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How many teachers are being investigated at troubled music school?

At an edgy meeting with parents on Sunday, the head of Chetham’s School of Music, Claire Moreland, was asked how many current teachers at the school were being investigated by Manchester Police.

Ms Moreland avoided the question at first, then conceded it was ‘a very small number’. Pressed by parents to say how many, she admitted that it was ‘less than five’.

Carolyn Rhind, Deputy Head for Pastoral, said the files for these staff members were handed over to the police on 12 April. She added that the investigations were the result of ‘concerns raised by one individual.’

Presumptions of innocence apply and the investigation must be allowed to take its course. However, the admissions at the meeting mark a significant departure from the school’s previous position that all allegations of abuse were ‘historic’.

We requested confirmation of these comments from the school. The response was that Sunday’s meeting was private and not for external circulation. The school itself could not comment on matters that were under police investigation.

We would argue that the school’s change of position is a matter of genuine public interest.

Here is the police statement of April 12:

chethams 3

Greater Manchester Police are conducting an investigation into a variety of complaints of sexual abuse related to Chetham’s School of Music and a dedicated Operation called “Kiso” has been established to support this. As an organisation, we recognise that reporting sexual abuse, which occurred some time ago is an incredibly difficult thing to do and we will afford anyone who comes forward, all the appropriate support to discuss events in their own time. We would urge anyone who wishes to report abuse or with information, to contact Greater Manchester Police on 0161 856 6777 or via email, op.kiso@gmp.police.uk. Alternatively, persons who wish to remain anonymous may contact Crime Stoppers on 0800 555 111 .

 

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. Concerned parent says:

    At Sunday’s meeting, Chair of Governors Dame Sandra Burslem and Headteacher Mrs Moreland said they were at pains to be as open and transparent as possible, the meeting was for parents (and some students) and we were told parents who couldn’t attend would be sent details of what transpired. So I really don’t understand why the school was unable to confirm this information to you Norman.

    In fact the meeting was characterised by a distinct reluctance to be transparent and open on the part of the school’s leadership:

    1. Despite what is the biggest crisis in the school’s history with the governors and feoffees being directly implicated as responsible for grievous safe-guarding omissions by Manchester City Council, only the current chair of governors Dame Sandra Burslem turned up to defend the school and reassure parents. The vast majority of parents have never met the governors. Apart from Dame Sandra who dishes out the prizes at prize-giving, I do not even know the names of any governors or feoffees – they are not on the school website -, or what exactly the overlap is between them. Who are these people we are supposed to trust, and entrust the ultimate responsibility for the care of our children to?

    2. There were several calls by parents for parent governors. Dame Sandra said the governors had discussed this and rejected it in the past. No reasons were given. She finally agreed to present the proposal at the next governors’ meeting and a parent was writing a special paper to put forward the case. Parents who had experience of the state sector where parent governors are mandatory (with very good reason) could not believe their ears.

    3. The management were at pains to lay out a series of new bureaucratic initiatives to prove how good and thorough their safe-guarding arrangements now were. In fact they gold-plated the requirements of the two inspection reports by ISI and MCC. Chief among them was a new Safe-Guarding Sub-Committee – which from the looks of things would be staffed by the same people who had been responsible for the previous grievously lacking safe-guarding regime. When it was suggested that there should be a parent representative on this committee, Mrs Moreland rejected this on the grounds of data protection and confidentiality.

    4. Chetham’s has no Parents’ Group. Hearing of an initiative by parents to set one up, Mrs Moreland refused to divulge the parent distribution list (Date Protection of course) or to pass on an email herself to all the parents giving them the opportunity to join such a group. Instead at the meeting on Sunday she announced a plan to set up an on-line Parents’ Forum as part of the school’s website so that the school would be able to manage confidentiality and security issues. Parents in the audience pointed out this was not the same as an independent Parents’ Group which could have an all-important role in improving communication between parents and the school’s management and governors. Any current Chets parent wanting to register interest in the parents’ group can email chethamsparentsgroup@gmail.com

    As long as the management continues to operate like a closed shop which completely denies any responsibility for past or present pastoral failings (as opposed to minor oversights in the paperwork), its exhortations to “trust us” are liable to sound increasingly hollow.

  2. It’s difficult to know what to make of this. I suppose ‘a very small number’ is a relative term, but it doesn’t appear particularly appropriate terminology in these circumstances. It is also puzzling that a very small number of staff, less than five, would be under investigation because of concerns raised by only one individual. It’s possible no doubt, or maybe things have been misconstrued, but on the face of it that is puzzling. In any case, this all gives the impression that the school management are still not treating the circumstances with the gravitas, sincerity and humility they deserve. Surely this is not good for pupils or the school. What will become of the school at this rate? Would they rather take the school down with them than do the decent thing now?

    • Concerned parent says:

      A propos of one individual.

      I understand from the children at the school that those who spoke to the inspectors were specially selected – i.e. the sample of children interviewed was not random or even self-selected. Moreover the impression that the children I spoke to gained was that those selected tended to be the children who were relative newcomers (therefore unlikely to have many negative experiences or the confidence to talk about them) and did not include any children who were known to be outspoken or to have had problems of one kind or another. If this is true, it invalidates the inspections and suggests the management had an agenda in whom it selected to meet the inspectors.

