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.

News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Travel
The shipping news: a typical Snoozebox construction
travelSpending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz