the Guardian Newspaper.

      Martin knows how I feel about the way he was treated then.

      I can not speculate, but maybe if things had been investigated properly then, the ‘can of worms’ would not be quite so bad.

      Who knows how many people have suffered as a result of him not being taken seriously?

      Mr Roscoe can rest assured he tried his best. (Not that this brings him too much joy given how things have panned out if the article in the Guardian is to be believed).

      • Derek Polasky says:

        From where i sit (tapping at my computer) Chethams is not a ‘can of worms’ but a school where producing talented musicians (which they achieve in doing) is their first priority. How i see it, forgive me if i am wrong, is that someone so messed to touch children sexually is to do so, its going to happen with the procedures implicated on this blog that have been failed in the report, or not. Surely it would be impractical to have people watching over teachers performing lessons all the time. Much like society can not watch over murderers and criminals all the time. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

    • Martin Roscoe says:

      @Former Pupil

      Unfortunately your comment about the letters received by the school from former Layfield Chet’s students in 2002 is true.

      Also worth pointing out that Malcolm Layfield has admitted (therefore not has been accused of) the affairs with some of his students which I reported to Edward Gregson in 2002, and that some of these were with students at Chetham’s, and some were with students at the RNCM

      Joanna …thank you.

  21. It wasn’t the best PR campaign was it?

  22. david owen says:

    warning: the following post is not really intended for the consumption of Chet’s pupils, it’s more for what I will call the post-adolescent reader (apparently that means 19+). so if you do read it and you don’t like what I say please don’t blame me!

    there’s a word that I don’t think has been used yet on these pages, and the word is trauma. Chetham’s is an institution presumably in a state of trauma because of what has recently emerged from its past and possibly also what is emerging as part of its present. The trauma is surely enhanced by the media exposure, but also by the enormous rift between the school’s self-idealisation and the awful realites that have been exposed, however ‘historic’ they may be. i think that the distress, rage and sense of betrayal expressed by many of the pupils posting on this site must be an effect of this trauma.

    What I wonder is whether the school, in its present traumatised state, is able to provide support and containment for the complicated feelings of these young people. I would be interested to know what Chetham’s is offering in the way of opportunities for pupils to talk with each other and with adults in a manner and context which will facilitate a process of thinking and feeling their way through this difficult time. what seems to be happening is that these pupils are attempting some form of working-through of their feelings in part via this blog – they are seeking understanding for what’s happening to them, but unfortunately this isn’t an appropriate or safe place and some of the responses they are getting (including my own) may well be adding to the trauma that they are already experiencing.

    The way that some pupils appear to be trying to deal with all of this is by ‘splitting’: there was a good object, Chets, which now seems to have some very bad bits to it – this is painful, so one way of relieving the pain is to make the Others bad, the journalists, the pundits, the politicians, the agitators. Naturally the more strongly a pupil is identified with the school the more they will feel that something bad has been put inside them, and I imagine that the violence of feeling on these pages is to do with the attempt to expel that badness into someone else (that image of the penis slapping the face, and this ‘all started’ with a bad penis: Michael Brewer traumatically f****ing the whole school in perpetuity).

    What is really required is that the school help the children to understand that they have actually been let down, and to create a space where the mourning for the lost perfect object that was Chets can be safely negotiated. Some of the pupils are clearly able to understand that, and see that it’s possible to acknowledge the school’s mistakes without feeling under psychic threat themselves. It may be those who idealise Chets most unyieldingly who hate it the most for its failures, even if they do not wish to acknowledge this hatred.

    But of course the traumatic impact of these recent events stretch far beyond the school and its present occupants – everyone posting on these pages (myself certainly, as I’ve come to realise increasingly as time goes on) is writing to a greater or a less extent out of this traumatic impact of a profoundly destructive action and its consequences, and it’s also possible for the pupils to become the ‘bad’ ones within this dynamic.

    (With apologies to Melanie Klein for any botching of her concepts).

    • Concerned Parent says:

      Thank you David. You are absolutely right in your analysis in what the students are going through, and it explains why otherwise intelligent, sensitive and reasonable young people are reacting in such extreme black/white ways. The school’s leaders are not only not offering any containment, they seem in their private communications on fb and in their public PR to parents and others to be affected by the same splitting. Again my experience of the school on the pastoral and musical sides has been of a stunning ignorance – or sheer blankness – when it comes to any psychologically nuanced understanding of what highly talented and driven teenagers go through at the school. So perhaps this crisis should come as no surprise … I hope and pray that some genuine insight and help for all involved will emerge before too long.

