The composer Dave Heath was present at Friday’s conclusion of part one of the independent inquiry into child sex abuse at English music schools.
Dave, a former Purcell parent, reports: ‘Big, unreserved apology from Chethams school for the shocking abuse there, but not word from the Purcell School, despite the ex- head of governors Graham Smallbone finally admitting that the ex-headmaster Peter Crook’s “sex” talk was ‘absolutely unacceptable!’
The school maintains a boarding house named after Graham Smallbone, MBE.
Not that saying sorry amounts to much.
Here’s some more harrowing independent testimony that Ian Pace has collected from Chet’s victims. These witnesses were not called by the independent inquiry:
AL24: I had barely heard of child abuse and certainly didn’t realise the term might apply in my case. To be clear, Ling manipulated, threatened and isolated me. It was never once consenting – he made my skin crawl. But the atmosphere that pervaded the string department; cello teachers ‘dating’ pupils, violin pupils being ‘girlfriends’, teachers generally sleazing over us girls, making crude comments and unwanted advances, had normalised what I had suffered. Horrifyingly I thought I had just been more unlucky than most, and that it was our lot to be treated as sexual game…
It was absolutely common knowledge at Chets during my time there, and subsequently, that there were ‘relationships’ happening between staff members and the children. This included the Head of Music and many of the string staff. Ling was known for being the most blatant; taking girls out for drinks, keeping them late in practice rooms, taking them off site in his car…
AL21: Generally, they were not supposed to punish girls, but my friend and I were once locked in a cupboard in the 6th form block and incense sticks were lit through the key-hole until we were coughing so much, and screaming, that the head boy at the time [name redacted] let us out. I have always been a severe asthmatic but they thought it hilarious. [Head boy] refused to take part in any abuse.
I also remember being so hungry that one night, myself and 2 other girls crept into the kitchens and stole all the stale bread. (Naughty but desperate!) We developed quite a taste for it!
My personal sadness was that I had a boyfriend in the school. There was no sex education so we were both very naive. I fell pregnant at 15 yrs old, had a termination and we were both promptly expelled.
I will tell just one story of my own. This concerns the teacher in junior school who made a point of singling out everyone else in the class for praise for what they had done, then holding me up alone in front of them all with that poisonous hatred behind her eyes just to ridicule me in comparison with everyone else. Now I also know that this same teacher, at school camp, actually slept with a sixth-form boy.
This school was a cesspit. It is a disgrace that John Vallins was ever let anywhere near a school, and he should feel nothing but shame and guilt for the rest of his days.