      It again suggests the management cannot be trusted to be open about the students it knows have had problems. Nor does it show confidence on the part of the management that these students are now happy and have felt listened to and well-looked after.

  3. For a state school, the names and contact details of governors has to be published by Law. A change of legislation in light of this case to ensure that all public schools(lets not just tar Chets here) have to be subject to the same transparency of management would be beneficial.

    Of course schools select the pupils they want to meet inspectors, and other pupils ensure they speak to them. This is the case whatever the school. I’m not going to dam Chethams with problems that are universal.

    Well-done Concerned Parent for getting the ball rolling with your parents group. I hope this can be used as a force for good. A way of promoting the good aspects of Chets and highlighting concerns when there are concerns (like now).

    That Dame Sandra and Mrs Moreland are now doing the right thing is to be welcomed. (Again credit where credit is due.) The fact that they are not stating the exact number is also understandible, if they had said five, then there would be speculation over precisely who those five were, by stating there were no more than five, Dame Shirley and Mrs Moreland are indicating the size of the problem whilst maintaining their duty to the staff. I have always said no witch hunt, and I meant it. I don’t want people going around trying to find out exactly who is under suspicion. There are less than a handful of teachers now under suspicion: – leave it at that until the police publish their report for the sake of all staff and their families. Trust the pastoral team, Mrs Moreland and Dame Shirley to look after the pupils. They are under enough scrutiny, and have a deadline with which to comply with Department of Education guidelines.

    Now is the time to let people get on with their work. It is an extremely stressful time of year for many pupils who are also preparing for examinations. Those with an ounce of empathy will have the school in their thoughts and prayers and allow them to get it right for everyones sake. They got it wrong and were found to have got it wrong. The staff and students are working under the spotlight. It is unlikely that anyone will do anything wrong at present.

    I have commented due to my empathy for victims. Now my empathy must turn to those at the school. I want the school to be a Jewel and a model of excellence in Pastoral Care as well as Educational standards. It is there to serve musically gifted young people, and both they and their families deserve that too.

  4. Will Shaw says:

    As an ex-pupil of Chets, I must express my dismay and disappointment at the many people nationwide who seem to have taken this crisis as an opportunity to dig at the school and cause more turmoil than is neccesary. I am well aware of embellishments made in the newspapers and on this blog, sickeningly approved of by one “Concerned Parent” who has done nothing but darken the situation for Chets staff and pupils alike with her running commentaries here on slipped disc. I must emphasise this point: Any parent who is genuinely concerned for the safety of their child in Chetham’s should realise that pressure on the school is the highest it has ever been at present, and chances of abuse taking place in Chetham’s will be lower than in most schools for a very long time.
    On a moral level, I must defend the school AS A WHOLE from any labels that should really, and exclusively be attached to the guilty offenders that were employed by it. The situation would be much eased if the gossips stopped gossiping so the staff could stop listening so in turn they could get on with their priority: ensuring the safety of children in Chetham’s.

    • Concerned Parent says:

      Where you say “embellish”, the school management says “sensationalised” when referring to media reports of the Brewer case, subsequent investigations and the two inspection reports. Please can you give concrete examples of where embellishment – or “gossip” – has taken place.

      As someone with extensive experience of media in a number of contexts, I have to say I have found the coverage factual and extremely careful – quite surprisingly so. Doubtless journalists or their editors are acutely aware of legal ramifications, and I understand that Chetham’s itself has also been issuing legal threats. You only need to read the judge’s statement on sentencing Brewer to see how restrained the media reporting actually was.

      It is really regrettable that the school’s own leadership has chosen to respond to the police investigations and criticisms in the inspection reports by rejecting all responsibility (apart from for a few paperwork slips), blaming the media and impugning the motives of those who have raised concerns about the school (when these are based on students’ and parents’ own experiences).

      This has created a defensive, intolerant and at times intimidatory atmosphere which will have made it much harder for any child or parent to raise problems with the school’s management. Not only is such an atmosphere itself potentially abusive, it also means acts of abuse are much less likely to be reported or listened to.

      • Here here, Concerned Parent. Well said. If the current management really cared a jot about ‘the school’ or its pupils they would have resigned by now. It is they who are dragging the school and its pupils through the mud by clinging on for dear life at the expense of everyone and everything else. This is in the face of perfectly legitimate concerns and criticism that no amount of spin and apologia can invalidate.

    • James Banbury says:

      Will Shaw:
      I am also an ex-pupil of Chetham’s.

      I see you are accusing both the press and this blog of ‘embellishments.’
      This is basically accusing people of lying about what they have written and reported. Can you point these embellishments out? And counter these reports with facts disproving them?

      If four current members of staff are under police investigation, as Ms Moreland admits now, this is no longer a historical problem, but one which persists right up to the present day.

      In most cases of abuse (such as the Saville and Brewer cases) there are often people who turned a blind eye or willingly tolerated the actions of the abusers. These people are also culpable for their actions (on inaction) by way of a dereliction of their duty of care. Your argument that only the abuser is at fault does not stand up to this scrutiny.

