A petition for an inquiry into abuse at UK specialist music schools has reopened following a week of widespread media coverage into the issue. Following reports this week on Channel 4 News and in the national press, Lucy Powell, MP for Manchester Central, has become the first MP to publicly support calls for an inquiry.
The Department for Education, however, appears reluctant to commission an inquiry, having stated that the ‘particular risks of music education’ can be adequately addressed by the relevant inspectorates.
This week the Guardian revealed that Greater Manchester Police’s Operation Kiso was ‘proactively conducting criminal investigations’ into 10 individuals and that there were ‘many others who are also part of the inquiry’. Numbers were confirmed to the Telegraph, which reported that ‘other than the 10 being proactively investigated, five are dead, 12 are from third party reports and 12 have been assessed and deemed not to have crossed the threshold of criminality’.
Operation Kiso is concentrated on institutions in Manchester, and has appealed for anyone who has been a victim of an offence at Chetham’s School of Music, or who has further information on any offences committed, to contact them. Surrey Police has made a similar appeal following a report on Channel 4 News which implicated all five UK music schools but focused on the historic culture at the Menuhin School.
Ian Pace, organiser of the petition, told CM that it has been reopened in the hope that the DfE might reconsider their view ‘in light of the recent revelations (and other possible future revelations) demonstrating the scale of alleged abuse in Manchester, and that it extended into other specialist music schools as well’.
‘Police enquiries are naturally important in terms of criminal prosecutions,’ said Pace, ‘but I do believe the issue is much bigger than that. Questions of institutional responsibility also need to be addressed, and psychological, emotional and other abuse which do not necessarily translate into direct criminality.
‘A wider inquiry is needed not for reasons of revenge or settling scores, and especially not to destroy specialist musical education, but rather to look how we can learn from honestly addressing the grave failures of the past, and reform such education for the better.
‘I think the musical world will survive better and stronger this way.’
Chetham’s has also submitted an action plan to the department of education following criticisms by a joint inspectorate of its policies and practice last month.
The petition is available here and will be open until 31 May.
Contact Greater Manchester Police on 0161 856 6777 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Those who wish to remain anonymous may contact Crime Stoppers on 0800 555 111.