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Official: Chetham’s has one month to reform, or else

A Department of Education official has told the Manchester Evening News that the storm-tossed music school must come up with a reform plan by May 10, or face further action. Chetham’s was heavily criticised in two official reports yesterday over its handling of past sex abuse allegations and its present procedures. The school has rejected the reports as ‘superficial’, but consequences are inevitable and the clock is ticking.

The school and some of its students remain in denial, adopting the ostrich position and vilifying the bearers of bad news. Ciaran Jenkins of Channel 4 has reported suggestions the school might be forced to close if it does not show greater awareness of the crisis it faces. The multiple investigation by Manchester Police, meanwhile, continues.

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Comments

  1. The exact statement from the Education Department (received from Ciaran, reproduced with permission, and also on my blog) is as follows:

    “Schools have a legal and moral duty to protect children in their care. It is clear from the Independent Schools Inspectorate and Manchester City Council’s reports of their joint visit that the standard of care at Chethams school must be improved.

    “Today (Tuesday) under section 165(3) of the Education Act 2002, we have served a notice requiring the school to produce an action plan setting out what it will do to meet the regulatory standards. The law requires the school to produce an action plan to set out how it will address the deficiencies the ISI inspection identified.

    “Chethams now has until May to produce the action plan — if the plan is inadequate the Education Secretary has powers to remove the school from the register of independent schools.”

  2. Thank you for reproducing the exact text of the DoE report Ian.

    It speaks volumes.

    It is perfectly reasonable, under the circumstances, and gives the Chets the chance to put its own house in order.

    This is a very unsettling time for the pupils attending Chets., and the staff working there. I hope for their sake that the Senior Management Team and the Governing Body is up for the job in hand, and that any who feel deficient resign leaving the competent to do their job.

    This is a very sorry state of affairs, and the hidden victims are the current people of quality who work and study at Chets (along side the innocent Brewer family members who are coming to terms with Mike and Kays’ convictions, and the families of those abused). I can comprehend what they all might be going through, and believe these people deserve our compassion and respect at this sensitive time.

  3. chet'smum says:

    well so what if Chet’s is removed from the register of independent schools… I’m certainly not taking MY kid out. And I bet that ConcernedParent won’t either!!!

    • Totally agree ,I will not be pulling my child out either ,I am very happy with the education and care my child has received over the last 7 years he has attended , and not once have I felt the care given was of sub standard and there has always been someone to listen and help with problems. Our relation ship with our child is very close and if he had any concerns for him self or fellow pupils he would of told us or his grand parents . All these issues are upsetting for all concerned .

    • Concerned Parent says:

      The next step after being removed from the register of independent schools is that the Minister can shut the school down and open it under new management. Long before then though questions will be raised about Chets continued eligibility for the MDS (DfE funded places at Chets). I think it’s naive if anyone thinks Chets could manage UDI. Just today I heard about a parent who was withdrawing their child because the school’s response to the current crisis has been the last straw after several years where few in authority at the school have listened to their concerns about their child’s welfare or musical progress.

  4. chet'smum says:

    I shouldn’t have hit the ‘post comment’ button so quickly….

    ‘Ciaran Jenkins of Channel 4 has reported suggestions the school might be forced to close if it does not show greater awareness of the crisis it faces….’

    apologies Ciaran – but suggestions from WHO? somebody with a vendetta against Chet’s perhaps? Please could we get some PERSPECTIVE!!!! Listen to the CURRENT students and listen to the PARENTS…

    the two ‘foreign’ staff were not members of some paedophile ring … they were (ARE) highly respected internationally renowned artists. Yes – the bureaucratic process fell by the wayside but how about a bit of common sense….. the parents were thrilled with the teaching, the kids were thriving .. NOBODY GOT HURT. And I’m not denying that there are current problems – but I will say unequivocally that they have NOTHING to do with those two FOREIGN (and what is THAT word trying to imply… ) staff.

    What’s more – just tell me – is there any independent school that does NOT have problems? I’m sure glad that my daughter is at Chet’s …I am thankful (on a daily basis) that she did not have to continue at her ‘wonderful independent’ with all of the bullying that happened there.

    • Concerned non-parent says:

      Yes there are independent schools that do not have problems. That is why they are not in receipt of negative inspection reports. And the “suggestions” appear to be coming from the Department of Education headed by notable left wing agitator, Michael Gove.

    • chet’smum: Ciaran was alluding to the statement from the Department of Education which I quoted in full above.

    • Yes some perspective would be really useful. People who are that wrapped up in this school that it blinds them to all sense should realise how life looks to the rest of the human race.

