School claims ‘unfounded’

Watford Observer: Purcell School in Aldenham Road, Bushey. Purcell School in Aldenham Road, Bushey.

The local education authority (LEA) has dismissed as ‘unfounded’ a complaint that children “were put at risk” at a Bushey school.

A complaint was made after Peter Crook, headteacher at The Purcell School in Aldenham Road, followed up an allegation of sexual bullying between children at the school by organising a meeting with pupils at his home.

The complaint claimed that parents should have been told that such matters were going to be discussed.

But both Hertfordshire Police and the LEA, Hertfordshire County Council, investigated the complaint and found that the school and Mr Crook had behaved appropriately in response to the allegations.

Mr Crook’s meeting had been recorded by a pupil on his mobile phone and this was converted onto a tape which led to the unsubstantiated claim that children were put at risk.

Chairman of governors Graham Smallbone said: “There have been some allegations which were investigated thoroughly by the relevant authorities on two separate occasions.

“They concluded that the allegation that children were put at risk was unfounded. The governors therefore consider the matter to be closed.

“The headmaster, with another member of staff present, felt that this talk was the best way to deal with the situation of bullying that had occurred in the dorms.

“I would not like to comment on a matter involving staff and pupils in public but was it something that was ignored? No.

“I do think the matters were dealt with very thoroughly and very properly.”

In a letter dated March 19, Mr Smallbone also wrote to parents. In his letter he says: “It is important that you understand the background...and I hope be reassured that at all times the school has behaved entirely properly.

“To remind you of their (social services) key findings, they concluded after two thorough and separate investigations that no child protection issues were raised and that any such allegations were unfounded.

“The governors...referred the matter to social services so that the claims could be properly and independently investigated, which they now have been.

“Peter Crook continues to have the support of the governors in making necessary changes at the school.”

The school is a specialist institution for gifted musicians, both from England and overseas, and patrons include His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales.

About 45 boys and 86 girls board at the school out of a total of approximately 175 pupils.

Hertfordshire County Council said the allegation made following the meeting was dealt with in line with the county’s Safeguarding Children’s Board child protection procedures, which deals with allegations against those working with children, but would not comment any further.

Hertfordshire Constabulary also launched an investigation and again concluded that the accusations were unfounded.

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