A PLANNED alumni day at the Blue Coat School, Birmingham, was cancelled by the governors last year after a former pupil who is a survivor of child sexual abuse bought a ticket, email correspondence seen by the Church Times suggests.
The survivor, Julian Whiting, alleges that he was abused by a pupil and two housemasters of the church-founded school when he was a pupil there in the 1970s. Neither adult was a cleric. A police investigation into his case concluded in 2002, and no further actions or charges were made.
In 2012, however, Mr Whiting approached the Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Revd David Urquhart, who is President of Blue Coat School, for pastoral support (News, 26 July 2019). And, in October 2014, after further complaints from Mr Whiting, the school settled his claim.
In an exchange with the Bursar, Gareth Morgan, dated April 2019, the director of external communications, Jenny Dredger, expresses concern that Mr Whiting had bought a ticket for £25 to the Old Scholars event.
She writes on 16 April: “I might need some help, just seen that Julian Whiting has registered for the Old Scholar’s reunion in June.”
Mr Morgan responds that he would take advice from the lawyers of the school’s insurer.
Ms Dredger replies: “He [Mr Whiting] wasn’t invited as he isn’t on our database or Facebook group, but I understand that another old scholar shared the event on his personal account, and he came to know about it. I would definitely want to ask his intentions ahead of the event.”
A week later Ms Dredger writes to another colleague at the school requesting that the whole event be cancelled, and the ticket-holders reimbursed “due to an unforeseen problem. I need to refund everyone but don’t do that yet as I need to explain, please just remove the page. . . It is a bit of a sensitive issue due to one of the people that has bought a ticket.”
Mr Whiting was shown the email correspondence after sending a Subject Access Request (SAR) to the school. He complained to the Bursar about the content and tone of the emails and asked for compensation. He wrote: “It is deeply distressing to read such a deeply offensive derisory report about me to others within your network who may have been unfamiliar with all the circumstances of my reports of abuse.”
Mr Morgan replied in a formal letter: “I have spoken to Mr Singleton, chair of the Governors, and I would advise that the school is of the opinion that we have dealt fully with your Subject Access Request and have nothing further to add.”
Mr Whiting said this week: “I was encouraged by a former pupil to attend the reunion, and I went on to encourage another survivor [to attend]. We were not consulted as former pupils about the reasons for them cancelling the event. They were cruel then and cruel even now.
“I was genuinely looking forward to meeting old scholars and taking a trip down memory lane to try and make some sense of the past with a fresh set of eyes and spirit.”
Mr Morgan said on Tuesday: “We did, indeed, cancel an alumni event last year; however, this was primarily due to the lack of tickets purchased. However, there were also some reservations about holding the event due to the previous behaviour of Mr Whiting, where he sought to disrupt school events by demonstrating at the front of the school.
“We are sorry for any distress caused to Mr Whiting by reading the contents of his Subject Access Request. Going forward, I have now agreed with Mr Whiting that he would be welcome to attend future events.”