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Private Eye Issue 1025 6th April 2001


YET more wailing and gnashing of teeth at Westminster Abbey, thanks to the singular management style of the dean, Dr Wesley Carr (Eyes passim).

As dean of Bristol he sacked the organist and cathedral school head; as dean of Westminster he first fired the organist, and now the headmaster of the 37-pupil abbey choir school. This latest "resignation", however, broke the mould in that Carr fought to prevent it.

For months Dr Carr, as chairman of governors, robustly defended his headmaster against allegations of bullying and assured a succession of worried parents that they were alone in their concerns. The press was told that there had been an inquiry into an "isolated incident" connected with "the headmaster's criticism of a pupil"; his leadership of the school was strongly endorsed.

Following four pupil withdrawals, yet more complaints and a recruitment crisis, Carr was finally persuaded that the head, Roger Overend, had to go. This was reinforced by a long-awaited Westminster council social services report which concluded that there had been a history of oppressive discipline; it also made clear that parents' concerns had been put to the dean "at earlier times".

A discreet and expensive deal was formulated; Carr announced that "for personal reasons", and to the governors' regret, Mr Overend had resigned and an acting head had been recruited. The abbey, and the parents, hoped the school was on the mend at last.

On his arrival new head John Curtis arranged a meeting to introduce himself to parents. Among their number was one R. Overend - in his capacity as stepfather to two choristers. Choosing his moment, he announced to the assembled company that he had not resigned, he had been sacked, and pointed a finger at those of his supposed tormentors still remaining among the parents.

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