Troubled music school appoints new head

Troubled music school appoints new head


norman lebrecht

May 13, 2015

The Purcell School, which has been in turmoil for the past three years over a high turnover of department heads and intimations of bullying and abuse, has announced a new headmaster.

He is Stephen Yeo, head of Head of Exeter Cathedral School for the past four years.

A staff member tells Slipped Disc: ‘We are rather concerned that Mr Yeo’s limited experience working primarily in the prep school sector… does not seemingly equip him to deal with historical and current issues of verbal sexual abuse, bullying and seriously flawed employment procedures that the Governors continually choose to ignore.’

Here is his c.v.:

stephen yeo

Stephen Yeo, a Bristolian by birth, began his musical education as a cathedral chorister at Llandaff Cathedral in Cardiff, progressing to King’s College, Taunton.  After graduating with a B.Mus degree from the University of Sheffield he spent five years in Dublin where he sang, played the organ, and taught at St Columba’s College and the music department of the Dublin Institute of Technology.  He was then Director of Music at St Elphin’s School, Matlock, followed by eight years as Head of Music and Performing Arts at King Edward VI Handsworth School in Birmingham.  Stephen then joined the leadership team at Bedales School, and subsequently became Head of Lyndhurst School in Camberley.  For the last four years he has been Head of Exeter Cathedral School.  In addition to his music degree Stephen holds a music education diploma from Trinity College, London and his National Professional Qualification for Headship (Secondary).  He is also a Boarding and Team Inspector for the Independent Schools Inspectorate and an Examiner for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music.


  • music teach says:

    Not a very distinguished CV for a specialist music school head is it?
    Is this the best person they can attract for a top job?
    Maybe no-one wants to be associated with this school with it’s past reputation.
    Good luck Mr Yeo – you’re going to need it…..

    • RandomGuy says:

      I knew the man at ECS- very nice but a bit of an idiot.

      He tries very hard, and has the most unwavering belief in himself, but he is rather incompetent. From personal experience, I know him to be a bit of a fruitcake, however he is really a nice guy.

      To be honest though, sending him to Purcell is like sending a lamb to the slaughter. It’s occasionally very messy.

      I wish him all the best in his new post, and I really hope he comes out unscathed on the other side.

      • John Lassange says:

        Hi Randomguy. Dear oh dear. You really are a reprehensible character aren’t you! Who needs considered debate when you can trade in offensive tittle tattle like that. Well done for your mature and considered contribution to debates about how to rectify the ongoing problems of the school.

  • thekingontheviolin says:

    Utterly mediocre c.v in my opinion…
    However, the school is likewise utterly mediocre and this appointment may therefore not be so bad after all. Remember the main pressure at the school is to attempt to persuade parents and sholarship donors to part with pots and pots of money by convincing these ambitious parents that their little offspring (some of them quite talented ) are going to be future stars which they are sadly not. This deceptive approach has been relatively successful for many years and the exposing of scandalous and abusive behaviour is not really addressing this typically English “The show must go on” attitude. Experienced musicians and teachers need to be on hand to help the students through the painful realisation that they have been “conned” by all parties viz. parents, teachers, school, denoument through The Royal Colleges into a false dream which never was realistic in the first place. Maybe this man can help. We should not prejudge him. His obvious mediocrity may well be his strongest asset……

  • David Richardson says:


    Surely he needs a chance to prove himself before you start quoting the undermining gossip of anonymous insiders? It’s likely neither you nor your source know him (neither do I) and he has a wide range of experience in different types of school.

    Why not for once restrain your sardonic streak, wish him luck and mean it?

  • music teach says:

    Mr Stephenson,

    As you may appreciate, the music business is a small world.
    I, too don’t know the man personally, but I know musicians and teachers who do. My comments are not gossip, but based on researched fact.

    Interesting, that Mr Yeo’s CV doesn’t mention his music study at Oxford University, which he filaed to complete before moving on to for the far more academic walls of Sheffield University instead….

    For those who will work with Mr Yeo, let us hope this time, the Governors have got their latest appointment right, having appointed two previous HeadMasters and got it seriously wrong in their selection.

    Peter Crook disappeared without reason, following investigations by police and social services surrounding several allegations of verbal sexual abuse of sixth form boys, and yet was still reinstated by Governors and allowed to teach and be near vunerable children.

    The current Head, David Thomas, after being brought in to destroy the senior management team and delete the top job of Director of Music,(losing the respect of his staff as a result), has found the impossible task of combining his Headship with that of Director of Music hasn’t gone as well as he hoped, and has since resigned (after only two years) to the less demanding job of teaching music to fee paying Winchester boys instead.

    Surrounding these two short term disasterous appointments, is a catalogue of historic (and ongoing) senior management bullying, a flawed internal staff disciplinary procedure, and miserable and unhappy staff and pupils trying to work in a Stalin style dictatorship system.

    Combined with over a dozen former long serving members of staff, (many signing gagging clauses to prevent them exposing senior management bullying, sham employment procedures, and historic and ongoing staff and pupil sexual abuse), once wonders with disbelief, how those who claim to govern and manage this music school, have the best interests of the pupils and staff at the top of their agendas?

    Of course, as a new colleague, we all wish Mr Yeo every success in taking over the Headship of the school.
    We only hope he is strong enough to address all the historical issues that linger and have been covered up, and that he won’t adopt the same tactics of his predecessors, by ignoring all the past mistakes, simply because Governors tried to cover up crucial child protection issues, rather than accept they made two bad appointments who have brought the school into disrepute.

    One only hopes Mr Yeo knows what challenges lie ahead?……..

  • music teach says:

    Of course, as my colleagues have pointed out, the problem with the management of this school, is the extraordinary power the school Bursar, Ms Aideen McNamara, has exercised since she arrived 5 years ago, and the bullish manner and control she exercises over all the staff, including the Head.
    The Governors seem unbelievably content with her [redacted] style of managing ( read mismanaging) the finances of the school, and despite the fact that she has pushed through new buildings and refurbished boarding houses to leave a legacy and have control and influence over the school, it is understood by those close to the outgoing Head, David Thomas, that one of the reasons he is jumping ship after 3 years, (other than not coping with his self appointed additional duties as Director of Music) is his inability and frustration in not being able to work alongside and manage her [redacted] spending.

    Never mind appointing a new Head, the Governors need to appoint a new Bursar, and certainly one who doesn’t have to prove anything [redacted] and considers music as priority in a music school whose funding of such should be a priority over contract canteens, coffee bars and other expensive projects she seems obsessed with over and above subsidising core music education, outreach, and external performances to help raise the now low profile of the school.
    It is hoped that Mr Yeo, as HM, takes charge and runs the school, and not the bursar, as has been the case under the last two Heads.



    I just watched this hysterically funny masterpiece with an ex student of the Purcell School who suffered terribly under the Peter Crook regime.

    He did not find it funny… The more I laughed, the more angry he became. He is not from this country and he is very angry indeed. He thinks there is no hope for any change because this Film from 1950 is not a parody of the Purcell School and its corruption, rather is it an accurate and literal portrayal of the reality he endured. The very ending mentions repatriation to Tangynika as Peter Crook was repatriated to Dubai…

    There is something rotten in the state of Denmark….

  • John Lassange says:

    Oh dear. This pettiness and gossip are a terrible indictment of musicians and musical education generally. You sound like a deeply cynical and self-regarding crowd. The pomposity of it all! Why not try and help put right some of the problems you identify rather than this nauseating, from the sidelines, grandstanding.

  • Musicparent says:

    So he is leaving “for personal reasons” after a brief stint. Wonder why. Bernard Trafford to be interim head.