Arts Ed parents demand answers as principal faces allegations of bullying

Image above: Arts Ed, Chiswick; School music production from February

School facing period of uncertainty after allegations made against principal

ArtsEd is facing a period of uncertainty after allegations of bullying and misconduct at the Chiswick drama and musical theatre schools. ArtsEd has a day school, which charges up to £6,000 per term, and a degree school. Julie Spencer is the overall principal of both schools.

The publication Deadline published an investigation into allegations of bullying at ArtsEd, on 6 November, in which it said:

‘As part of a five-month investigation, Deadline has spoken to more than two dozen people linked to ArtsEd and reviewed internal emails and written testimonies from students and ex-staffers. Some of these sources described a “toxic” culture in which student wellbeing has continued to be put at risk’.

Their report comes two years after the previous principal Chris Hocking left after an investigation by Rebecca Tuck KC, who found ArtsEd had fostered a “sexualized environment” and demonstrated a “lack of regard” for the wellbeing of students, exposing them to favouritism and bullying.

READ ALSO: ArtsEd principal resigns after report reveals school’s ‘sexualised environment’

ArtsEd Principal Julie Spencer

Julie Spencer was promoted to be the new principal and a programme of training introduced to put things right.

ArtsEd told Deadline it strongly disputed the suggestion of a “toxic” and unsafe culture and said the welfare of those who study at the school is its “highest priority.” A spokesperson told them:

“Many of the complaints raised relate to historic matters that occurred prior to the Rebecca Tuck KC review in 2021. While we have been unequivocal in accepting the cultural and leadership failings that were identified in the Tuck review, we have also made considerable progress to put things right in the last two years.”

Deadline maintains their reporting covers the period of Julie Spencer’s tenure as Principal: Deadline Investigation

The Chiswick Calendar has also heard from parents at the school that they are concerned about the current principal’s leadership style. Concerns were first raised in the summer term when questions were being asked about why the head teacher of the day school, Matthew Bulmer, had not been seen in school since February.

Parents complained that he was absent and the school had offered no explanation, while he was appearing on Instagram enjoying life with his family, so clearly nothing untoward had happened to him. A new head teacher took over in September but they say they were still not offered any explanation as to why Mr Bulmer had ‘gone missing’.

READ ALSO: New head at ArtsEd day school wants better links with the community

The Chiswick Calendar has asked the school to comment on this but was told ArtsEd would be making no comment about it.

Posting on the social media platform X, formerly Twitter, Steven Kavuma, a former ArtsEd teacher commented on the most recent allegations:

“Still nothing from ArtsEd… They have not created an anonymous reporting system where past/present students and staff can come forward. They have not started a formal investigation. The board needs to prioritise the safety & well-being of students & staff.”

The day school has now had an Ofsted inspection, which it has been expecting since May. Inspectors turned up last week and the school is expecting the outcome of their report.

Meanwhile parents have banded together to raise their concerns with the principal. The majority of parents across the day school have expressed their concern and demanded answers.

In a letter sent to every member of ArtsEd’s board of trustees, more than 100 parents said the institution’s response to the accusations against principal Julie Spencer had been “inadequate and unsatisfactory.”

The failure to communicate was “disrespectful” and parents and students “deserve much better” from the school.

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