      • david owen says:

        concerned parent: i left Chets in the mid-70s just as it was getting going as a specialist music school, having been there myself from the age of 6. I was shocked even at that time by the way that the school accepted students who even I as a ‘musical non-musician’ could see had little chance of making it in the professional world, along with others (e.g. Stephen Hough, or David Hill) who clearly had the talent to go to the top. So in a way I feel that a traumatic situation was set up by the school right from the start of its reinvention of itself as conservatoire. The school appeared not to consider the potential emotional damage to children and parents whose hopes were being ‘exploited’. It seems that they wanted certan numbers of music students and that they wanted the cash.

        Now I imagine that the situation is different, entry requirements must be far more competitive than they were then, there are no ‘non-musicians’ like myself so I would guess that there are few students who don’t have a reasonable chance of making it at least to the next stage of a musical career path. However it seems from your comments and those of some other posters here that there may have survived a certain blindness with regard to the fate of those for whom Chets may (yes) not be the best place not because they are untalented but because they are emotionally too fragile to cope with the inevitable pressure of such an environment. Frances Andrade turned up to her audition with two black eyes, why was nothing said? This was a long time ago but the pressure may still be on the school to ‘split’ its responses to pupils because it needs talent to survive, even if the bearer of that talent may be suffering.

        It is a lot to expect the school to manage this pressure, but it must manage it, and a starting place would be to employ people in charge of pastoral care who are suitable qualified to do this job. However that will depend on those who are responsible for their employment having an appropriate level of psychological understanding themselves, rather than one which reflects the stance of the culture in general, which is defensively (and inevitably) antipathetic to depth understanding. Even if such an appropriately-informed person were to be appointed, they would still have to deal with oppositional, apathetic or ignorant attitudes within the institution, and with the conflicts arising fron their own position. This would almost certainly be the case even if the managment of the school were changed.

        Overall I imagine that a huge amount of enlightened will and systematic support from outside may be needed for Chets to really be able to give much real help to its pupils right now, as opposed to helping them bolster their defences, and pupils are fortunate if they have parents who do have some understanding of the emotional realities of the situation.

  23. david owen says:

    nb. that perfect should be ‘perfect’, and f****ing should be f***ing.

  24. Concerned Parent says:

    Thank you for this post Norman. It seems to have put a stop to the hysterical lynch mob mentality that was developing among fb-connected Chets students yesterday, and going on the comments among Chets students on fb a consensus seems to be emerging that they had gone too far.

    This, however, is no thanks to the school’s management – why on earth didn’t they immediately email every student when they realised what was happening? Or perhaps Mrs Moreland has personally telephoned you and apologised?

    In fact comments on facebook from fb students which have been passed on to me suggest the head boy was instrumental in egging on this campaign, and that there was support from Carolyn Rhind (the Deputy Head for Pastoral), a practice assistant and a teacher. The comments which lead me to think this are copied from a Chets student’s “news feed” – ie any fb friend of those who posted them can see them:

    Poppy in Lower 6th posted: “Heard from Carolyn that the staff have all read the blogs and comments and love them :)”

    Poppy also posted: “Instead of posting all this on Facebook and blogs where very few will see our arguments, we should hang a banner from Millgate with the words “we are happy with our school and its staff” painted on it.” which elicited the following comment from a Practice Assistant, Joel Cooper: “Excellent idea! Merit mark for you!”

    The Head Boy at Chets [name redacted] commented yesterday “Well said. And if you are a student who disagrees, should you really be there?” to this post:
    “The students feel…. the students want…. the students think….” – all about the ‘students’ hey? – Have you spoken to any of us? NO. So fuck the hell off and get your facts straight. So many pupils, both past and present, are hurt by the things circulating in the media, and it seems like we are invisible. I am extremely proud to be at Chets, and have been given the best possible start to my musical career imaginable – and I am most certainly not the only one who feels like that.”