  5. John Millner says:

    I agree with what Concerned Parent is saying about the meeting last Sunday. The atmosphere was, at times, extremely hostile. I had the sense that the current management does not really grasp why parents resent being told over and over again that “all allegations are historic” when that is patently false. Absurdly, at the end of the meeting, Mrs Moreland again repeated the “it’s all historic” claim.

    Also, they seem to be adopting an appallingly complacent attitude to the two recent inspection reports. The reports reveal serious failings, yet we were told that being given a notice to improve by the DfE is an “entirely standard” result of most inspections. Er, no it isn’t. In the context, being given a notice by the DfE after an inspection the school itself commissioned, is a disaster.

  6. Paul Kelly says:

    I have no connection with Chetham’s and no particular interest in the issues, but in the interest of good governance, Chetham’s is a Charity. It has to file annual returns to the Charity Commission. All the details including the names of the Trustees/Governors can be found here:

    http://www.charity-commission.gov.uk/Showcharity/RegisterOfCharities/CharityWithPartB.aspx?RegisteredCharityNumber=526702&SubsidiaryNumber=0

  7. There is a link to the Governing Body via the school body that can be found here:
    http://www.chethams.com/images/stories/chethams/content/documents/chethams-governing-body.pdf

    admittedly, there is no contact information for individual members, but I found this data via a google search that took me under a minute.

    Should parents be concerned, they had the same opportunity to explore the school web pages as I did. I searched them in exactly the same way I would a school that my own children attended.

    Again, I am only prepared to accuse a school of failing, where there is a just criticism. As far as I’m concerned, there is no just criticism here. Paul Kelly found a list of governors via the Charity Commissioner’s Website, and I found a separate link via the school’s own webpage.

    • John Millner says:

      Joanna, you say “… there is no just criticism here.” Fair enough if you are merely referring to the availability of a list of governors. But as parents we need to know who these people are and what they are doing. What is their background? Why are they members of the governing body? What happens in their meetings? The remainder of what Concerned Parent says is spot on. Three points:

      1. The governing body does not publish its minutes. This is absolutely standard in all state schools (who typically produce two versions, one for publication and one for internal records) and in most independent schools. It’s a straightforward matter of transparency. Sandra Burslem should commit to doing this immediately.

      2. Parent governors are mandatory in state schools and usual in independent schools. They allow parents to play a role in the governance of a school, keep the governing body in touch with parents and students, and allow the governing body’s work to be communicated to parents. It is striking to many of us that Chet’s does not communicate effectively with its parents; this would be a good way of improving relationships.

      3. The continued presence on the governing body of Edward Gregson is deeply offensive, not least to the memory of Frances Andrade. (I know that you share my views about his treatment of Martin Roscoe.) He needs to go.

  8. Concerned Parent says:

    Thanks Joanne – it must have been pretty dim of me not to find the names of the governors on the website, but I’m not the only parent to have had this difficulty. As for finding their names on the Charities Commission website, I don’t think parents should have to resort to this kind of detective work. Despite lots of googlng I haven’t been able to get clear about who the feoffees are or how they overlap with the governors.

    I see the only contact for the governors on the school website is Mrs Moreland’s PA – which is hardly going to inspire confidence in parents who want to contact the Chair of Governors over the current management of the school.

    All this creates barriers between parents and governors – no doubt there are other schools where this is the case – but when a school is in crisis as Chets is, such barriers only create more mistrust, miscommunication and hostility on all sides when the opposite is needed.

  9. Trustees: MR PAUL LEE, PROFESSOR EDWARD GREGSON, PROFESSOR GAVIN HENDERSON, CBEMR,
    PHILIP RAMSBOTTOM, DR. RON HAYLOCK, PROFESSOR JOSEPH BERGIN D LITT FBAMR,
    PAUL GODDARD, DR STELLA BUTLER, JPMR, ALAN SPENCER, DAME ALEXANDRA BURSLEM, DBE,
    MR RICHARD BAILEY, THE RT. HON THE EARL OF DERBY DL, THE VERY REV ROGERS GOVENDER, MR DAVID HILL, MR JOHN EARLY, MR JOHN MOREHEN, MR MICHAEL OGLESBY,
    PROFESSOR JONATHAN STOCKDALE, MR ANDREW JOHNSON,
    MR MALCOLM EDGE, MR ALAN TOREVELL, MRS JANET PICKERING

    Re Edward Gregson, one of the above:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/feb/08/sexual-misconduct-teacher-chetham-school-music

    “The Guardian has learned that on 17 May 2002, Andrade wrote an angry email to Edward Gregson, then principal of the RNCM, urging him not to appoint Layfield to his new position. “Are you aware,” she asked Gregson, “that when we were 16, Malcolm Layfield took various students to the pub where large quantities of alcohol were bought for the girls which made them less able to resist what then followed?”

    When Layfield’s appointment was mooted in December 2001, there was an outcry among the teaching staff at the college. Two tutors subsequently resigned, citing Layfield as a factor in their decision to leave, including the head of keyboards, Martin Roscoe. He wrote to Gregson at the time claiming that 24 RNCM teachers were also unhappy about the appointment.

    After hearing Layfield had made the shortlist in December 2001, Roscoe wrote a strongly worded letter to Gregson in which he drew Gregson’s attention to “serious allegations” of “inappropriate behaviour of Malcolm Layfield towards some of his female students that had been relayed to me”. He detailed two instances he had heard about, involving Layfield having sex with two pupils in his care.

