Internal leak: Purcell staff member is ‘suspended’

Internal leak: Purcell staff member is ‘suspended’


norman lebrecht

February 13, 2014

Our well-informed source at the troubled English music school reports that a staff member has been suspended amid allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct with a female pupil.

It is believed this is the second time an investigation has been called into this staff member. On the last occasion he was cleared by the former Head, Peter Crook.

Attempts have been made to hush up the latest incident. Nothing has been announced to the school community.

According to our informant, more than a dozen pupils have left the school in recent months. We have been unable to obtain independent verification of this report. The school faces a public hearing in May over the victimisation of a former teacher, Ian Macmillan, and the unfair dismissal of his partner, the former director of music, Quentin Poole.



  • an observer says:

    Oh dear – here we go again!

    When are troubled music schools – and in particular this one, going to be throughly investigated for historical sexual abuse by teachers with pupils?

    Why is this school exempt from the investigations that mercifully have been happening since the suicide of the poor women who had to relive her ordeal when the former Chets Head of Music

    was on trial last year.

    It is unbelievable with the recent Purcell School track record, to learn of yet another sexual allegation over the same member of staff who, after initial investigation, was allowed to carry on working with children at the school.

    This was the same grave mistake made by the Governors, when Head Peter Crook was investigated by the authorities for inappropriate lewd verbal sexual innuendo twice in 2010, and which eventually led to his long overdue demise, following outcry from some principled teachers who challenged this wrongful decision at the time.

    Surely the current Head and Governors are not going to repeat their error and try to cover another serious allegation up again?

    Don’t these idiots ever learn from the past??

  • John says:

    Mr. Lebrecht; on what basis do you use the word ‘he’ in your third sentence? As the member of staff has not been identified, surely it is injudicious to make presumptions at this stage?

  • Former student says:

    This is unsurprising. Until this school removes the veil that it uses to cover up all its misdemeanours, these revelations will only keep on coming in. Purcell managers and Governors retreated into the shadows when the incompetent and perverted Head, Peter Crook vanished overnight. All went silent for months when the same old boys’ club engineered the demise of the inspiring Quentin Poole. These men have no genuine interest in the school; they just look out for each other (e.g. getting Crook a new job in Dubai) and stab in the back anyone who dares to challenge them. One can only hope that, in the midst of such corruption, not too many young people will fall victim to adults who abuse their positions of power.

  • Current Purcell Pupil says:

    Well, obviously your informant is not that well Informed.

    I have been at this school for a number of years, and this year I can confirm as a member of the school community, the statement ‘more than a dozen pupils have left the school in recent months.’ Is completely false. One of our students has recently left to continue her studies In Germany, however the school continues to grow every year and we are certainly not loosing pupils!

    In regards to the suspension of a member of staff, as a pupil I have heard nothing regarding this so called allegation and believe It to be just an exaggerated rumour created by those intent on destroying the reputations of brilliant and inspirational musical establishments such as Purcell.

  • an observer says:

    As a pupil, ( are you really a current pupil?) you must surely realise you will not be informed as to the reasons of any confidential issues surrounding those who work at the school.

    How are you to know what goes on behind the headmasters study door?

    How, if you really are a pupil, should you know whether this allegation is real or a rumour? (It isn’t)

    Neither would you be party to the reasons given by pupils leaving the school…..

    Such recent information alone hasn’t destroyed the reputation of the Purcell school, – they’ve managed to do that themselves already due to all the past misdemeanors recorded on here.

    If you are not sure what they are, just key Purcell School in the search engine above, and prepare to be horrified and disgusted to read that rotten governance and bad management has destroyed the school in the musical and educational worlds.