    Today [name redacted] had a change of heart and wrote: “As much as we all want to defend our school and the staff we love from these wrongful attacks from those who know little about us, the time has come to discontinue the dialogue with those who are set on painting the school in the darkest colours. We are now purely providing the coal for the fire which is threatening to engulf us.”

    Finally, I see one Chets student posted the following – which suggests that those who organised the blog mob may be exceptional in their illiteracy, insensitivity and ignorance.

    “I had been restraining myself from talking about this for fear of being attacked as a stupid little third former, but to be honest, I don’t really care anymore. No-one is saying that Chet’s now is anything like Chet’s 20-40 years ago. This is largely due to the fact that society and child protection is very different now. However, there are a number of deep-rooted failings that are highlighted in the report (which was admittedly overly concerned with paperwork) that were not picked up before because the inspectors took the school’s word for everything.
    The bullying and mob-like atmosphere that has been created both here on Facebook and on the Slipped Disc blog is exactly the kind that stops abuse victims from speaking up. Some things that were said were shocking. It’s not really surprising that the comments were leaked. How do you know that the person who passed them on was another student who simply thought they were unacceptable?
    It is certainly not the case that anyone who doesn’t think the sun shines out of Mrs Moreland’s bottom shouldn’t be at the school.
    Just because you have had a great time at Chet’s and are proud of the school does not mean everyone has had the same experience. I have been on the receiving end of a number of pastoral failings and I am by no means the only one. Why haven’t I left if I’m so unhappy? I’m not. There are a lot of things I have gained from being at Chet’s, mostly the result of amazing friends and individual teachers.
    Ok. Rant over.”

    • Poppy L6 says:

      May I just point out that Carolyn is my aunt so I have every right to be in contact with her and show her my support in this hard time for her and Joel Cooper no longer works at chets. Also the idea to get our points across in the form of a banner is a non-violent and unoffending act which is far from any “lynch mob” I’ve ever heard of.

      • @Poppy L6 – You rather missed the point. It is not that you are in contact with Carolyn, it is what she said. Her comment supports a bullying, negative mob mentality that serves to stifle (beat back, even) any less-than-positive comments about Chets. It is toxic and sad. The idea that anyone who dares to suggest Chets is not goodness and light in every way should not be there is cult-like and, frankly, scary. The idea that “Carolyn” supports this toxic mob behavior is unbelievable. I hope (and actually believe) that the majority of students probably do not conduct themselves in this way.

        I suggest you read David Owens’ comment not far above yours. He is right on, in my view. Students need help to process what is happening; I hope it is being given to them.

        • Poppy L6 says:

          We are all perfectly capable of thinking independently and the staff, particularly the CPO and boarding staff, are always available and willing to listen and support any student. The staff only commented favourably on the reasonable and articulate comments from students on Norman’s first blog from 4th April, before Norman publicly posted private facebook status’s.

          • Poppy, that is an unwarranted and untrue accusation. I do not publicly post anything from private Facebook pages. What happened is this: a number of Chet’s pupils, alarmed at the rhetoric that appeared on their pages, shared these comments with their parents who, doubly alarmed, posted them as Comments on Slipped Disc. Since this is a semi-public conversation among dozens of pupils, shared (as you have acknowledged) with members of Chet’s staff, there is no violation of privacy. I would ask you to withdraw that allegation.

          • Anon. Pupil @ Chetham's School of Music says:

            The fact that the quotes are from private facebook pages does not change as a result of where you personally obtained them Norman, and by the sound of things, the statuses and comments above quoted by ‘Concerned Parent’ have been copied and pasted directly off facebook onto this page

            I condemn the bad language of the outburst seen at the top of this page, and the mob mentality that could be seen at one stage in the proceedings, but at the same time, the comments were letting off steam, and however personal the comments may seem (and vulgar!), they were not intended as direct attacks on anybody!

            (It will be interesting to see if this gets through ‘moderating’!)

          • Although we no longer accept anonymous comments from Chet’s pupils, we are allowing this one through since we have the authors identity. In fact, I did not obtain comments from any Facebook page and paste them onto Slipped Disc. Some parents did, and what they chose to quote was generally edited by them to protect the writer’s identity.

          • This topic is now closed.

