LORETTO PUPILS SUFFERED SEXUAL, PHYSICAL AND EMOTIONAL ABUSE
Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry publishes ninth case study findings
Lady Smith has today, Wednesday 19 April, published her findings relating to the provision of residential care in boarding schools for children at Loretto School, Musselburgh.
She concludes that pupils were exposed to sexual, physical, and emotional abuse both in the senior and junior school.
Factors such as inappropriate recruitment policies; staff who lacked the appropriate skills and training; and insufficient oversight of pupils and teachers, were amongst those that resulted in children being abused.
Loretto is one of a number of boarding schools investigated by the inquiry and explored in evidence at case study hearings. Lady Smith’s findings in relation to other boarding schools hearings will follow later.
Lady Smith said: “At the outset, I want to make it clear that I find there were many children who had positive experiences at Loretto and, in many ways, went on to have rewarding adult lives. Also, there is no doubt that the school has provided many children with a good education.
“However, not all children had positive experiences and amongst those who did, there were children who also suffered abuse. Children who boarded at Loretto were exposed to risks of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse.
“For many, those risks materialised, and I have no doubt that children were abused whilst in Loretto’s care.”
Hearings took place between 24 March 2021 and 12 May 2021 during which Lady Smith heard evidence from 32 witnesses.
The first witness former pupil Don Boyd said: “I have learned, horrifyingly, as a result of all this, the extent of the problem which has appalled me.
“I thought I was a bit of an isolated case, but being involved in writing the article, and dealing with this phenomenon over the years, I realised not only was I one of many at Loretto, but I am one of thousands throughout an entire educational set up.
“And it isn’t that situation where you can loosely say, oh, well, that was in the 1950s, that was in the 1960s.
“It has persisted, and I have learned that inquiries like this are incredibly important, as they are, as they give an opportunity for society to adjust the way that they see the problem, and deal with it, and provide public advice without it being sensationalised.
“You learn from everything that goes on. It has taught me a great deal about the way life operates.”
In summary Lady Smith found:
- A small number of staff at Loretto abused children
- Some children at Loretto engaged in abusive conduct towards other children.
- The abuse included sexual, physical and emotional abuse.
- Some children were groomed for sexual abuse.
- Guy Ray-Hills, a charismatic and flamboyant teacher at Loretto junior school, the Nippers, between 1951 and 1967, was a prolific sexual predator of junior and senior boys throughout his tenure. He groomed many children and established abusive sexual relationships with them. Some were one-offs, but others lasted for four years.
- Ray-Hills’s behaviour was widely known about by pupils. It was blatant and headmasters and other staff must also or ought to have known about it. He was the subject of a number of complaints from the 1950s onwards.
- The response by Loretto to the behaviour of Ray-Hills was woefully inadequate. He was allowed to continue working and was fêted for his teaching skills up to and after his departure from the school in 1967. Despite the nature and extent of his abuse being appreciated by Loretto, he was allowed to resign. He was not dismissed but he should have been.
- A teacher at Loretto, “Martin”, groomed a final year pupil in 2011 and then conducted a sexual relationship with her—including on school premises—over a four-year period. He had an obvious propensity to conduct himself inappropriately with female pupils and received a formal warning for his behaviour in 2014.
- It is likely that “Martin” also abused other girls.
- Four other teachers were reported to have touched children inappropriately or made sexual comments that were offensive and upsetting to pupils.
- Sexually abusive conduct by older children towards younger children was normalised in the all-male environment of the houses at Loretto. It was described “as an accepted part of life” by one applicant and was felt to be condoned by Loretto by another.
- There was a lack of oversight and review of the administration of corporal punishment by older boys over decades; that was a serious failing by the school.
- The system of empowering older boys at Loretto to discipline younger ones created a real risk of bullying and abuse which, in many cases, came to pass. Bullying, with associated physical abuse inflicted on younger boys by older boys, was a constant at Loretto throughout the 20th century.
- Bullying cultures were allowed to prevail because of staff complacency and a lack of supervision by them.
- The school’s reaction to a member of staff trying to prompt the headmaster to address bullying in 1991 was to dismiss the staff member and focus on protecting the school’s reputation.
- There was inadequate supervision by staff. Many did not notice or enquire with a view to checking on the welfare of their pupils. There was no formal system in place to ensure consistency in their approach to child welfare across the houses.
- Effective leadership was not consistently established and maintained. Whilst there were some excellent examples of good leadership, particularly after 1995, both senior and junior schools suffered from periods of poor leadership. Abuse was not detected or appropriately dealt with, and systems to protect children from abuse were not established. Complacency was common before 1995.
- Loretto’s employment practices were often poor. Teachers known to have abused children were allowed to resign and were given references by Loretto that failed to warn prospective employers of their behaviour. At best some were selective, lacking transparency and candour. At worst—in the case of Ray-Hills—one reference put children at risk as it encouraged the use of Ray-Hills’s services to provide one-to-one tuition in his own private accommodation.
- The current leaders of the school inspire confidence that Loretto is now committed to child protection, and that it has learnt and is keen to keep learning from its past mistakes.
- Loretto offered a genuine apology for the abuse experienced by children entrusted into their care, at both the junior and senior schools.
Lady Smith said: “I am very grateful to all who provided evidence in relation to this section of our boarding schools case study, whether former pupils, or former and current staff. Their contributions have been invaluable.
“I know they are likely to have found it difficult and challenging to engage with the Inquiry but they can be assured that I simply could not have reached these findings without their assistance.”