Elite music school Chetham's loses pupils in backlash at allegations of historic sexual abuse

Parents demand head of Chetham’s stands down as police investigate complaints

This article is the subject of a complaint. Please see a statement beneath the article.

Parents have begun withdrawing their children from an elite music school and demanded the head teacher and chair of governors resign over claims they mishandled allegations from more than 10 years ago about pupils being sexually assaulted, as police continue a major investigation into abuse at the institution.

The principal of Chetham’s School of Music, Claire Moreland, and Professor Edward Gregson, then principal at nearby Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM), were both sent letters in 2002 detailing a number of abuse allegations. The schools have close ties and share teachers.

Both the Manchester-based music schools are now at the centre of Operation Kiso, Greater Manchester Police’s investigation into allegations of historic sexual abuse.

In letters obtained by The Independent, a former Chetham’s pupil wrote to Mrs Moreland and said her “cries for help were met with disbelief”.

Mrs Moreland, who was not head teacher at the time the assaults were said to have occurred, replied in 2002. She said: “Legislation over the last two decades and an increasing awareness of issues surrounding teachers and students means that all schools these days are well-equipped to deal with any allegations.”

In 2002, Professor Gregson replied to another complainant, saying: “I do believe there is a more balanced view which, whilst not condoning [the teacher’s] past, does treat it in a more forgiving manner.”

In a reply to another woman, Mrs Moreland said in 2002: “We have excellent pastoral care systems at Chetham’s and naturally do our utmost to ensure that all the children in our care are extremely wel looked after at all times.”

Operation Kiso is currently looking at sex abuse allegations dating to as recently as 2006, however.

The investigation began after Michael Brewer, the  former director of music at Chetham’s, was jailed for six years last March for indecently assaulting a pupil. His victim, Frances Andrade, killed herself after giving evidence against him at his trial, having been accused of lying during cross-examination.

Mrs Andrade had written to Professor Gregson in 2002 regarding sexual abuse claims. Professor Gregson accused her of writing an “emotive letter” that was “potentially libellous”. Mrs Moreland has insisted the sexual abuse allegations are “historic” and that child protection policies at Chetham’s have changed.

Parents have condemned Mrs Moreland for initially informing them by email, prior to Brewer’s sentencing, that Operation Kiso “relates to a period of 20 to 40 years ago”.

Parents of pupils still at Chetham’s and those who have taken their children out of the school spoke on condition of anonymity.

A parent of one of the pupils told The Independent “at least half a dozen pupils have gone”. The source said: “Many more would like to leave but the financial penalties are huge.”

Another said: “Claire Moreland’s handling of the sexual abuse investigation has been the last straw for many parents, some of whom have now moved their kids to another school. She has always referred to the abuse as ‘historic’ but for the victims it is never historic. I think she should go along with the board of governors.”

One mother said: “There are some amazing staff at Chetham’s. But why is someone like Edward Gregson still on the board?”

Another parent, using the pseudonym "John Millner", said: “It is hard to be a dissenting parent at Chet’s. We have to balance the communication of our desire to see the changes required for Chet’s to flourish with the likely impact the expression of our views will have on our children. The continued presence on the governing body of Edward Gregson is deeply offensive, not least to the memory of Frances Andrade. He needs to go.”

A spokesman for Greater Manchester Police said: “As part of [Operaton Kiso] we have reviewed our historical records and there is no record of the force receiving letters at that time or there being any formal allegation made. We have now recovered a number of letters and as they are forming part of our current investigation it would not be appropriate to comment further.”

Four teachers have been arrested and are on police bail. They either taught at Chetham’s, the RNCM or privately.

A spokeswoman for Chetham’s said: “Claire Moreland informed RNCM immediately and passed the letters on to be a part of that investigation. All allegations have been dealt with in full consultation with the appropriate agencies. We are bound by an obligation of confidentiality in respect of such allegations. Claire Moreland has ensured the school assists Operation Kiso in any way it can.”

The spokeswoman said she passed on questions regarding Professor Gregson to him but he did not respond. A spokeswoman for RNCM said she could not comment as the investigation is ongoing.

Chetham’s School of Music

We have received a complaint from Chetham’s School in relation to this article. The School has informed us that its September 2013 intake was at its highest ever level, and it has not received any call from parents for the head to resign. It also states that whilst the parents to whom we spoke may have indicated to us that pupils were being withdrawn for the reasons alleged, the school is aware of no child having been withdrawn for such reasons and no significant numbers of pupils have been withdrawn for any other reasons either. We did not put this point to the school when we contacted them so they were not able to respond to it before the article was published. We are happy to make the school’s position clear.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Voices
Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and David Cameron appeal to the audience during the Question Time special
voices
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
News
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Sport
football
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
News
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
news
News
Michelle Dockery plays Lady Mary in Downton Abbey
peopleBut who comes top of the wish list?
News
Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, right, with Lib Dem candidate Jane Dodds in Newtown, Powys, as part of her tour in support of the party’s female candidates
general electionNick Clegg's wife has impressed during the campaign
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living