    In response, he received a letter from the RNCM’s director of resources, warning him “not to communicate with any third party, either inside or outside the college, about any of the details that have been considered as this might bring the name of the college into disrepute”.

    A graduate of the RNCM also wrote to Gregson, asking: “I wonder if you are aware of Mr Layfield’s penchant for serial sexual relationships with his charges? This predatory behaviour has been injurious to the mental and physical development of those affected.”

    The graduate received a reply from Gregson saying: “The college has investigated these matters thoroughly, all of which, I should point out, relate to a period of time of between eight and some 18 years ago.

    “After careful consideration of the matter, and consultation with certain senior colleagues, I have confirmed Malcolm Layfield’s appointment and he has commenced in post with effect from 1 January 2002.”

    The Guardian has spoken to three women who have made allegations that Layfield initiated inappropriate sexual relations with them when they were aged 16 to 18 and under his care.

    • John Millner says:

      What were the likes of Sandra Burslem and Claire Moreland doing sitting alongside Gregson at governing body meetings? How was he supposed to be trusted to act appropriately in safeguarding children at the very school where Layfield abused?

      • Another board member, Philip Ramsbottom, was also apparently involved with allowing Layfield’s appointment to stand, along with Edward Gregson. He was VC of the RNCM board in 2002.

        • Something sounds familiar about the response of the RNCM to the multiple concerns about sexual exploitation in 2002. (the RNCM, where two of the current Chetham’s governors had senior positions at the time). The quotes below in particular have a familiar ring:

          “In response, he received a letter from the RNCM’s director of resources, warning him “not to communicate with any third party, either inside or outside the college, about any of the details that have been considered as this might bring the name of the college into disrepute”.”

          “A graduate of the RNCM also wrote to Gregson, asking: “I wonder if you are aware of Mr Layfield’s penchant for serial sexual relationships with his charges? This predatory behaviour has been injurious to the mental and physical development of those affected.” The graduate received a reply from Gregson saying: “The college has investigated these matters thoroughly, all of which, I should point out, relate to a period of time of between eight and some 18 years ago.”

          So they responded by prioritising the reputation of the institution and saying that the incidents happened a long time ago. Where have I heard that before? (or should I say since?)

  10. Martin Roscoe says:

    It is quite simple

    1) there have been many historic allegations of sexual abuse at the school which the police are investigating and the former Director of Music is in prison as a result of one such.

    2) the police are investigating more recent incidents and “less (sic) than five” current teachers are being investigated by the police. One current teacher has been suspended following arrest on suspicion of rape.

    3) the school commissioned two reports from the ISI and MCC in the hope that it they would confirm that their current safeguarding arrangements were up to the required standard.

    4) the reports concluded that there were serious problems, particularly in the area of communication between the governors and Feoffees and the senior management of the school, but also with regard to the exact procedures by which a student might compain.

    5) as a result the Dept of Ed have required an action plan to their satisfaction which will ensure the safety of the children by May 10 otherwise the school may close.

    6) the school put out a statement that the inspections were done too quickly to be fully effective (a spectacular own goal in my view, especially as the students who spoke to the inspectors had been specially selected by the school)

    7) it’s up to the management and governors to sort this out. Constantly stating that everything is wonderful and everyone is happy without question will not achieve this. The vast majority may well be.. but this has clearly not always been the case…

    7) I’ve not spoken to anyone who wants the school to close.
    I don’t want it. !
    But why do the supporters of the school imagine that covering up the past (as the school has tried to do so far) will result in a positive outcome ? Toeing the party line has never been successful in the long term…the truth will out.

    8) the institution itself is only a consequence of the people who run it…management and governing body…draw your own conclusions

    • Martin has, yet again, expressed himself eloquently.

      Their is a degree of transparency over who the governors are, yet no contact details (a state school is forced to publish contact details for each governor) and I appear to have made no comments over the availability of minutes of governor meeting minutes (indeed one of the published reports stated that at least set of minutes was missing, and on that thread I commented that this was not the correct thing to do.

      Martin has phrased it well as point 4) “The reports concluded that there were serious problesm, particularly in the area of communication between the governors and Feoffees and the senior management of the school, but also with regard to the exact procedure by which a student may complain.”

      He is right that “It is up to the management and governors to sort this out.” Indeed they have been given until mid may to do this. During this time I will have the decency, for the sake of the good members of staff working there and for the pupils, to give credit where credit is due, only accuse the school of failings in areas where has failed, and generally be supportive where I see good practice.

      This is an extremely stressful time of year for school children who are preparing for exams with or without the Department of Education staring down the management structure of a school with the view of bringing it back to good practice. I’m not saying that everything is rosy (far from it) what I am stating is now is the time to let people do their job and support them. There are one or two members of the governing board, who as the result of correspondence published in the Guardian should question their fitness to be a school governor and do the decent thing and resign. They know who they are; humble pie is not nice, but is the right thing to do. Now is the time to do things for the greater good of Chethams school of Music and ditch any egotistical rewards.

  11. Concerned parent says:

    It is essential to distinguish between Chets and the current management, much as the latter is resisting this distinction. The school will only be closed down if the governors and management insist on their present tack of denial and obfuscation. Their only chance is if they start to take real responsibility for what has happening and is happening, but that window of opportunity is closing fast.