    • Concerned Parent says:

      Chets’mum – if you read back through posts on this blog, you will see there are numerous people with genuine concerns about the regime at Chets and I don’t think it’s fair or accurate to assume anyone who is critical or unhappy with the school as having a vendetta. On the contrary there seems to have been a vendetta to shut down criticism, to deny those with concerns a voice, to make sure that the many individuals who have suffered in the distant and not so distant past are not heard.

  5. Current Student at Chet's says:

    I think that the use of the phrase ‘students are still in denial’ is patronizing and unprofessional. I would like to point out that, even though we’re teenagers, we’re equally capable of reading newspapers and in fact understand everything that has been happening in the press over the last few months. We have read the reports just as everyone else has, but we also have the privilege of experiencing all of the great things about Chet’s, which the general public haven’t been shown. Of course, the comments in the report signal a need for improvement in the running of the school – I won’t deny this – however I feel that these faults in the system have been blown out of proportion and sensationalized because of the other bad press surrounding Chet’s. I have read some negative posts by Chet’s parents on here, and acknowledge that I do not speak on behalf of everyone, however I would like to point out that I do speak on behalf of the vast majority: an overwhelming pro-Chets response is currently happening on social media sites. The students are very unhappy with the way that their school is being presented, because it truly is a one-sided and biased account. It isn’t right that the students should be feeling mistreated by the media, and it certainly isn’t right that our opinions are being referred to in such a flippant manner.

    For people wishing to rectify their incomplete understanding of the school, I would suggest reading ‘The two sides of Chetham’s: what the press reports – and what the parents see’, published by the Independent in March, and actually listening to some of the music produced by the students. After all, this is what the school is all about and you couldn’t fail to be blown away by the standard.

    I personally feel completely safe at Chet’s. The staff do their best to make sure that students are happy; we have been given many assemblies on safety and we have access to help-resources should we be concerned about anything at all. On this note, compared to other schools I have been at, the bullying level is extremely low (it’s very rare to see students not getting on) and in general the student body is completely happy. More than that, we love being at Chet’s. It’s a truly inspiring environment to study in. I can’t imagine going to a better school.

  6. Julian Dodd says:

    Norman,

    What, exactly, are you claiming that the school are in denial of? The established facts are these: a tragic case of sexual abuse (that took place thirty years ago) has been proved in court, and the offender has been punished; two inspection reports have just been published, relating to the recent past, and have determined that the school’s safeguarding mechanisms must be improved and applied more effectively; some allegations against former and present teachers are currently being investigated.

    On the third matter, the school does not dispute the nature or seriousness of these allegations, and has co-operated with the police.

    On the second matter, it was the school that invited the inspectors in. To its surprise, the inspectors’ findings differed greatly from those outlined in the largely commendatory 2011 OFSTED report. Given the febrile context in which the recent inspections took place, the school is within its rights to question the recent inspectors’ conclusions, challenge what it takes to be unsupported value judgements, and correct any factual errors. Is this ‘denial’? It looks to me like the familiar to-ing and fro-ing that often occurs between schools and inspectors as draft reports are constructed.

    On the first matter, what the school is denying is that the kinds of managerial and administrative shortcomings uncovered by the recent inspectors count as evidence either of the occurrence of sexual abuse post-Brewer or of a culture in which such abuse is condoned. Now, until you or anyone else comes up with contrary evidence on this score (as opposed to speculation, rumour and innuendo), this position looks wholly justified to me.

    What this distressing episode needs from commentators is sober, calm and measured analysis, not meretricious and overwrought pot-stirring.

    • Why call the inspectors if they weren’t prepared to accept their findings? Oh, you’ve explained that, because they expected the results to be favourable like their ‘historic’ Ofsted report.

      • Julian Dodd says:

        Careful, Jane. Any school, once inspected, has the right to question whether judgements expressed in the report are fair or appropriately supported by evidence. This is particularly important in this case, given the nature of the context in which the inspection took place.

        From the tone of your remarks, it sounds like you’ve information that we lack. Would you care to enlighten us?

        • John Millner says:

          In this case the school asked both the ISI and Manchester Child Services to assess current pastoral care given the appalling behaviour of Brewer and Layfield (and, according to allegations, others). It was not, as you point out, a normal context of inspection. Of course the current management can and should challenge if they feel their actions have been unfairly criticised, but they must do so *in public*. To do otherwise denies students, parents and the wider public the opportunity to form their own views about the current management of the school.

