Report reveals failings in child protection at music school

Chetham's School of Music Photo: ITV Granada

Two reports into pupil safety at Chetham’s School of Music have unearthed a catalogue of failings.

Independent and town hall education inspectors were called in to carry out urgent reviews of procedures at the £31,000-a-year institution in the light of a number of serious allegations of historic abuse.

Former choir master Michael Brewer, 68, was jailed last month for six years for a campaign of abuse against tragic former pupil Frances Andrade who killed herself after giving evidence in his trial.

And six more former teachers are being investigated in a probe over historic sex abuse.

But it can be revealed that inspectors, who went into Chetham’s last month, found a staggering array of issues remained. They include:

  • The school does not meet national child protection guidelines.
  • Some staff do not know what to do when allegations are made.
  • Annual reviews into child protection have not been carried out.
  • Background checks on two foreign members of staff were not done until after they started employment.
  • A criminal check was not carried out on one foreign teacher.
  • Qualification checks on some staff had not been made.
  • No meetings had taken place to discuss the recent allegations and consider changes.
  • Senior leaders have not been held to account with regards to making sure safeguarding arrangements are being implemented.

Both reports were triggered by a series of complaints and historic allegations.

The Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) team concentrated on recruitment procedures, the complaints process and compliance with national minimum standards

They asked parents and pupils to fill out questionnaires and spoke with staff and pupils.Manchester council inspectors, who carried out a similar probe, commented that ‘in the context of recent convictions... where extra assurances would be expected, this is a cause for concern’.

They added that the authority was ‘not confident about the overall effectiveness of the leadership and governance of safeguarding arrangements in the school’.

The local education authority inspectors also found that the trustees of the school ‘have not effectively discharged their duties with respect to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of pupils’.

Their report also takes a swipe the proprietors for not ensuring that headteacher Claire Moreland ‘has fulfilled her duties for the effective implementation of the school’s policies and procedures in regard to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of pupils’.

Inspectors also found pupils are not aware of who to turn to outside the school to report problems.

The council concludes their report by stating that if Chetham’s were a state school a formal review would be held where the ability of senior leadership to address the failings would be discussed.

“We were invited into Chetham’s by the school to examine their current safeguarding arrangements.

“Our review was prompted in light of ongoing police investigations involving the school.

“We have shared our conclusions with the school, the ISI, Ofsted, and the Department For Education.

“Should the school request further advice from us, we will be making them aware of the help and support available to assist them in urgently addressing the issues raised.”

– Mike Livingstone, director of children’s services at the council

Statement from Chetham's School of Music:

"We consider this Review to be extremely important and fully support the principle of inspection and its role in helping us to ensure that we are providing only best practice in safeguarding. We have given careful and detailed consideration to the subsequent reports received.

"We are reassured to note that the overwhelming majority of parents and students who were consulted as part of the assessment feel that Chetham’s provides a safe environment and that they are comfortable with our current safety protocols.

"This supports the findings of previous recent inspection reports which have rated the School highly with regard to safeguarding, most recently by OFSTED in March 2011. Where Manchester Children's Services (MCS) and the ISI have recommended amendments to our policies or procedures we have either implemented them immediately or are in the process of doing as a matter of priority.

"Unfortunately we believe the time allowed for the Review was insufficient. We have made detailed written representations and submitted further documentation to both MCS and the ISI, seeking meetings with both organisations to discuss these points in detail.

"There is enormous interest in the School at the current time and it is imperative that Chetham’s, and all students, staff and parents associated with it, are treated and represented accurately.

"In terms of next steps, our Senior Leadership Team and School Committee have already committed to a thorough review of our current processes and historic events.

"In addition to further dialogue with the ISI and MCS, we will be seeking a meeting with the Department for Education to discuss the Review’s findings and share a detailed action plan to demonstrate how we are remedying the issues highlighted. We are determined to ensure that we consistently achieve best practice in safeguarding standards at Chetham’s.

"We are extremely proud of our School, its students and its staff and believe that Chetham's makes an invaluable contribution to the community and the musical life of the nation.

"However, the safety and happiness of our pupils is our top priority, above all else."