  12. Marcello Mega says:

    I can’t make any real contribution on Chetham’s because unlike most readers and commentators here, I’ve had nothing to do with the school. But I would like to offer some thoughts as a journalist who has worked on and for national newspapers for 23 years and has covered these types of stories on many occasions.
    The schools always cover up. There is no question that whatever they say about robust child protection policies, zero tolerance approach and other hollow phrases, the primary concern is always the reputation of the school or college, not the health or mental wellbeing, or even the safety, of the child entrusted to its care.
    As well as the school seeking to defend itself, often by branding a child making an accusation (and often their mother _ almost always the mother) as unstable, deluded, of being a troublemaker or an attention-seeker, or both, there will be other parents and students emerging to defend the school, and blaming the media. For my own part, I had a wonderful education at Holy Rood High School in Edinburgh. I was an academic success, captain of the school football team, had many friends and can hardly remember a day’s unhappiness in six years. A few years after I left, one of the assistant heads, a married father of six who was heavily involved in the Catholic Church and who I had known reasonably well at school as he was also a very able football coach, was convicted and jailed for sexually abusing two vulnerable girls at the school. I was shocked and surprised, but I didn’t for a minute doubt it and I didn’t condemn the young women who had quite rightly sought justice as grown-ups for what they’d endured.
    In a case I know well at the Royal Academy, an internal investigation conducted by an ‘independent’ QC into allegations against a teacher found the allegations were not well-founded. Eight women gave evidence describing the very same MO, the same behaviour, the same grooming process, and four of them had found themselves in full sexual relationships. On the other hand, a number of witnesses, more than eight, gave evidence saying it couldn’t be true, he was a great guy, a devoted teacher and family man, and he’d never behaved like that in front of them. Strange that he wouldn’t behave like the sexual predator he was in front of the people, mostly male, who were not the focus of his predatory interest.
    There will always be a Will Shaw who blames the people making a fuss, or those supporting them, or the press for taking an interest, rather than the people who have caused the problems in the first place. Their stance is so misguided it defies logic.
    As concerned parent points out, the school would have us believe the media sensationalised the Brewer trial. There was really no need to sensationalise anything because the actual events were more horrific and more tragic than even the most creative tabloid hack might have imagined.
    Last point, I agree with all concerned parent says, but would suggest that one of the ways you can change the culture of these situations is by shedding the cloak. I can understand people having to be anonymous if their child is a victim, but why should you be anonymous because you have valid criticisms to make? The compulsion to hide is understandable, but it helps the errant schools. Martin Roscoe knows very well the difficulty I had in maintaining the pressure on Malcolm Layfield after he was first outed because while a number of Layfield’s victims were willing to talk to me, they all had reasons for being anonymous. They were probably genuine and reasonable _ I remember one of them saying that people in the industry would punish her and not give her work _ but ultimately it helped Layfield to stay in post for another 12 years by making it almost impossible for me to get anything published.
    If you have done nothing to be ashamed of, don’t help the people who have by masking yourself. Tell them who you are and tell them why you won’t stand for it any longer.
    Sincere best wishes to all of you who are clearly committed to forcing change and cleaning up Chetham’s.

    • Wow, thank you for this manna from heaven: a dispassionate voice of reason. This only goes to demonstrate how much those on the ‘outside’ do know and see and how much they have to contribute. To know that someone has seen this process before, repeatedly and has seen the same dynamics play out repeatedly is a real comfort and a little oasis of sanity in this insane situation. Those who say that only those who are intimately involved with the current managemnt of the school know and understand and are qualified to comment could not be more wrong. Please keep posting if you can Marcello, if only to help those of us who still have it to keep hold of our sanity. I will have to think about waiving my anonimity. One issue with this is that whoever you are and whatever your connection or lack of, the fanatics will always find some way to claim that your view is invalid, so I have preferred to concentrate on the arguments and the evidence rather than getting into silly personalised squabbles. Really, my interest in this is irrelevant. Also, I don’t know if you are familiar with other threads but I was also recently subjected to a misguided sort of hate campaign by some seemingly indoctrinated pupils, which did seem to be sanctioned by the management and staff at Chetham’s by all accounts. You are right though, however difficult, people do have to stand up and be counted at some point or this type of behaviour and strategy will win the day. This is especially true of those who have something to tell or have an obvious connection with the school, as long as they feel they can keep safe and well in the process. In my view, however, it is those with clear self interest in the status quo and their mindless cheerleaders whose ‘views’ need to be taken with the biggest pinch of salt. Said views usually amount to little more than mindless propaganda, which as you say, people believe because they want to, despite no evidence or all evidence to the contrary. The path of least resistance?

