Another teacher vanishes from troubled music school

Another teacher vanishes from troubled music school


norman lebrecht

September 02, 2014

We hear that Daniel King Smith, the school accompanist, will not be returning to the Purcell School in the new term.

No reason for his departure has been given to staff, parents or pupils. We have requested confirmation from King Smith.

It is understood that King Smith has been made to sign a confidentiality agreement and cannot comment. It is not known whether his departure from Purcell will affect his future as accompanist at the Royal College of Music.

Smith joins a long and troubled line of departures in the past couple of years: the former Headmaster (Peter Crook), Head of Boarding (Thomas Smith), Head of PE, (David Grant), Head of Geography (Margaret Moore), Director of Music, (Quentin Poole) and his partner, (Ian Mcmillan), Head of Boys Boarding House (Andrew Hutchings), Head of Academic Music, (Miranda Francis), Head of Girls Boarding House, (James Francis), retiring Head of Junior School (Cherry Trotter), Music Librarian (Diana Winny), and Assistant Head of English,(Sheila Young). Some left for natural and non-contentious reasons.

Since the bizarre decision last year to run a music school without a head of music, we understand that results have suffered. Staff tell us of  ‘an all time low in last month’s A level results, producing three unprecedented unclassified grades in music.’

The school’s troubles date back three years to allegations of ‘sexual bullying’  that led to the hasty departure of the head, Peter Crook.

daniel king smith

UPDATE: More recent departures from the Purcell School:  Marisa Thornton-Wood (Junior Music) Alan McKenna, (Chemistry )  David Chappell, (Biology) Kevan Taylor, (Biology) Simon Colam, ( Head of Jazz ) James Quinn (Fundraising), Kitt Garner, (Head of Boys Boarding House) before Andrew Hutchings. Kitt and Andrew only lasted a year in the post. Various long standing cleaning and catering staff have left. 

Sadly both Kevan Taylor and James Quinn have since passed away. Our informant left mainly due to bullying. 


  • DM says:

    The list of departing staff is presented in a slightly misleading light. It is my understanding that a number of these staff left under perfectly normal circumstances (moving on to new jobs), others allegedly in retribution for speaking out against the apparent wrong-doings of the outgoing headmaster (Peter Crook), and certainly Crook himself for alleged improper behaviour (that you refer to further down the article).

    The way you have presented it – following from the story of the unknown reason for the departure of Mr King Smith, and including Peter Crook in the list – makes it seem as though all the staff listed have departed in a ‘troubled’ manner, when that is – from what I understand having followed the saga on this blog and from other sources – not true at all. Whilst it is clearly “troubling” that the school has lost a significant number of senior staff in recent years, it is not necessarily true that all their departures were troubled.

    A small but clear and important distinction.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      You’re right: not all left under questionable circumstances. Will adjust that.

    • Worried Observer says:

      Having looked again at the ‘hit list’, only 1 member of staff listed here has ‘retired’, and she was a former police officer!
      All the other staff on this extraordinary roll call, have left because of either management bullying, and/or moved on because they questioned the actions of governors allowing paedophiles to continue working alongside vunerable pupils after investigations by the authorities.
      Why does this school consider themselves above the law, and are so blatently desperate to silence all those on the list with expensive gagging agreements?
      One shudders to think how much money this must be costing the school in litigation – money that the Government pay the school to educate it’s pupils but not for trying to silence a dozen recently departing members of staff.

  • DM says:

    N.B. The formatting of the “Leave a reply” section on this particular page has something wrong with it – it is not showing up correctly on my browser. Odd, when other pages’ comments sections are.

  • Worried Observer says:

    Why has it taken this school so long to dismiss King Smith [redacted: legal]?

    Such careless misjudgement has now come back to haunt those who allowed this foolish decision at the time.
    But just a minute –
    wasn’t this the decision of dismissed Head Peter Crook, who was eventually ‘dismissed’ himself, having been investigated twice by the authorities for similar allegations with male pupils?

    It is incredible that the current management of this school has remained tacet over this second allegation when it came to light in January of this year.

    At any other school, this serious misdameanor – particularly in the current climate of historic child abuse – would automatically remove someone who behaves inappropriately towards pupils.

    Why does this school take 7 months to suspend and investigate one of their members of staff before deciding the obvious course of action?

    Such an unacceptable delay hardly demonstrates absolute confidence in a school who claim their priority is the safety and wellbeing of their vunerable pupils.

    Maybe the forthcoming Ofsted Inspection this term will finally force this school to mend the error of it’s lapless ways, and make child protection the absolute priority it so wrongly claims?

    • AM says:

      The governors probably dismissed accusations against crook because any accusation was an over reaction by hypersensitive overprotective teachers overreacting. Having spent 4 year’s under the tutelage of Mr. Crook I can vouch that he was the only teacher that was approachable and willing to talk about everyday teenager concerns and not because of some perverted interest but instead to help and educate teenagers in his role in loco parentis.

  • Worried Observer says:

    A week has now lapsed since this unbelievable news broke, and typically, no comment from anyone at the Purcell school…….
    Presumably they are all lying low in the hope that no -one will notice this latest scandal after all that has happened there….

