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From Medway Today - June 26, 2001

Bully probe head to join Kent school  
By Nicola Jordan and Daniel McMillan
THE former headmaster of the world famous Westminster Abbey Choir School, who resigned amid allegations of bullying, has been given the job of running one of Kent's most prestigious schools.
Roger Overend, whose controversial four-year regime at the historic school was the subject of a special social services investigation, has been offered the post of headmaster of King's Preparatory School in Rochester.
The school caters for eight to 12 year-olds at fees of up to 3,800 a term.

Mr Overend, 48, left the choir school in February following the publication of the social services' report. But now Dr Ian Walker, the headmaster of King's School, says he stands by his decision to appoint Mr Overend.
He said: "We are fully aware of the circumstances surrounding his departure from Westminster Abbey Choir School, a fact which demonstrates that one cannot believe everything one reads in the newspapers.
"King's is delighted to have appointed such a talented, competent and caring teacher."

Inspectors from Westminster Social Services originally went into the school on a routine 12-day inspection, but following complaints from parents and pupils they undertook a three-month inquiry.
In their report, they said: "A minority of choristers reported that they were not or hardly ever bullied. Most reported that they are sometimes bullied and a minority that they are bullied often or most of the time. "Physical bullying, eg pinching, pushing and punching is mostly experienced by younger choristers.
"Most choristers reported verbal bullying, and reported it as being perpetrated by staff in particular, the headmaster or older pupils."
It adds: "The school has been under great stress for some time and measures now need to be taken to reassess attitudes and the culture which has developed."

The welfare report, which was welcomed by governors, was issued in January, shortly before Mr Overend's departure.
Dr Walker disputes the findings of the Westminster Social Services' report. He said: "It's not true that Mr Overend was asked to leave from Westminster Abbey Choir School and the claims that he bullied the pupils are not true."
"I spoke to the Dean of Westminster Abbey at some length. The report from the social services is not true. I have got my facts. I have spoken to current parents and with former head teachers who have worked with Mr Overend and with the Dean. I have the facts, the press do not."
"I do not believe there was any inappropriate or unprofessional behaviour while he was head teacher at Westminster."
"I could have appointed any one of a number of people who applied for the position but I chose Mr Overend because he is a good head teacher."

Mr Overend has been reported in the Daily Telegraph as saying he was "totally shocked' at being asked to resign from the ancient school. He said:"I was not sacked or suspended. It was so odd.

One parent, who withdrew his two sons from Westminster claiming they had been persistently bullied, said the was surprised Mr Overend had found another job just four months later. He said:"My eldest son used to be an outward, humorous, confident boy. Now he is withdrawn, twitchy, never laughs and bursts into tears. "The conditions at the choir school were worse than anything out of Dickens. Here we have a school, at the centre of the Church of England in the 21st century. In theory this sort of thing should never have been possible.' Another father quoted in The Daily Telegraph likened the school to Dotheboys Hall, the brutal boarding establishment in Charles Dickens' novel Nicholas Nickleby.
Mr Overend, a father of four, is due to take up his post in September when the current head Chris Nickless is standing down.

 

DR IAN WALKER: "Claims
that Roger Overend bullied pupils are not true"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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