Police investigated 39 Chethams and RNCM teachers

Laura Newey, a former student at Chetham’s School of Music, has published a brave piece in the London Review of Books detailing the phenomenal conver-ups conducted over more than 40 years of sexual abuse at Manchester’s two distinguished music schools.

Among other things she writes: Music schools disproportionately attract odd, disturbed and vulnerable children who struggle in mainstream education. Many students and staff accordingly thought of Chetham’s as a refuge from the outside world; a common mantra was that the school was like ‘one big family’. Any negative coverage of the school – in particular, the regular articles on Norman Lebrecht’s Slipped Disc blog – attracted a chorus of zealous defenders. One commenter on Slipped Disc implied that she had been abused at Chets; a pupil responded on Facebook that she needed ‘slapping across the face with a cock’. There was a general feeling that any internal criticism of the school was traitorous.

Senior figures have insisted they were unaware of sexual abuse at Chets. During Vallins’s IICSA testimony, someone in the public gallery shouted out: ‘You did know! You were told. It’s as clear as that. You’re lying … You did nothing. You have not apologised. I hope you can live with yourself.’ Vallins said that this was ‘absolutely untrue’. Ian Pace told the inquiry that he believed Vallins’s priorities ‘were primarily for the reputation of the school’. 

Read on here.

No principal or head teacher of Chetham’s and RNCM, no head of department or chair of the board of governors, has ever been held to account for the appalling culture of sexual abuse that prevailed at both institutions.

Why is that?

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  • As Laura’s article seems to be trying to say it is not only ‘sexual abuse’ that is at the root of many of the students’ – and ex-students’ – problems historically garnered from these institutions. But it does seem to be most often the only thing people – and the authorities, and (dare I say it) internet blogs – are interested in. Brave indeed is the person who suggests that there is often considerably more to ‘The Story’ than sex, sex, sex, and I hope that her incisive comments are taken notice of.

    • I am really pleased you posted this. Various forms of non-sexual abuse (physical, psychological, emotional) can be and have been just as damaging for many. Unfortunately, exactly as you say, these are trivialised or ignored in much reporting, which is why it is so important that Laura Newey brings them to attention.

      It is also worth bearing in mind that when sexual abuse occurs relatively unchecked, frequently the other types of abuse are also in place (not to mention corrupt power structures and other hierarchies, and a toxic teaching and learning culture). The potential for all of these in these hothouse environments has been and still is immense. And I say that as someone who absolutely wants to defend the principle of elite/specialist musical education against some who would happily remove it (and practically all classical music education) altogether.

  • I can think of one world-famous music college in London that should have been investigated decades ago.
    In 2015 one of its former teachers was jailed for 11 years for raping two of his students in soundproofed teachings studios.
    The assaults dated back to the seventies and eighties.
    The principal at the time was fully aware of the situation.
    He even suggested to the mother of one of the victims that the best solution would be that she enrol her daughter at another college.
    The teacher in question was subsequently promoted in spite of the allegations and complaints, and enjoyed a twenty-year career at said college.

  • Family attended Chets. Yes. Vallins knew what was going on. Huge cover up. Many talented, brilliant musicians maimed for life. Disgusting.

  • Can I urge people here to read the closing statement to the Independent Inquiry from lawyers Slater and Gordon, who represent various survivors from Chetham’s (and also represent me) to the inquiry. If you go to the link below, click on ‘Documents’, then scroll down to ‘Submission’, open up the list, and look at document INQ004838.

    This does not pull its punches: ”Our clients are of the view that John Vallins adopted a policy of ‘hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil’. Ian Pace stated in evidence; “I believe John Vallins’ priorities were primarily for the reputation of the school”. [RS-A3] went further: “[Vallins] lied, pretending to have no knowledge of Ling’s behaviour prior to his departure from Chetham’s.” We believe her and we invite the panel to believe her too.

    John Vallins threatened those who raised safeguarding concerns with him. [RS-A2] states in her witness statement; “My mother did meet with John Vallins, the Headmaster. He told my mother that a similar complaint had been made against a teacher a few years before. However, he also advised my mother that parents should avoid causing any disturbance as it might ruin their child’s chance of a career”.

    Additionally, there is evidence of Mr Vallins minimising and misleading others as to the extent of abuse in the school: in the minutes of the School Committee meeting 22nd Sept 1990, Mr Vallins is reporting on the sexual abuse by Mr Ling. He says he was a private tutor before coming to Chetham’s. The girl’s parents told the police. The police investigation concluded no sexual abuse had taken place on school premises or during school time, and the tutor had left the country before any disclosures were made. This was calculated to diminish what happened and to deny it was anything to do with the school. The reality was that students had tried to report inappropriate behaviour by Ling to Mr Vallins (see e.g. Jamie Daniels’ [chief GMP officer investigating Operation Kiso] witness statement).’

    Other documents there beginning ‘YMS’, ‘PUR’, ‘WCS’, ‘CSM’, etc., refer to the closing statements from the various schools.

    https://www.iicsa.org.uk/investigations/sexual-abuse-in-residential-schools

  • All the videos of the hearings into specialist music schools can be viewed at the following link.

    https://ianpace.wordpress.com/2019/10/05/the-iicsa-hearings-into-specialist-music-schools-videos-transcripts-documents/

    And (as shared previously on this blog) here are the 45 testimonies from former Chetham’s pupils which give a wider view of the culture of the school.

    https://ianpace.wordpress.com/2019/10/10/chethams-alumni-memories-and-reflections-following-the-iicsa-hearings/

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