      • Poppy L6 says:

        To add to this, it has been reasonably raised by the students that publicly quoting and naming current students under the age of 18 without their permission is highly inappropriate along with the fact that your post, with these quotes, was able to pass the ‘censorship’ whereas far more reasonable comments from chets students didn’t pass the test.

    • David Fields says:

      A glence at this blog shows that many of the people posting claiming to be ‘concerned’ for the students really aren’t at all and are just stirring up trouble. All of the students have a right to be angry when they’re being attacked (and for those who say they aren’t, the root of this blog post is doing so).

    • John Millner says:

      I agree with what Concerned Parent is saying.

      I was surprised to see three students involved in the Facebook campaign who have been seriously bullied and have had other significant problems at Chet’s. All three found the school inadequate in dealing with their problems. To those of you who are claiming that we don’t understand, remember that some of us are your mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, guardians and supporters. Remember also that the person sitting next to you at assembly or in class may well be struggling for all sorts of reasons and without your knowledge. Don’t assume that because you are okay, they are or you will be. The school must be run for *all* of its students, including those who are unhappy or struggling.

      I don’t think Concerned Parent was attacking you, Poppy L6, she was asking what senior managers at Chet’s were doing in giving their support to the nasty behaviour we have seen from some students. Or perhaps they agree with the students who proposed that Norman Lebrecht be put in a vat of shit or that “Gwen” be slapped across the face with a cock. I would like them to say publicly that they deplore those comments.

      It would be of real value if students at the school actually engaged with some of the issues. For example (as I have asked elsewhere in this forum):

      Manchester Council Child Services
      Section 4.1 (b) (viii)
      No evidence was provided of any formal, minuted governing body/school committee meetings called so that leaders and governors could reflect on the implications of recent allegations in connection with the school, carry out appropriate scrutiny, audit and self evaluation and consider the need to conduct a comprehensive review of current safeguarding policies, procedures and practice;

      There was no evidence to confirm that governors had sought assurances about current safeguarding arrangements, given the context of recent allegations, resulting in convictions and arrests of individuals connected with the school. A current employee was arrested on 14th February 2013 in relation to an historic allegation, is presently suspended and is the subject of ongoing police investigation.

      Did they meet without keeping a record? Or did they fail to meet at all? Governors are supposed to establish the framework of procedures within which child protection operates and they are, crucially, supposed to ensure the school’s compliance with those procedures. Yet even given the conviction of the former director of music, the death of a former student, a full-scale police investigation and the arrest of a current teacher, they did nothing. Or, at least, there is no record of them doing anything. If you think the current management is getting things right, please explain their actions here.

      We know that Malcolm Layfield got teenage girls at Chet’s drunk and had sex with them because he has admitted it. We have seen in the correspondence published in the Guardian the attempts by Martin Roscoe and others, including Frances Andrade, to block his appointment at RNCM. The correspondence also shows that, despite Layfield’s acknowledgement of his behaviour, the then principal of RNCM Edward Gregson continued with the appointment. How can it be thought reasonable that this individual should be a governor at Chet’s? Will his priority be staff or students when the next set of allegations are made?

      From the first public statements about the Brewer case, the school has been claiming that all allegations are historic (20 – 40 years ago) and that the school is wholly different now. But the police, it turns out, are investigating contemporary allegations. Did the parents and/or students involved in those allegations make no attempt to raise them with the school? Do such allegations only exist for Claire Moreland and the senior management when they are submitted to the police?

      These are serious issues, not matters of paper pushing. Nor are they the fault of any student at Chet’s. We appreciate (but, you are right, we don’t *know*) how hard this must be for students at the school. But the only way forward is truth. And we get to truth by asking questions, assessing evidence, putting information in the light and the air, holding people to account. That’s why Norman Lebrecht, “Gwen”, Concerned Parent and others here who are carefully considering the evidence deserve our gratitude.

      • Chets Pupil says:

        I would like to point out there was no organised ‘mob’… It was just us expressing our views, between us, over facebook, which I would like to point out should have been PRIVATE and not leaked onto this site. We did NOT come together to attack this blog. We all commented seperately, expressing our own views. Maybe some of these coincided which gave this mob-like image, but we are not crazed, angry students going out of our ways to ‘bully’ this blog and the people who have opposing views, we are merely just presenting ours.

