Gordonstoun headteacher apologises to child abuse victims at inquiry

Gordonstoun headteacher apologises to child abuse victims at inquiry

October 15, 2021

Gordonstoun head apologises to abuse victims and says hearing their stories has been ‘deeply painful’ as she tells child abuse inquiry it has been ‘difficult but crucial’ to face up to the prestigious boarding school’s past

  • The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry (SCAI) heard evidence from people abused by staff and other pupils at the £13,000-a-term school in Moray, Scotland
  • Current principal Lisa Kerr says the school has appointed ‘wellbeing watchers’ among pupils and was promoting a telling culture to ensure pupil safety
  • Gordonstoun is one of seven boarding schools being investigated by the inquiry 

Lisa Kerr, the new principal of Gordonstoun school pictured arriving at The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry in March this year

Hearing victims’ stories of past abuse at Gordonstoun boarding school has been ‘deeply painful’, its current principal Lisa Kerr has told an inquiry.

Ms Kerr said she apologised unreservedly for those who had been failed by Gordonstoun, saying it had been ‘difficult but crucial’ to face up to the school’s past.

The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry (SCAI) has been hearing evidence from people who experienced abuse by staff and other pupils at the prestigious boarding school in Moray, Scotland.

Ms Kerr gave evidence to Lady Smith’s inquiry for a second time on Friday.

Andrew Brown QC, counsel to the inquiry, noted Ms Kerr had been present in the public gallery during the last week of evidence sessions, where former pupils of Gordonstoun had described the abuse and the impact it had on them.

The principal said: ‘It has been deeply painful, not just over the last six days, but the last six months of engagement with the inquiry.

‘From the first report of non-recent abuse to the school, it has been devastating for people who spend their time working to keep people safe and happy to face up to the behaviour and abuse of the past which is so alien to that culture.’

Ms Kerr is the first ever female principal of Gordonstoun School, in Moray, Scotland, which has been attended by several members of the Royal Family 

She said she acknowledged that Gordonstoun had not always got its response to reports of abuse right, adding, ‘it has been difficult but crucial to face up to that history’.

‘Every school should do what we are doing,’ she continued.

‘Really feeling what pupils at Gordonstoun experienced in the past strengthens our resolve to make sure it doesn’t happen again.’

The inquiry has heard from several former pupils who described cases of rape and sexual abuse which took place in the 1980s and earlier decades.

Ms Kerr, who became principal in 2017, discussed the latest steps that the school had been taking to ensure pupil safety.

Gordonstoun is one of seven boarding schools currently being investigated by The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry (SCAI)

As well as staff training in child protection, she said the school had appointed ‘wellbeing watchers’ among pupils and was promoting a ‘telling culture’.

She said the school had engaged with Strathclyde University’s Celcis organisation to help shape its approach to those who had reported past abuse.

Mr Brown QC asked her about a request from a victim, John Findlay, for Gordonstoun to set up a trust fund to help those affected by abuse at the school access treatment.

Mr Findlay, who gave evidence earlier this week, has said the school has a ‘moral obligation’ to provide help.

Ms Kerr said she would meet with Mr Findlay next month to discuss the issue, adding: ‘There are a range of complexities that mean that idea might not be as simple as it might appear.

‘Since hearing John’s testimony, we have reopened dialogue with our insurers as to what might be possible.’

Pictured in 2017, Lady Smith, the Chair of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry

In her closing remarks to the inquiry, Ms Kerr said: ‘It’s been devastating to see the impact of the abuse at Gordonstoun has had on them.

‘I’m deeply sorry and apologise unreservedly for the fact they were failed by Gordonstoun and those charged with their care.

‘I feel a great sense of regret and sadness that I am principal of a school where those things happened.

‘But I also feel a great sense of pride in having a team that works so hard for children.’

‘Gordonstoun is famous for its links with the royal family, with both the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Edinburgh having attended.’

The SCAI has now finished hearing evidence on Gordonstoun and from next week will examine the Queen Victoria boarding school in Dunblane.

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