    It remains another absolute scandal that actress Jenny Agutta still desperately clings on as a member the governing body, when she obviously has conflicting standards by continuing to remain a Patron of the Child Protection Charity Action For Children (formally National Child Helpline) which claims on her own website, to raise awareness to help vunerable young people…….
    Where was she when Daniel King Smith was investigated years ago for sexual misconduct at the school with underage pupils? (she was certainly a Purcell School governor at the time) and why is she still on the Governing Body after King Smiths dismissal? She should resign in shame!

    Surely King Smith isn’t going to be allowed to remain working at The Royal College of Music now that it’s Director, Dr Professor Colin Lawson, has recently become a member of the Governing do- gooders at The Purcell School?…. Surely he too, cannot be accused of double standards.. can he?….

  • david sheath says:

    This, one distinguished beacon of musical excellence has clearly lost it’s way……

    Clearly the head and governors have ruined a once famous music school, and are no better than the previous head who was moved on for incompetence and his sordid behaviour with pupils.

    A music school under the leadership of an amateur music teacher .
    Who on earth thought THAT would work?

    No wonder recent A level music results were so poor when a headmaster attempts to teach harmony, (badly) and his assistant( who was indentified years ago as too incompetent and lazy to teach by Inspectors, yet kept on ) is acting as head of music without the status.

    What a shambles!

    • Current Pupils says:

      I am a current pupil of the school and have been at the school for nine years meaning I have been here throughout Mr Crook and Mr Thomas. I can assure you that Mr Thomas is valued as both an excellent and fair headmaster and an effective teacher. I find it strange and unjust that you comment on his teaching abilities having never experienced his teaching. Who are you referring to when you mention the ‘acting head of music’?

  • Worried Observer says:

    What on earth are Gill & David Johnston, who run the popular Harpenden based Community Music Leisure Centre thinking?
    They are understood to be using the musical services of King Smith to accompany some of the many children and young adults who study instruments here despite knowing fully of his recent dismissal from both The Purcell School and RCM………

    Doesn’t this well established music school who provided the early training of their distinguished string playing sons Magnus & Guy have a Child Protection Policy in place there?

    Are they really not just a little concerned about King Smith’s reputation and the safety of their pupils?……..

    • Worried Observer says:

      Musicale of Harpenden really need to think very carefully about what message this gives out in light of why King Smith has been let go by The Purcell School and RCM…….

  • Pur-plexed! says:

    This list is misleading, as a number of people on it applied for jobs elsewhere and got them, in the spirit of career advancement or changing interests, not just because they were driven out. Mr McKenna, one of the most popular and loved teachers in the school went to work at a school with a larger science department, which had been a long-term goal of his.

    Can you do a bit more research before presenting these lists as gospel truth?

    This thing of having the headmaster teaching harmony is strange, in a specialist music school? Can’t they recruit a specialist? There are plenty of outstanding music graduates with a PGCE who could do this job.

    • Worried Observer says:

      Well Pur – plexed, as a former member of staff who was working at this school during ‘Crookgate’, I can confirm that with the exception of two retirements and one who wished a higher grade of responsibility, all these former members of staff added to the list (and the wonderful anxilliary support staff who run the school behind the scenes) all left because of the bullying by senior management.
      These included Governors (some remain!) and particularly the current Bursar, Ms Aideen McNamara, who was indentified by an outside investigation a couple of years ago as a serious managment bully,yet whose indentification of such was read by Head David Thomas who chose to ignore the findings and admit he had a serious problem on his management team.
      This school will not change it’s ongoing bullying style until they recognise the crux of the problem is Ms McNamara, whose manner of working with former colleagues (and most of the current ones too) is despised by all who come into contact with her unpleasant, bullying style.
      Mind you, to our knowledge, her bullying manner doesn’t seem to be fueled by sexual frustration like dismissed former Head Peter Crook, and Daniel King Smith.

  • Pur-plexed! says:

    In light of this news regarding Mr King Smith, will any apology be made to the vulnerable student who was asked to leave the school following the incident several years ago?

    At that time it was clear that most of the noisy staff members were 100% on Mr King Smith’s side.

    • Worried Observer says:

      Where on earth do you get your incorrect information from
      Pur- Plexed?
      It is nonsence that staff have previously or currently supported Smith’s inability to behave inappropriately with female pupils.
      Such unprofessional behaviour is utterly taboo to all adults working with younger venerable children.You should know this.
      It is sad that The Purcell School continues to ignore it’s own Child Protection Policies, like so many of these specialist music schools (Chets, Menhuin, Wells, St Mary’s) whose Governance and Managers consider themselves above the law and exempt from any other ‘normal’ school, where the likes of Smith and Crook would have been dismissed at the first hint of sexual deviancy and not allowed to carry on working with vunerable children, thus putting temptation their way and making it easy for them to offend a second time…….

    • Former Pupil says:

      I’m so glad to hear this news that Daniel King Smith has finally left the school. He should have been subject to thorough investigations c. 8 years ago instead of being kept on just because he was a good accompanist. Madness: a student being asked to leave the school because this slimeball got his hands on her!

  • Mike Cockram says:

    And now the appointment of a new head teacher with a less than open, truthful and Christian background!

    Good luck!!