    • david owen says:

      Poppy in Lower 6th posted: “Heard from Carolyn that the staff have all read the blogs and comments and love them :)

      this would be Carolyn Rhind? deputy head in charge of pastoral care?

      i don’t quite see how she interprets her role.

  25. Eyal Kless says:

    I worked in Chets as a violin teacher for a couple of years in 2000 and in RNCM as well (it was Layfield who approached me one day and offered me the job). I left after a couple of years back to my own country, not before I had the pleasure ofmeeting and playing with Martin Roscoe and becoming aware of the sordid story (funnily enough, one of my reasons of leaving RNCM was the way Layfield was running the place).

    I only write right here to comment that I found working in Chets a very fulfilling experience (from the professional side, of course). The management seemed to be extremely aware of children’s safety (at the time, not knowing the past of the institute, I thought it was even excessive), and although I knew personally only the 5-7 children in my class I felt they were happy and safe.

    I think what happened in Chets is horrible, wrong and immoral, but I saw no indication that the current management did not take steps to prevent such acts from happening again.

    Perhaps I am not aware of the full facts but those crimes happened under a whole different management.

  26. The cyber bullying and abusive and sexualised language were clearly not acceptable. This should go without saying but having seen many of the comments above it obviously needs to be said.

    We should try to understand this behaviour and be compassionate to those exhibiting it because they are young, upset, misinformed, misguided, etc. It is another thing altogether to dismiss, excuse and condone it, to even blame others for it including the victims. Many people commenting above have been doing the latter. Some presumably are those who were involved and are sadly still unrepentant even in the cold light of day. Some are old enough to know better and are even parents of pupils, encouraging them to think and behave that way.

    Those pupils and young ex pupils who misguidedly went down this route did so in the mistaken belief that they were fighting for their school which is being ‘attacked’ and that the best way to do that was to defend the current management and aggressively attack anyone who dared comment or have an opinion. It seems that said management and some parents who post here have done nothing to correct this stressful misconception or have actively encouraged it. To the extent that this is the case young people are being used as pawns regardless of their welfare.

    This certainly does not put the school or the adults involved in a good light or further their ’cause’ one bit. Unfortunately the cause actually seems to be to save the current management rather than the school.

  27. Ellie u6 says:

    Can I just say that I think that it’s incredibly inappropriate, and actually quite childish, to go on current students’ facebook profiles, and to then quote them without their permission.

  28. Penelope Bisby says:

    I was a parent of a Chets pupil; at first she enjoyed being at the school, whereas we, her parents, would have taken her away in the first term, so appalled were we by the incompetent and chaotic management of day pupils, and the total disregard for their security. I note that is is a recurring theme; children enjoy the school and its unconventional approach to education, whereas parents are desperately concerned by the school’s inconsistency and unpredictability with regard to pupil safety. Yesterday I spoke to a parent, and the mother of a friend of Chets pupils; one was in despair regarding the late nights and early mornings, and the callous attitude of the deputy head of strings (due to retire this year) and the other saying that at no time in the night, even at 2 in the morning, was it safe for her daughter’s friend to go to the Boys’ House toilets, due to other youths prowling around with no trousers on. Is this normal in a boarding school? I have no experience of such matters,

    • The work schedule is tough admittedly, but if you can’t handle it don’t go to the school, simple. With regards to the comment made about toilets in Boys House, there are no girls toilets in Boys house, the houses are separated into Girls House and Boys House so that in itself is ill-informed. Going back to the previous point, it is arguably more difficult being a day pupil, but again there are certain precautions that as parents you can take. For example, if your son/daughter were to have a late rehearsal/lesson timetabled making it unsafe for the student to travel there are two courses of action 1. You can have said rehearsal/lesson changed to a more suitable time. or 2. 99% of the time there is space within the respective boarding houses for day students to board overnight.

      So as you can see there are certain procedures that parents must go through in these situations. Also, no students at Eton/Harrow/Purcell/Wells are perfect either. I’m sure you get rambunctious behaviour in all institutions at some point or another.

  29. Clarissa Smid says:

    I must say that all this bitching disappoints me so much. From the abusive spouting of so called Chets students to the squirm inducing puffing of adults.

