an blog | AJBlog Central | Contact me | Advertise | Follow me:

More music losses at ailing Purcell School

We have received two letters sent to parents and staff by the chairman and headmaster of the private music school.

The situation is worse than we have reported. The letters reveal that due to ‘lower pupil numbers and rising costs’, the school is having to reduce its spending ‘significantly’.

Pause there. ‘Lower pupil numbers’ means that new parents are shunning Purcell this year. The Menuhin School, by contrast, is full. Significantly means cuts in quality.

To cover gaping holes in the budget, the post of Director of Music has been abolished. So, too, we now learn, has the Assistant Director of Music post. ‘The arrival of a new headmaster who is a former Director of Music was … a factor’, explains the chairman of governors. The new headmaster, David Thomas, now doubles as Director of Music.

Hang on, again. David Thomas has nothing like the pedigree of Quentin Poole, who has led the music department of a major music school for 25 years. Parents and staff know that. Pupils have been wearing green ribbons to protest Mr Poole’s dismissal and his replacement by Mr Thomas. Some have been disciplined for doing so.

purcell ribbons


So what are we to conclude? That the Purcell School has this year significantly downgraded its music.

The reasons are straightforward. Staff costs amount to 80% of the school’s outgoings, running (it appears from the chairman’s letter) at around £3 million a year. What the chairman does not mention is how the school got into this hole. It spent, we hear, up to quarter of a million pounds covering up the last head’s departure. Now it faces further cases for unfair dismissal.

No end in sight.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. Tor Frømyhr says:

    One can’t help thinking that perhaps it is time for the ‘Purcell’ name to be disassociated with this school.

  2. What about the Mick Jagger School of Music :) Joking apart, all pretty grim.

  3. No, not the Mick Jagger school. You may not like his music, but he’s actually quite a smart businessman.

  4. What do we do? Headmaster & Director of Music are two very different roles, just as Executive Director & Artistic/Music Director are very different roles. Does no one know how to get out there & hustle for funds–whether US, UK or Southeastern Timbuktu? I’ve taught Grantsmanship in the Capital District (NY) area. One of the first things I encounter is people who expect their grant to wal in the door & say, “Hi! I’m your grant. Spend me!” Sounds like time to pull the plug. Consider it a mercy killing. If powers that be are not committed to a quality musical education than adios, au revoir, auf wiedersehen, goodbye! (Lawrence Welk’s traditional send off!)

  5. Deltic Blue says:

    Whilst the departure of Quentin has been sad for the remaining music staff and pupils I realise that the hard work taking place at the school at the moment doesn’t whip up the outrage that drives the reading of blog posts.

    There is a hard working, dedicated team of Heads of Department with a wealth of experience and talent making sure that music is far from ‘significantly downgraded’.

    The restructuring has enabled a greater emphasis on chamber music, a key part of a sound musical education, and the orchestra programme this term contains Adams’ The Chairman Dances, Mussorgsky’s Night on a Bare Mountain and Beethoven 5. Does that sound downgraded to you?

    It’s undeniable that the school has had a rocky past but, come on, time to move on.

    • visiting teacher says:

      Oh really Deltic Blue, how can you,clearly a member of the staff at this school, talk about what you understand to be a sound musical education??

    • Puff Puff Puffery, Mr Blue? Or just another paint job?

    • > “It’s undeniable that the school has had a rocky past but, come on, time to move on.”

      “Come on” …?? Come on where? How? This non-statement emits a whiff of trying to sweep all the unpleasantness under the carpet. Without dealing with any of it. Who says it’s “time”?

      > “Does that sound downgraded to you?”

      It doesn’t “sound” anything. It’s just a list of titles.

      > ” … dedicated team of Heads of Department … making sure that music is far from ‘significantly downgraded’.”

      On ‘significantly reduced’ spending? That is the wording in the letter.

      Your voice sounds familiar but the name escapes / names escape me.

  6. Jameshoffman says:

    As someone closely connected to the Purcell School for over twenty five years, I can say that without doubt the present situation and atmosphere is the worst I have ever known.
    The reasons for this? Firstly incredibly poor decision making by the Board of Governors in their choice of headmasters. And this continues. Whatever his previous credentials it is clear that the present headmaster is determined to secure his powerbase, whatever the cost to the school. The arbitrary removal of someone’s livelihood, in the form of the sacking of Quentin Poole was disgraceful, but I see that the present headmaster has propped himself up with other posts while abolishing the one that really mattered – head of music. The Purcell School is nothing without its music teachers and they are now even further relegated to second class citizens.
    “Deltic Blue” makes the point that the school has excellent heads of department. Possibly true but there was a great deal of political intrigue with their involvement in the removal of the head of department because some of those heads felt it would further advance their own positions.
    And as for “Deltic Blues” comment about chamber music, I am afraid I have to set him/her right. For years only lip service has been paid to chamber music in the school – a problem not confined to the Purcell School, by the way. Chamber music lessons times are severely limited and, more often than not, laughable. Young pupils are dished out pieces far too difficult for them – in every respect – and given cursory teaching at best. Instrumental teachers are then expect to try and patch something together during lesson times which are already over full.
    It is also strange to hear that the Purcell School is in financial difficulties. Why then this continual – seemingly never-ending – building programme? Are they trying to entice more people into studying music in order to swell the ranks of already out of work musicians?
    It is quite clear that some of the pupils in the school should not be there. They have little discernable talent, certainly not enough to consider a career as professional musicians. It is a miracle how they have passed the audition. But perhaps not… If the school is so desperate for money it seems that a very low standard is good enough to get in. Of course, there have been and still are, some very talented children in the school. But how well are they being served? I would suggest very badly when an institution is more interested in its power structure than its reason for existing.

  7. sixth form pupil says:

    The problem for us pupils (already clear from some of the dull rehearsals we have had in chamber choir under our Headmaster Mr Thomas, and Assistant Director of Music Mr Longstaff who is now training the main orchestra), is that these groups are under the direction of teachers rather than the all round professional musician and brilliant conductor Mr Poole, who we all miss very much.

    We are also very sad that we didn’t have a chance to say goodbye and thank you to Mr Poole for all that he has done for us before he disappeared during the summer holiday.

    Those of us in the NYO (and thats a lot of us) are used to better conductors we are now left with. Didn’t anyone consider this when they let Mr Poole go so easily?

an ArtsJournal blog