  • Current Purcell Pupil says:

    Indeed I am a current pupil boarder at Purcell, and I am very proud of that fact. I love this school and it’s given me so much over the last few years. It’s ironic, I must say, that you ask what goes on behind the headmasters study door, because he in fact has an “open door policy” and whenever he is in his office, the door is always open to us. In regards to the question – as a pupil, should I know whether this allegation is true or not – I’m afraid I’m not quite sure how to answer. Like any other school, Purcell has it’s rumours, some of which are untrue and some of which contain elements of the truth. We are teenagers. Rumours get exaggerated. I do not know what is really happening with this ‘staff member’, and to be honest, I don’t think this should be an open discussion on this blog since obviously this website has no evidence behind the allegation. What we should be focusing on is the fact that in two weeks time, the Purcell Symphony Orchestra is going to give a FANTASTIC concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on March 10th playing a programme including Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, Tchaikovsky 4th Symphony, Lizst Piano Concerto 1 and a new piece by one of my friends for flutes, marimba, harp and strings, which will be premièred on the night.

    Music schools really do not deserve these comments made on blogs attacking our establishments. These ‘misdemeanour’s’ you realise, do not just happen in music schools, the press just tend to have a field trip when arts schools come into a bad light.

    You are right however, recent information has not destroyed the reputation of Purcell.

    Nothing has. Nothing will.

    Purcell is still the oldest specialist music school in Britain (and in my opinion, the best).

    If that needs proving, please come along and see our concert in March, or maybe watch some of my friends on BBC Young Musician of the Year and BBC Young Jazz Award.

  • an observer says:

    My goodness, what a admirable self publicist you are ‘current pupil,’ and so well informed!

    Such a blinkered belief that everything reported on this journal hasn’t destroyed the Purcell school reputation, does you credit to the extent that you are surely eligible for one of the new precious commendations awarded by your headmaster?

    However, I do wonder, ‘current pupil’, if you have really read and understand the numerous comments on this useful Arts Journal at all?

    May I reiterate, you enter ‘Purcell school’ into the search engine (top right) and read very carefully what has been discussed openly by many, many former and current pupils, current and ex staff, parents and other concerned observers, who have been horrified and disgusted at the way this school has lost its way these last four years.

    Do read them and reflect again before you try to promote the school so easily with such a lone voice on here.

    It may also be prudent for you and others who try so hard to pretend the past misdemeanors don’t exist,

    to reflect, consider, and get real.

    You could also start by speaking with some of your fellow pupils who painfully still have total recall of the damage the head and governors have done to their once flourishing, productive happy school.

    Ask some of the teachers too, if they are not too scared of repercussions if they dare to speak out against the new regime.

    Such a regime, fuelled by individual agenda’s, pompous self importance, egos,and arrogance, have only helped ruin this once highly regarded music school, and it’s high time ‘they’ were named and shamed for it.

    Quoting dates of your forthcoming London concert, and name dropping BBC competitions, may sound impressive, but does nothing to hide the shameful events that have been allowed to happen at this damaged music school, and changes absolutely nothing or excuses the past horrors.

    • Current Purcell Pupil says:

      Oh, an ‘observer’ who knows about the commendation system. How very observant of you. Please however, do not mock me. My school has a credit system just like almost every school in the country. I’m afraid I am not a self-publisist, just a pupil who loves her school.

      You ask me to speak to other pupils about past events, but as I believe I have mentioned, I have been at this school for a number of years. I was a middle school student when Mr Crook was headmaster. I was part of the student up-cry that wore green ribbons in support of Mr Poole last year. I saw our deputy head take on the role of acting headmaster two years ago when we had press climbing up our walls to write about the old headmaster. I have seen rumours, accusations and unfounded allegations concocted by the press pass through our school. I was a part of our schools 50th anniversary concert at the Royal Festival Hall. I honestly don’t feel that I need to type in the Purcell School into google, because I have experienced what has really happened at purcell.

      Nothing will change what has happened, you are right. But I must say, if anyone needs to, as you so eloquently put it, ‘get real’, around here. It’s you.

      You’ve said it yourself. These are past events. They are not something that affect our day to day school lives. Wherever this new allegation has arisen from, I will protect my schools name, and I can tell you that I am certainly not a lone voice. Let me tell you about something purcell has got that’s even more precious than our commendation system.

      Community. Family. Support.

      I have 180 students who can back me up in my statement. One of the best examples of this was the passing of of my best friend In November 2013. I have never been in such a strong support network of people. No matter what has happened at purcell, I know that the students will always stick together and take a stand for what they believe to be right.

      And I can tell you that nothing demeaning or demoralising said online can change that.

      See you at QEH.

