ArtsEd announces further inquiry into ‘toxic culture’ allegations

Image above: ArtsEd on Bath Road in Chiswick

New investigation into alleged misconduct at ArtsEd

ArtsEd on Bath Road in Chiswick has announced a significant step in addressing persisting concerns over the institution’s governance and culture, following recent press reports highlighting an alleged ‘toxic culture’ within the schools. The Board of Trustees has mandated barrister Ghazaleh Rezaie from 12 Kings Bench Walk Chambers to investigate the allegations.

In a published statement ArtsEd said:

“These are serious allegations and do not reflect our values or the organisation we want to be…

“While it is up to Ms Rezaie to agree and finalise the Terms of Reference, we are keen that this investigation is as broad and inclusive as possible, and that people have the opportunity to make their voice heard. We are determined to establish a clear account of the events and identify lessons to be learned based on the findings.”

This move follows the investigation two years ago, which revealed a ‘sexualised environment’ within the organisation dating back to 2009. This investigation, led by barrister Rebecca Tuck KC, led to the resignation of former principal Chris Tucking. Subsequently, the Board implemented a series of safeguarding measures, including enhanced training and reinforced complaint procedures.

Image above: Julie Spencer was appointed Principal of the ArtsEd in 2021; Photograph ArtsEd

“I witnessed first-hand bullying of students and teachers”, says former staff member

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’.

The ArtsEd responded to the article by saying:

“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‘s report highlighted that most of the fresh complaints hadn’t been presented during the previous inquiry, indicating a new wave of grievances.

Former ArtsEd staff member Steven Kavuma told Deadline:

“I witnessed first-hand bullying towards students and teachers. I tried to challenge it within the school, but the principal would isolate you.

“I don’t think it is a safe environment to train. If students don’t feel comfortable challenging that within that school, if they feel fearful… I just don’t think that’s healthy at all. Some students felt like they had to be watching their backs constantly, they felt intimidated.”

ArtsEd says it has no record of Mr Kavuma making any complaints to HR and it is not known if the additional complaints outlined in the Deadline article are the reason for the latest inquiry being launched or if new issues have been raised.

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