    • Sincere thanks, Marcello, for your contribution. I think the problem for parents is that while they may be very willing to put themselves in the spotlight, it is very difficult when they have absolutely no idea how badly it might damage their child’s future (I realise that NOT saying anything may also damage other childrens’ futures). Judging from the meeting, on Sunday, I am not at all convinced that fairness and good management will prevail.
      I felt that Mrs Moreland behaved unprofessionally at the meeting by allowing students leap to her defence and argue with other parents who were putting carefully considered questions or points to the management team. She also stood back while other parents loudly tried to defend her. A head mistress who was a good manager, and in control, would never have allowed the hostility displayed by her defenders towards other parents to continue in that meeting unless she wanted it to. She has also failed to acknowledge or directly address the hostility expressed by students towards others on the social media. Telling students she doesn’t know what they have been writing, but thanking them anyway for all their support; telling them not to write anything they wouldn’t say to someone’s face, and emailing them the school’s ‘acceptable use’ policy is NOT addressing the problem.
      She should realise that a divided school will make her position weaker, and should be urgently addressing the various serious issues that some parents/students have been having with the school management (for a long time). That way, she could bring those people on to her ‘side’, and the school would be much stronger. Instead, she does nothing but patch up the paperwork and allow the deep rift within Chetham’s to grow even deeper. No one wants the school to fail, but I’m not sure that Mrs Moreland is the person to save it.

    • John Millner says:

      Thank you for these comments Marcello Mega. The meeting on Sunday was awful. Perhaps I am naive, but I believe Chet’s will in the end have parent governors, effective anti-bullying policies and pastoral care. The question is only how much damage is done to the institution and its current membership before the changes are made. If the leaders of Chet’s had anything about them they would immediately change tack and get on with implementing the necessary reforms. They won’t. So there needs to be a fresh start.

      I understand why you think parents should speak out openly. However, there are already signs of a backlash against the children of those who asked questions of the current management at Sunday’s meeting. (To any student reading this, ask yourself: what is wrong with asking questions?) I don’t blame the students who are behaving badly, they think they are sticking up for their school. I am extremely angry with Mrs Moreland and Ms Rhind. They have repeatedly failed to guide the students at Chet’s in reasonable behaviour online and at the school but instead have fostered an atmosphere in which nonconformity with their views is not tolerated.

      It is hard to be a dissenting parent at Chet’s. We have to balance the communication of our desire to see the changes required for Chet’s to flourish with the likely impact the expression of our views will have on our children. And that, in short, is why there needs to be a fresh start.

      • As a parent whose children do not go to Chets, and as a musician who was an Undergraduate when victims of abuse were going through tertiary education, I’d like to support your last paragraph “It is hard to be a dessenting parent…”

        I can also appreciate and empathise why you would be angry with Mrs Moreland and Ms Rhind if you believe they have failed to guide pupils about the nature of what constitutes reasonable behaviour online. I am certain that as a parent you have sent your child to Chets in good faith trusting that the staff were going to provide a sound education in a safe and nurturing environment. When you found out that was not the case it must have been unpleasant, but again you are left with the decision, what is the best for my child now. I can not and must not judge your thought process, save to say, you sound like a really good loving father and I’m certain some thought went into it, and your have your child’s best interest at heart.

        That some parents feel the need to remain anonymous is understandable; they are attempting to protect their children. Parents who are desperately attempting to do the right thing are to be commending; I do not envy you (and I’ve been in some sticky situations so have some appreciation of how you are feeling).

        • John Millner says:

          Thanks, Joanna, for your understanding.

          • That’s fine John. BTW, re my previous comment, I only was stating that the school was in the clear a propos the availability of the list of governors, which I think chimes with how you are feeling.

  13. Concerned parent says:

    Thank you Marcello Mega for pointing out the obvious which one starts to overlook in all this madness.
    I would love to dispense with anonymity but like other current parents fear that my child who is still at the school will be targetted and bullied – not so much by staff (I doubt they would dare) but other children. Sadly the mob blog organised by Chets students to defend their school and attack any ‘detractors’ a couple of weeks ago and since then tacitly encouraged by the leadership means there is real evidence of this risk.

  14. The mob blog was something I personally found rather distasteful and offensive.

    I have always carried a candle for Chets. That it had been the location for child abuse I had found caused me disgust, that I’d known victims brought out a caring side, the thought other friends may have gone on to be abused, mad my blood run cold.

    I wanted the school to be a centre of excellence and a safe place to study. I still do. That it’s pupils were attacking me for speaking out against sexual abuse of minors I found hurtful and offensive. I knew this was their home, and yet I knew that young people had been hurt.

  15. Marcello Mega says:

    I note the above comments and I understand why you feel that anonymity is the best way to protect your children. I think you all understood that I didn’t intend any criticism. I just hate and resent the way these institutions have people over a barrel, and I know what you mean about bullying from other children. I think many of the staff would be encouraged to turn a blind eye if children of trouble-making parents were targeted. It’s a mess that still needs to be cleaned up. I don’t have the answer, but I feel that it would be easier to resolve if people could be fully out in the open and free to ask questions. However, I realise we don’t live in that perfect world. Of all the many examples of nonsense passed into law in the last couple of decades, the whistleblowers’ act would be hard to beat for a piece of utter tripe. Can anyone recall a whistleblower who was actually protected? I wish those of you closely involved all the best with this, and I wish I could be useful to you.

    • Believe me you have been Marcello. Your insightful comments have boosted morale and crystallised things brilliantly and that’s important in these bind-boggling times. Great eye-opener that you’ve seen it all before.