  • an observer says:

    Oh you poor deluded child – what a pity you don’t have the intelligence to associate the past troubles with the current status the school now has in the wider musical world.

    Thank you for your surprising invitation to hear your school orchestra at the QEH, but why on earth should anyone wish to hear a school orchestra thrash through such a programme, when one can hear a professional orchestra instead??

    Good luck with your extraordinary delusion, but anyone following the many postings about your school on this arts journal over the last couple of years, will not be taken in by your feeble attempt to report everything

    is business as usual and back to normal.

    • Tom says:

      Patronising? Much?

      What saddens me is the presence of a ‘well informed’ source who clearly wants to see the school fail. Situations such as these need due process to be followed which doesn’t include fuelling idle gossip.

      • an observer says:

        No Tom this isn’t idle gossip. It is a fact, though not widely circulated for obvious reasons, as per the modus operandi of this school.

        Another teacher was recently suspended whilst being investigated for unacceptable inappropriate verbal harassment of a pupil – the same teacher for the second time, and one of half a dozen similar allegations at this school over the last few years.

        Don’t you think it is about time this was stopped once and for all for the safety and well being of the pupils?

  • Current Purcell Pupil says:

    Well, anyone who has been following this arts journal and believing what has been written about my school over the last few years, obviously does not know Purcell at all.

    I would also hope that readers would have the intelligence, not to believe everything that they read online.

    Thank you so much for emphasising with my ‘poor’, ‘delusional’ state which I am apparently in, due to the fact that I am protecting my school and friends. Purcell still maintains its high status as an outstanding music school, even if you refuse to realise this and our orchestra is certainly not just any school orchestra. We may be between the ages of 15-19 however, this does not stop us from working to a professional ethic, rehearsal schedule and performance standard. Next month we will be under the baton of renowned conductor, Stephen Bell and we are going to be putting on a darn good performance.

    Most, if not all of our members, are also part of other orchestras including the LSSO, NYWO and NYO. Would you accuse any of these Orchestras of thrashing through the same programme?

    We’re still trained musicians. We just happen to be shorter than others.

  • an observer says:

    I am so sorry ‘current pupil’, for suggesting you live in such a deluded world, but when you talk of a ‘professional ethic’, trying to achieve a ‘damn good performance’, under a renowned conductor ( sorry, but who on earth IS Stephen Bell??), then it simply confirms such delusion, and that you haven’t got the foggiest idea what this is all about.

    May I reiterate – Don’t ignore the numerous past problems, but RE READ all the 100 plus comments over several postings on here written over the last few years, and then consider carefully that they have been written by those who have suffered by the dreadful lack of leadership and serious mistakes the governors of your school have made to give it such the bad reputation it will continue to have for many years to come.

    Anyone of the millions who read this useful blog don’t have to read between the lines to form the opinion that your school has lost it’s way, and more so since it’s music ethos and policy is mistakenly led by an amateur ‘musical’ headmaster and ‘headless chickens’ who now try to give the impression of business as usual since they got rid of the highly regarded Head of Music last year.

    Good luck with your school concert next month.

  • Michael says:

    I have no reason to doubt that “Current Purcell Pupil” is a current Purcell pupil. “an observer” started by doubting if he/she was – “are you really a current pupil?” – but if he/she does not think he/she is a current pupil the attacks are unnecessarily personal and offensive and if he/she has concluded that he/she is indeed a current pupil then the attacks are also, frankly, bullying.

    I simply applaud this pupil for standing up to these attacks in a measured and literate manner and supporting the school and his/her friends in what must have been deeply difficult and demoralising times.

    Finally, the belittling of Stephen Bell is just cheap – it is not the pupil’s fault that “an observer” has no idea who he is!

    • an observer says:

      Thank you for pointing these matters out ‘Michael’, but how many pupils (even aged 17/18) do you know use such intelligent syntax and is clearly party to such confidential school management matters?

      However, as I’ve absolutely no idea who ‘current pupil is, (nor do I wish to), I fail to see how can my comments be personal? If you re-read what points I’ve raised, you will see that at all times I have been polite and challenging, but never offensive, (unless that is you yourself, for whatever reason, seem offended by my observations?)