          Many here are repeating the claim that the two reports point only to trivial failures of procedure. Not so. For example:

          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;

          (ix)
          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.

      • M E Corby says:

        Of course the managemnt of Chets have a right to question these reports, and indeed any reports.

        • John Millner says:

          At issue is whether the school’s management seeks to question the reports in the open or in private. If reports are commissioned to examine standards of pastoral care in response to allegations of serious abuse, it is inappropriate to negotiate over drafts behind closed doors. The criticisms must be put into the public domain, together with counter arguments, so we can all – students, parents, teachers, governors – make up our own minds.

    • David Cambridge - student says:

      Very well put. Finally someone with a REAL sense of perspective.

  7. Nick McGregor says:

    As a current parent of recent standing this whole issue has, of course, been a significant concern. My first priority is (selfishly but rightly in my view) the safety and well being of my own offspring. I hate spin, having the wool pulled over my eyes or any form of bluff. As a result, I was interested to see whether I would get a straight answer to some questions that I posed to the Head in an email about the recent inspection reports or just a stock reply. Given the accusations made by some posters in some of the Chets related threads on here of a siege mentality where nothing but PR was coming from the school I was pleasantly surprised by a prompt, frank and comprehensive answer to my queries from Mrs Moreland. I have never met Mrs Moreland and have no experience of the school’s past. Maybe some of those who have issues with the school’s communications have a longer history with Chets than me and have grounds for this but my experience thus far is that direct questions that were within the school’s remit to answer got a direct answer. If in doubt ask rather than assume…

    • You state that you think it selfish to have your own children as your first priority.

      I disagree Mr McGregor. You are a dad. This is the correct priority and demonstrates care for your children.

      I have taken care not to attack Claire Moreland save to compare her to friends who are school headteachers. She appears to be doing her job under very difficult circumstances. There certainly have been times where she has appeared in the media when the stress has shown. I do not know whether she has taken advice re PR.

      Your confidence in her gives me the hope that this situation will be resolved satisfactorily. Of course, I will continue to watch this space.

  8. Paul O'Gorman says:

    ‘Pupils report that they are happy and feel safe and secure in school. A number of weaknesses have been identified in policy and practice in relation to safeguarding, the handling of allegations, staff recruitment, and the handling of complaints and concerns. These issues indicate that oversight of compliance with regulatory requirements by the proprietor and the management team is not sufficiently effective. Since the visit the school has begun to implement improvements to address these deficiencies and these will be monitored by the Department for Education to ensure that they are made within appropriate timescales.’

    - as quoted from the conclusion of the report.

    This, nowhere near implies ‘Chetham’s was heavily criticised’.

    Overall, the tone of the entire report, is calm, eloquent and almost outspoken, conflicting entirely to the report above, Everyone here has seemed to neglect the facts, thus ignoring the actual magnitude at which the Independent Schools Inspectorate has set. Above this text, is a pompously exaggerated tale of the facts, created only to increase viewership or readership numbers. interpreting the language used by the ISI, is what will truly prove who is the wrong, the school?, or Norman Lebrecht. There are many key words, that set the language, tone, and message of the entire report such as ‘weakness’, ‘oversight’, ‘sufficiently effective’. Weakness – A quality or feature regarded as a disadvantage, a fault, or lacking strength. Oversight – An UNINTENTIONAL failure to notice or do something. Not sufficiently effective – adequate in the successful production of desired or intended result.

    These words, do NOT imply a completely failure by Chethams, but instead, standards that are just lacking in being met.

    • David Cambridge - student says:

      Thank you! Thank you! Couldn’t agree more. Media sensationalism is not going to help anyone. Asking Claire Hickman to step down is nothing more than that…

  9. I do hope that the people quoting the good bits out of the Manchester City Council report are not current Chets. Students, and if they are they do not try such a trick when writing any academic essay in the field of the Humanities (Social Sciences).

    If this is the case, you would be condemned by your teachers for ‘quoting out of context’.

    There are some more pleasant bits in the report, but they do not detract from the overall thrust, which is to find
    1) a meeting unminuted either it took place and there is deliberately no record, the record was accidentely never completed’ or there was no meeting.
    2) The Child Protection Policy is about as useful as a wet paper bag. (I paraphrase as the school has until early may to resolve this situation.

    a) That there are pupils and/or pupils that feel secure in the school is great, but a red herring.
    b) I’ve read Ofsted reports where the Parents believe their children are being well taught and the inspectorate disagree. The inspectorate are more likely to be correct over this matter. The parents error does not make them poor parents, just lacking in specific expertise in this area.