  16. If I can add a thought here – one of the reasons people become so afraid, both at Chet’s and in the professional classical music world, about waiving anonymity is because these fields and institutions are granted *too much* anonymity from government. Some musicians would hate this idea, but I feel the highest corruption, self-interest, bullying, and intimidation occur in fields which lack wider democratic accountability. The arms-length policy of state funding needs to be rethought.

  17. Sadly, Claire Moreland has broken the eleventh commandment, and been found out. According to the above comments, it took a little teasing out by parents for her to come clean about the number of current investigations, and the fact that such investigations are active. This is information that, partly at least, is in the public domain (one teacher having been questioned and bailed), and that which is not public could easily be made so any time soon. Her actions could cause parents to ask themselves “What else isn’t she telling us?”. Sure. She has a team to defend, and a school to run. As an ex-student and someone who knows current ones, I can appreciate that Chet’s is entering its busiest term, with exams and concert dates. Add the usual ‘gate fever’ this year’s leavers will be feeling, and you have a very stressful environment within those walls. The blog (which I must admit I have a deal of understanding for) was the students’ way of letting off steam, a bit like the reaction you get when you knock someone’s jigsaw puzzle off the dining room table just as they are close to completing that tricky bit of brick wall in the middle. Surely to smooth this term’s passage, and to ensure a better future, Mrs M should have played with an open hand, especially with the parents, who are, after all, the second most important people at Chet’s. And as for resisting a parent presence at management/governor level…………ridiculous!

  18. Julian Dodd says:

    I, too, was at the Sunday meeting, and I’d just like to say that I remember it rather differently. It is certainly true that a sizeable minority of parents, when asked by a parent to indicate if they wanted parental representation on the governing body, raised their hands. (I would be in favour of this.) But it is also true that a parent who stood up to robustly defend the school’s management received a large round of applause.

    To my mind, a few parents used the occasion to raise questions about the way in which the school – and, particularly, its governing body – communicates with parents. I have some sympathy with these concerns, but I struggle to see precisely what they have to do with the fall-out from the Brewer case and the current investigations into staff members. The school thinks that nothing will come of these investigations; if those commenting on this blog know better, then they should let us know.

    Furthermore, the school is perfectly within its rights to challenge factual inaccuracies or invalidly drawn conclusions in the recent inspectors’ reports. We might also wonder whether it suited Manchester City Council to come down hard on the school via its report. (It looks good for local politicians to be seen as hard-liners on this issue.) Perhaps a wider perspective might help us all.

    One final point to ‘Concerned Parent’. You say that the school’s management “denies any responsibility for past or present pastoral failings.” What do you mean by this? Unless you give us more detail, this claim looks little more than propaganda. And remember, too, that it was you who stalked pupils on facebook and then ‘outed’ them on this blog. That strikes me as disreputable behaviour: a kind of cruelty to children, even. I suggest you take a long, hard look at yourself.

    • Concerned parent says:

      To Julian Dodd – you will know that anyone who is aware of either the identity of individuals at Chetham’s being investigated by the police or the nature of the allegations against them cannot elaborate on them publicly. It would both be unfair to the individuals concerned (who after all may be innocent), and those who made the allegations (particularly in the febrile atmosphere at Chets at the moment), as well as possibly undermining the possibility of a prosecution. I expect Norman will correct me about this if I am wrong – and if I am, I am quite happy to write what I know.

      Denying responsibility for past failings? What about Brewer and his victims? Dame Sandra Burslem (the Chair of Governors) thought it was enough to say she didn’t know who Brewer was when she became a governor 10 years ago. Really? I wonder when she found out both about how key and celebrated the former Director of Music was, and about the allegations concerning his behaviour.

      Mrs Moreland knew all about Layfield – it’s in the Roscoe/Andrade letters published by the Guardian. Chets cannot just take the credit for its historic successes – all the BBC Young Musician winners and stars it has produced; it needs to take responsibility for its failures too, and to my mind apologise to the people who were harmed and let down by its teachers. This is a much larger group than will ever appear in court – either because the culprits are now dead or beyond the reach of UK law or because the offences (sex with a student aged 16 or over) were not technically offences before 2004 or because the offences (rape) are too difficult to prosecute after so long or because the victims are still too traumatised to go to the police or testify in court (especially after what happened to Frances Andrade). But these people are all out there, and scores of them signed Ian Pace’s petition for a public inquiry into specialist music schools because they want reform.

      As for responsibility for current pastoral failings? This is what the inspection reports clearly identify, and the school has tried to wriggle its way out of by pronouncing these to be unfounded conclusions and writing off the evidence they are based on as paperwork slips. This doesn’t wash with many parents and students who have experience of pastoral failings – I would say you are very lucky if you and your child have been spared these. This is rarely the case with boarders, or with the school’s younger pupils.

      Finally I did not “stalk” pupils on Facebook. I saw my own child becoming distressed and frightened by what Chets students were posting about the inspection reports and anyone who dared to criticise the management or say they had a problem at the school. I then did what responsible parents are exhorted to do with their off spring’s use of social networking – check their usage. It’s a great pity that Mrs Moreland did not make similar efforts with respect to her students, and staff.

