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Luke Jennings

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  1. Thanks Geoff. The impression they gave me is that they want to know about everything. You definitely shouldn't feel that your concerns have passed their sell-by date. Give them a ring!
  2. I've just had a conversation with Mandy Burrows (Richmond LADO). She told me that while she will always be contactable about child safeguarding issues, she's going to have to decide on a cut-off point for issues relating to WL, in order to process information received and decide on a course of action. I will post the date when I have it, but it's likely to be in a couple of weeks. So it's vital that anyone with anything to contribute, whether current or historical, gets in touch with Mandy as soon as possible. The more information she has, the more effectively she can act. I'm told that some parents and pupils are still worried that it will "get out" that they've spoken up. It won't, the process is 100% confidential. Mandy's contact details are on my original post.
  3. Dear friends, I have been approached by Aqualma Daniel at Westminster Social Services. She asked me to pass on that any RB Upper School students or parents affected by issues raised in my London Review of Books piece should contact the Westminster LADO (Local Authority Designated Officer) at LADO@westminster.gov.uk. Emails should be headed for the attention of Aqualma Daniel. She says that pupils and/or parents should not hesitate to approach her as soon as possible about any relevant experiences, whether current or historical.
  4. I've spoken to two LADOs now (Westminster and Richmond) and both emphasise that they are keen to know of historic as well as current cases at schools. The child does not have to be at the school any longer, or even to have been there recently. So you don't miss your chance, so to speak, when your child leaves. It's never too late. Every letter, email and phone call helps the LADOs build up a picture of an institution. The more they know, the more effectively they can act.
  5. It's wholly appalling that, as a parent, a school should make you feel isolated and afraid. All of this must change. I talked to one ex-WL student, an animal lover, who remembers lying in her dormitory bed listening to the rifle shots as the deer were culled outside in Richmond Park. This cull (which happens at night, to spare the sensibilities of the public), occurs at much the same time as the school's assessments, and as she lay there she couldn't help being aware of the parallels.
  6. Thanks for your comment, cotes du rhone, but with respect, it is not 'my' net to cast. I take it that you mean that I should look at the conditions at other ballet schools, but in truth it's precisely this assumption that someone else should take charge that allows problems to become embedded. Parents should understand that if their children are in trouble, they are the ones who need to act. They need to communicate problems to each other and to the schools, and to insist that they are heard. This doesn't happen for various reasons. Parents can be intimidated by the major ballet establishments. They are persuaded that the schools 'know best'. They don't want to seem 'difficult'. They worry that complaining or intervening will count against their child. All of this is understandable, but it leads to issues not being addressed. A significant factor is that that the children (and by extension the parents), are perceived as being in competition with each other. My child's doing fine, so I'm not going to stick my neck out for yours. Or my child is having a hard enough time as it is, so I''m not going to endanger him/her by taking a stand for yours. And so on. This Darwinian atmosphere, exacerbated by 'assessing out' systems, has no place in contemporary schooling. My personal opinion is that having selected a child at age eleven, a ballet school should commit to that decision and that child until he/she is sixteen, at least. They should provide ballet classes but also a broad-spectrum artistic education, so that those who do not go on to be professional dancers can receive a grounding that will inspire and enable them to go on to other paths in dance, as choreographers, directors, designers, teachers etcetera. The current system makes pupils fearful and compliant, and creative artists are neither of these things. To return to my point: it is not for me to cast any net. It is for parents to inform themselves, to get together, to support each other, and to insist together on the changes they want to see. If one child is having a bad time, that should be the concern of all the parents in the cohort. Backstairs whispering and online hand-wringing accomplish nothing.
  7. Dear Friends, Some months ago I was approached by the London Review of Books to write an essay about the Royal Ballet and its schools in the wake of the tragic death of Liam Scarlett. That piece came out last month, and can be found here. In the course of researching the piece I spoke to a number of Royal Ballet dancers and present and former RBS pupils and parents. Many of them had strong feelings about the culture of the institution, and in particular about the negative and lasting effects of certain aspects of the White Lodge experience. After the piece came out I was contacted by Mandy Burrows, who is the LADO (Local Authority Designated Officer) for the Kingston and Richmond Safeguarding Children Partnership. Ms Burrows would like to hear from past and present parents and pupils of White Lodge who have experienced, witnessed, or been affected by the issues described in the LRB piece. These issues include bullying, belittling, body-shaming, undue pressurising, and other forms of behaviour (ie sexually inappropriate or abusive) damaging to children. She and her team, who liaise with the police, intend to make an assessment of current and historic issues at the school. Ms Burrows stressed that those speaking to her or her team will be doing so in complete confidence. To contact Mandy Burrows and her team call the LADO line: 0777 4332 675 email: LADO@achievingforchildren.org.uk
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