    No doubt that Norman would like to think that if the notion occurred to a past or present victim of the abuse at the centre of this discussion to speak up publicly on this blog, they might feel they could. With all the posturing going on at the moment, I fear it is the last place I’d come to do so.

    Come on everyone: let’s keep it both clean, humble and rational. There are real people in the middle of this nightmare: please respect that.

  30. Geoff Miles says:

    I think what we are in desperate need of here are large quantities of wisdom and perspective. The question is where we find that, given the situation. I wouldn’t expect a student under attack to be anything other than angry – some of the student reactions have been surprisingly measured. I wouldn’t necessarily expect a worried parent to be concerned primarily with anything other than the immediate safety and future of his / her child, but again there have been some very constructive and wise contributions. And for those that were damaged by their experiences at the school – how much of this is about righting a situation from a time in their lives when they were powerless to do so? – Again, that motivation is not necessarily bad, or selfish, but it comes from a singular perspective. There are also many anonymous voices whose identities and interests are unclear. What is worrying, is that those who are in a position to help calm the situation, and to sift the angry and hurt reactions from the useful wise observations are engaged in drawing battle lines, digging trenches and polarising opinion further. It may be that the school management feels that its only strategy for survival is to galvanise students and parents against those who are attacking them – if that is so, it is fatally misguided. Those that are calling for blanket resignations and a complete change of school leadership may well succeed – but if they do so it will be at the expense of much bitterness and the destruction of friendships within the school, and possibly within families where loyalties are split. It will be a case of winning the battle but not winning the war.The only way of avoiding this situation is through strong independent mediation and a will from both sides to find constructive solutions from both sides that really work in the interest of the school and the wider classical music world. A debate that descends into a Jeremy Kyle style slanging match makes noone look good. For the record my only interests here are my partnerhsip with an ex-Chets pupil, and my general wish for the survival of classical music.

    • david owen says:

      geoff, a lot of what you say makes sense, but why perpetuate the idea that students are ‘under attack’, that there are ‘those who are attacking them’? some may feel that way but is that really what’s going on?

  31. Anon. Pupil @ Chetham's School of Music says:

    There was no ‘Organised Mob’, merely a large number of students that became involved in the (often heated) debate, who in frustration to having posts prevented from being posted (unfortunately yes due to the often repetitive nature of their posts) resorted to more uncouth outbursts on social networking sites out of ‘heat-of-the-moment’ frustration. A kind of mob mentality developed out of this, but only after students became frustrated at the inability to (as they saw it) get their voices heard.
    The following morning, many seemed taken aback by the nature of their comments, now posted publicly on this blog. I’ve said this before, but I condemn the bad language of the outburst seen at the top of this page, and the mob mentality that could be seen at one stage in the proceedings, but at the same time, the comments were letting off steam, and however personal the comments may seem (and vulgar!), they were not intended as direct attacks on anybody!

    I hope this comes across as unbiased an opinion as possible, considering I know all those concerned…

  32. Hi, this is not intended to be contentious in any way but merely a passing precaution given that high levels of distress have been discussed here as well as self harm. It is just some information on who to contact if a parent or any concerned person is worried about children being at risk or if a young person feels at risk themselves, not just from abuse but from self harm or anything else. Anyone who is suffering or worrying, please don’t suffer or worry in silence. I know that young people and others probably already have this information or could find it, but just wanted to flag it up anyway. I am also aware that lots of people are saying they feel safe and cared for at Chet’s and am not disputing that or making a point with this post (other than it’s OK to get help if you need it).

    If you are worried about a child and think they may be a victim of neglect or abuse, please call
    •If a child is at immediate risk please – contact the police on 999
    •Manchester Contact Centre on 0161 234 5001 (24 hour service)
    •NSPCC Child Protection helpline on 0808 800 5000 (free 24 hour service)
    •Childline 08001111 (a free 24 hour helpline for children)
    •email at

  33. Mr Miller, I am certain that Mr Lebrecht verified his sources before posting. He knows from first hand experience what happens when he does not, and I’m certain he is not going to fall into the same trap.

    What a pity those who posted the hateful comments about him did not share that respect.

  34. Comment redacted on grounds of defamation. If Mr Miller is insinuating what I think he is, let him say so openly and he will be sued for it.

  35. Cliona Murphy says:

    *There was never any group that existed under that name.

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