      • CP — ‘Mrs Moreland knew all about Layfield – it’s in the Roscoe/Andrade letters published by the Guardian’

        apologies – I just don’t see how this is possible. Chethams and RNCM are separate entities – why should the Head of Chet’s be concerned about or have knowledge of internal appointments at RNCM? Further, I believe that Layfield left Chet’s in 1997 while Mrs Moreland did not arrive until 1999. Unless there were outstanding complaints and paperwork (the police investigation will no doubt reveal this if there were), then she would have no reason to know of him excepting because of press coverage in 2002 (when Layfield had no connection to Chetham’s).

        As for Martin Roscoe’s dossier of letters, there is a copy of a letter to Gregson from Francis Andrade (p 26) where she says that she will write to Chetham’s (about Layfield). Whether or not she actually did is another matter. With all due respect to Mr Roscoe, I didn’t see a copy of such a letter in the dossier.

        I am sure that Mrs Moreland knows about Malcolm Layfield now.. and no doubt she has read Martin Roscoe’s dossier in the Guardian. However, any failings of Chetham’s as related to Malcolm Layfield cannot have happened while Mrs Moreland was in charge simply because of the time lapse between Layfield’s departure and her appointment. I therefore don’t understand how she would need to ‘take responsibility for those faillings’.

        As for the Facebook posting: CP — ‘It’s a great pity that Mrs Moreland did not make similar efforts with respect to her students, and staff.

        I don’t understand this either. Chetham’s does have a strict IT policy. However, the students were posting on their own Facebook sites using their own equipment. They were not at school because it was the holidays. Chetham’s cannot police this sort of activity outside of school.

        • Martin Roscoe says:

          @chetsmum Claire Moreland did know about Layfield . She received three letters in 2002 , two from his victims and one from a witness ( not Fran ) . Also you should know the Guardian did not print all my correspondence, and also did not even see some of it .

        • John Millner says:

          @chetsmum:
          It is not a question of policing online activity but using influence to protect students and the reputation of the school. In fact, the Chet’s Acceptable Use Policy explicitly includes the use by students of networks other than the school’s:

          “I am aware that my online activity at all times should not upset or hurt other people and that I should not put myself at risk either when accessing the internet through the School network, other networks or through personal hardware… ”

          Mrs Moreland could have emailed students to advise them to stop posting. Instead, she emailed all students to thank them for “supporting the school”. At the school meeting several parents pointed out how damaging the posts were. Yet, the following day in assembly and in later meetings with students, the posts were not criticised and the expressions of gratitude were repeated. It is simply an appalling failure of leadership.

      • At the time concerned parent, your distress at your own child’s distress caused you to lash out at those who were stating quite how bad things were at Chethams. I clearly remember being at the wrong end of one of those messages and writing something to the effect of “you duty is to shield these things from you daughter and be a good mum to her” or something equally crass.

        Your reaction was totally human. I’m a mum, and when I see my own children upset, I’ve been known to lash out too. That does not make it right, just a normal human reaction, and your clear disgust to the way you were treated in this meeting again demonstrates that you care about your daughter and you want her pastoral needs to be met in addition to her educational needs given her talent for music.

        The best thing you can do is listen to her and attend to her emotional needs when she is at home. The fact that you are prepared to do something is admirable, but your daughter clearly needs to find love and support at home to counteract any atmosphere there may be in her school life.

        Given your contribution to various threads on Mr Lebrect’s blog, I have every confidence in you, and I believe that you are certainly woman enough for the job.

    • John Millner says:

      You say that “… it looks good for local politicians to be seen as hard-liners on this issue.” The inspectors were from the Council’s Child Protection Service not elected members. Are you really suggesting that councillors pressured child protection professionals to make unsupported claims about Chet’s? What is your evidence? The management at Chet’s invited Manchester Council and the ISI to review current pastoral care and were found wanting. It is not, contrary to what Claire Moreland said at the meeting, “normal” to be given a formal notice to improve by the DfE. They need to accept that they have made serious mistakes, apologise, and implement the necessary changes.

      Your claim that Concerned Parent has been “stalking” students on Facebook is absurd. All safeguarding agencies, MCC and CEOPS among them, advise parents to monitor their children’s online activities, not least to detect and combat real stalkers. Many parents found students’ online posts offensive, hurtful to the students and destructive to the school’s already battered reputation. The management of the school not only did nothing to calm it down, the email sent by Claire Moreland actually thanked students for their support. This and her subsequent comments in the school constitute a shocking failure of leadership.

      • Those who were there, please correct or confirm this. I am told that the parent who ‘stood up to robustly defend the school’s management’ had some connection to school staff (someone’s spouse I believe) and that there were also hand picked children with similar connections there who seemed to be being encouraged (again) to join in the cheerleading for management. An image is conjured up of some kind of evangelical church meeting or party political rally not an earnest and respectful discussion aimed at responding to parents’ concerns. If anything this is a kind comparison because the degree of intimidation levelled at those with concerns through this stage-managed situation was probably more than either example would normally achieve or aim to achieve. Again an inappropriate response to the situation by the management. Whilst much of the dirty work is being done by the cheerleaders, the management are ultimately responsible and could and should have steered things differently, creating an atmosphere where all could feel comfortable and encouraged to discuss concerns. They certainly should not be using children as human shields (again). Isn’t the following preemptive and thus far unsupported statement just used in the school’s defence, actually rather disturbing? – “The school thinks that nothing will come of these investigations”.

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