      ‘Current pupil’ doesn’t seem to share your concerns.

      Bullying is something the former head at this school knew all about – nothing I observe here comes anywhere close that sort of ‘bullying’ as reported on here by so many in the past.

      As to your remark re Mr S Bell, I since hear that he is apparently, as you say, ‘just cheap’, and you must surely agree, hardly of the calibre of previous high profile conductors who have worked with the school orchestra in the past (Simon Rattle, Paul Daniel, Lionel Friend, Quentin Poole, John Rutter et al).

      • Current Purcell Pupil says:

        Intelligent Syntax? My, I’m flattered! I must say however, that a number of my peers speak a lot more eloquently than myself. Would you prefer it if I addressed you in what you probably would define as stereotypical teenage speak? I could add the word ‘like’ in amongst most of my sentences if you so desire.

        As I am sure we’re all aware, it can sometimes be hard to fully grasp the concept of how someone is saying something over text, so statements that you may think are polite though challenging, may be seen as offensive to others, like myself. For example, I certainly do not enjoy being addressed as a ‘deluded child’, nor do I care for your mocking of Purcell’s Symphony Orchestra as both of these comments, as I’m sure you realise, are indeed personal to me. I understand you have a very strong opinion however, I am not sure that I could honestly call all of your comments regarding my school, ‘polite’. I do however respect that you will have a different view from me as you are only an outside ‘observer’ who apparently relies on this arts journal as evidence for harsh attacks, whereas I actually know what Purcell is like, as I am a student here and have been so for the last few years.

  • Simon says:

    May be the “Current Purcell Pupil” not have noticed how many of the Far East prodigies has left the school recently!

    I also read elsewhere that one of the young boarder has left the school due to severe bullying in Nov 2013. I don’t deny that there are some very good musicians and teachers there, but they are minority.

    All the concerts will happen annually whether the performers are good or not, but just based on age, class and connections. Majority of the instrumental teachers and department heads have private students, who get priority over other pupils in school.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Please may you all not comment on things that you can only speculate on, in the nicest possible way yes Purcell has suffered scandals and I am by no means saying that some of these are wrong as I agree that some of them really did happen, however please do not spread rumours around that are untrue. The bullying that occurred in 2013 although did occur I was friends with the victim and I can tell you that the school did deal with it in a proper way punishing the people responsible. And to an extent, every school suffers from some bullying episodes. The school may have had some flaws in the past, but these have all been more or less straightened out now. As for the schools musical achievements, these tell there own story as we have had over these “dark years” multiple bbc young musician winners as well as people that go on to perform in what you seem to be calling ‘professional orchestras’ and if I’m not so blunt, within the last year we have had students with almost no background or reputation go and play for the queen and for other large names. If this doesn’t show that the school has prestige left I don’t know what will. Yes Purcell has problems, however so many other schools do as well, and we have a new headmaster in at the moment who has a great reputation and is trying his best to pull this place out of the scandals that people like you seem to be wanting to drag it down into. Every school has its problems but not every school has the achievements and can achieve the homeliness of Purcell. I hope you think about this before repeating comments that you have read on some unknown post somewhere please.

  • Simon S. says:

    OT/JFTR: I have been posting as “Simon” on Slipped disc for quite a long time now. This is AFAIR the first time i see a comment from another person using the same nick name. To avoid confusion, I will henceforth post as “Simon S.”

  • Mary says:

    An Observer, do you really have to resort to tittle tattle and bullying to get your point across? May I suggest that until you find a more responsible way to put your point across that you remain silent? Frankly, Current Pupil has rather shown you up with his/her eloquence and maturity of response. Once allegations are proved or disproved then feel free to vent your spleen but it is incredibly irresponsible to do so whilst (presumably if due process is being followed and NL is to be believed in terms of the nature of the allegations) Police and Social Services investigate a very serious and sensitive matter. The lives of so many are at stake here – the pupil and his/her family, the accused and his/her family, and all those associated with them. If NL is right then allegations have been made, investigations will be underway, and we must maintain our faith in our justice system, particularly taking care to remember that we are lucky enough to live within a jurisdiction that maintains innocence until guilt is proven.