Headmaster is cleared of sexual harassment

VICKY WARD

Parents of pupils at Dulwich College, one of Britain's oldest and most respected independent schools, were yesterday receiving the news that headmaster Anthony Verity, 56, had been cleared of wrongdoing following the allegations of sexual harassment which have been dogging him since June, and which provoked his suspension from the school in September.

However, he will have to wait until the Board of Governors convenes on Thursday to discover if he is to be reinstated in the pounds 100,000-a-year position he has held since 1986.

The board's chairman, Sir Colin Coles, would only comment at the weekend: "The governors each have their own views, but he is certainly a headmaster of high repute."

Controversy has surrounded the board's actions ever since it waited until just a few days before the start of the autumn term to notify parents in a terse note that Mr Verity had been temporarily removed from his post, "pending further investigations of certain matters".

It was left to the combined efforts of alarmed parents and the media to try to weed out what had actually happened. It emerged that Mr Verity's secretary, Anne Ridley, 36, had claimed in April that he had sexually harassed her on a recruitment trip to Thailand the previous November. The governing body had run an internal enquiry on the matter at the start of the summer holidays, but had still not reached any conclusive findings by September.

Many parents who approved of and respected Mr Verity on account of the excellent academic results he was achieving at the school were appalled at the delay. Two parents, Sue Macdiarmid and Deborah Roslund, objected so strongly to what they deemed to be the board's mismanagement of the matter that they sent out a circular to the 1,400 parents who pay fees of up to pounds 6,000 a year for day pupils and double that for boarders.

It urged the parents either to write to Sir Colin or countersign their letter of criticism and send it to him. Their chief complaints were the length of time it seemed to be taking the board to come to any conclusion and the inappropriate language of Sir Colin's eventual letter to parents. Lastly, it urged that Mr Verity should be reinstated in his post until the inquiry was completed.

Robert Alexander, clerk to the governors, was not available yesterday to comment on the response the letter had, but one parent said that more than 150 others had written their own letters and that many more had countersigned that written by Mrs Macdiarmid.

Mrs Ridley, a staunch Catholic, who is married to a building surveyor and who has two children attending Alleyns, a nearby independent school that is affiliated to Dulwich College, has felt ostracised. "She has been unable to go back to school this term because of hostile comments from colleagues," a friend said yesterday. Mrs Ridley herself was not prepared to comment.

Public response to the news, reported in the Sunday press, that Mr Verity's name had been cleared, however, was cautious. "I am delighted," said one parent "but I do not want to come out into the open and say what I really feel about the board's handling of this because they haven't yet decided to reappoint him. I am frightened it might harry them into making the wrong decision on Thursday."

Some parents still fear that the media attention the case has provoked will persuade the governors to find a pay-off settlement for Mr Verity, and his wife, Patricia, a French teacher at the school, who has been on leave since her husband's suspension.

Yesterday, one member of the board, Dermot Engelfield, would only say that an agenda for Thursday's meeting had not yet been finalised.

Mr Verity, who is still addressed by even senior colleagues as "the master", is clearly optimistic that he will get his job back. "All the way through, the one thing I have been most concerned about is the school," he was reported as saying on Saturday. I do not feel adversarial about this in relation to my governors. They are doing their job. But everybody is now hoping that things return to normality as soon as possible. I love my job."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Associate Recruitment Consultant - Global Leader - FTSE 250

£18000 - £23000 per annum + competitive: SThree: As an Associate Recruitment C...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Representative

£22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family run school photogra...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - OTE £42,000

£28000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be joining a leading s...

SThree: Associate Recruitment Consultant -Engineering -Renewable Energy

£18000 - £23000 per annum + competitive: SThree: As an Associate Recruitment C...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map