    Like it or not, the reports have found the school management wanting. To come to any other conclusion is not to analyse the data properly.

    To use a musical example (this is meant to be a specialist music school after all) Prokoviev’s 1st Symphony (Classical) uses an orchestra that is consistent with the real Classical Period, and forms consistent with the period. The musical language (especially the harmonic language) suggests that the piece was composed by Prokoviev. To focus in on form and orchestration could lead an author to a false conclusion.

    Hence just to comment on the remark about how secure the pupils and parents feel at the school does not mean all is well.

    • Yes I am aware I missed out punctuation when typing this response. (There is a “closed bracket” missing and a few commas).

      It still reads OK. I wasn’t actually proof reading every point as I went along.

      • Paul O'Gorman says:

        I apologise in finding fault in seemingly insignificant details, but I believe you’ve used the idiom ‘red-herring’ inappropriately. Quoting from the Oxford dictionary a red-herring means/is: 1. A dried smoked herring, which is turned red by the smoke. 2. Something, esp. a clue, that is or is intended to be misleading or distracting: “the book is fast-paced and full of red herrings”.

        I highly doubt you’re using the noun/idiom in a metaphorically sense, stating that ‘Pupils report that they are happy and feel safe and secure in school’ has characteristics of/or pertaining to that of an actual red-herring as defined under ’1.’ above. So lets assume it’s the latter. You believe the ISI are trying to mislead or distract from the issues highlighted in the reported? That’s idiotic, (I said ‘That’s idiotic, not ‘You’re idiotic, so please show maturity in refraining from calling it a personal attack.) I don’t believe I need to argue why.

        Paul

  10. Historical ex-pupil says:

    It’s difficult to know where to start with this following the last few days of concerted attack by current pupils.

    A head teacher or chair of governors at any school would find these these reports depressing reading.
    Given the nature of a previous Director of Music’s case and conviction, you would have expected the school to have carefully prepared itself for a probable inspection of related areas.
    They failed to do so and are found wanting. It shows a profound misunderstanding of the statutory minimum standards. Note the word minimum.

    Current pupils and parents of pupils should be directing their anger at the senior management of the school, who at every turn in proceedings prevaricated and spun in the wrong direction.

    To quote a previous ‘historic’ ofsted report in a press release regarding the Manchester and ISI reports is a little ridiculous.

  11. M E Corby says:

    As an organiser of recitals I have always been delighted with the quality of the Chets students. I am also pleased to state that the students have been more than adequately accompanied on their trips to London to the recitals I have organised.

    As to the instances of inappropriate behaviour, there was a more lax approach in bygone days. Indeed when I was young it was virtually impossible for people of my age to sustain any complaints. Fortunately, those days have gone. However, there will always be sex pests, and they, like alcoholics, are very skilled at disguising their activities. This demonstrates the need for vigilance, and good procedures.

    I was a friend of Chets, and attended a number of their events and functions until I became disabled which limited my travel and concert going.

    I was most impressed by the Principal and the staff I met. They, along with the governors have worked terrifically hard to produce the new buildings. I was so impressed that I undertook to allocate substantial sums from the trust fund to be set up out of my estate. I see no reason to change this. As a general principle I keep such things anonymous; however, I have made an exception since the staff, governors, and students, I believe, need, and indeed deserve, encouragement, and support.

  12. The buck has to stop somewhere, and that somewhere is the Head’s in-tray and the Feoffees’ (Governors’) desk. Senior management were happy to have the inspectorate in, as their 2011 report was positive. I suspect Clare Moreland had her fingers crossed behind her back when she took the phone call confirming the inspection, though! Her own-goal re. only historic investigations, together with the wet-fish stance post-Brewer trial have done her and the SMT no favours. I think the top layer needs to come off at the end of the summer term, and a new one be in place by September. Hopefully it won’t take an enforced closure to achieve this. What have the pupils been guilty of in the meantime? They stand accused of mob mentality and ill-informed comment. Yet throughout all that, they have delivered world-class concert performances and continued to work hard in the run-up to exams etc. Good on them! They could so easily have reacted the other way. They are not responsible for what happened back in the Brewer days (I was there when the Frances Andrade assaults took place – at Chet’s, that is), nor are they responsible for any current wrong-doing by teachers, should it be discovered that such has taken place. I believe what they are saying is “As far as we are concerned, Chet’s is a great place. Stop bashing us about and let us get on with what we are here for – making superb music. It’s not up to us who the Head is, but we have opinions and want to be listened to and respected in the future!”. Problem?

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