Bournemouth and Poole College and the Wessex Youth Orchestra: uncomfortable evidence (3: perceived bullying and an unhealthy culture at WYO)

(Post made at 0840 GMT on 9 Dec 2018 in a personal capacity.  Please see here for important background and disclosure of interests). This is a follow up to this post.

This is another part of the evidence that I presented to the College and the “Independent Investigator” during my formal complaint of May 2017.  Evidence which the investigator (from View HR Ltd) again appears to have completely ignored: the report dismissing the complaint stated that “All allegations raised by Patrick have not been corroborated by witnesses interviewed and no witnesses have been willing to step forward to provide any evidence in support of his allegations”.  That is hardly surprising given the biased process the investigator followed:

The investigator closed the investigation before interviewing the parents or the children concerned, despite my having provided their contact details, with their permission, as with other witnesses. The investigator also disregarded the email evidence I had provided, on the highly dubious grounds that “email communication invariably results in misinterpretation as there is no body language to support its content”.  In that case, why didn’t the investigator interview these witnesses? And courts rely on written evidence including emails very much.

Extract about perceived bullying of children and staff, from “Formal complaint with items numbered for clarity and ease of reference” dated 26 June 2017 and sent to the College and “Independent Investigator”.  The numbering of paragraphs is from that email:

Extract from formal complaint email sent to College

Several parents and teachers have expressed concern to me over the fear that WYO players have within the WYO.

Parent 1 (I have their permission to refer to this):in an email of 8 January 2016 to [two staff members at the Bournemouth and Poole College], headed“After much deliberation [Child’s name] has decided to stop WYO – this is why…”.

See the email for full details, but here are the relevant extracts:

3. (Complaint re [WYO] actions) WYO was “unacceptably rude” to child, child was upset by WYO’s 

“general bullying to both [child], and child’s colleagues”. “Utterly insulting”, “countless examples of outbursts and shocking things said to various members of the orchestra … and I know I am not the only concerned parent.”.  “Constant undermining of some orchestra members”. 

4. (Complaint re WYO actions)

 “Inappropriate language (‘Man-up’, ‘Don’t play like a girl’), potentially damaging to girls in the orchestra”. “Inappropriate outbursts have driven multiple musicians out of the orchestra.” “Drilling of fear” “Young people are unhealthily stressed, petrified.”

5. (Complaint re WYO’s actions) Child “felt bad having to leave school production rehearsal [where child had lead part] early to get to orchestra.” (This was on a Friday night in July, so an extra WYO rehearsal which [the WYO] claims the children are not put under any pressure to attend, yet the child clearly felt under pressure to do so, and this clearly affected an important school rehearsal late in the term).

6. (Complaint re WYO’s actions) WYO insulted the parent in front of the child. The parent put this in bold:

Out of any one who has EVER met [Child], from every school, project, camp, family, no-one has never had a bad word to say about [him/her] … let alone be rude, and to insult me to [her/his] face, which would be upsetting for any child”

7. (Complaint re WYO’s actions) Note that the email from Parent 1 also refers to another situation where another child, following an “attack” by [WYO] resulting in tears, “defended her/himself for as long as he/she could” then left the orchestra immediately after the tour.

8. (Complaint re WYO’s actions) Parent 2 [I have their permission to refer to this): verbally to me, after receiving an email dated 20 Sep 2016 at 21:31:59 BST from WYO entitled “Re: [Child’s Name] – WYO Application”:

“We found [WYO] response to be an absolute insult, and we have been so upset that we have been unable to bring ourselves to reply, despite trying to start doing so several times.”

Note that both these parents, despite feeling extremely upset (and withdrawing their children from the Centre), were unwilling to make a formal complaint, which is an indication of the unhealthy climate of intimidation/fear that has prevailed within the WYO, as referred to below.

9. (Evidence) Parent 3 (not prepared to go on the record, for obvious reasons):

“I am very unhappy at what has happened to [member of staff 2], but don’t want to say anything because I have a child in the WYO and I’m worried that [WYO] will take it out on [child] because [redacted].”

10. (Evidence, Parent 4 , redacted but using an expression implying significant pressure and an atmosphere of fear).

11. (Evidence, also complaint about WYO’s actions) Member of staff 1 (not my wife), in a message on 10 Sep 2017 to me and the SWYM Treasurer: expressed extreme upset at an email received from [WYO].  What did [WYO] say in that email that upset the member of staff so much? 

12. (Evidence, also complaint about WYO’s actions) Member of staff 2 (disclosure of interest: my wife): you will be aware that [WYO’s] behaviour towards my wife is currently the subject of one or more formal complaint(s).  Some aspects of this are relevant here, particularly the unreliability of several statements made by [WYO], and [WYO] lack of accountability or compliance with College policies, so I refer to those aspects below.  I also share the concerns about the intimidatory, overbearing and unfair style of [WYO] management of staff.

SWYM Committee members

I wrote to the non ex-Officio Committee members on 7 October 2016 to express my unease at [WYO] overbearing treatment of staff and in particular of member of staff 1, who had expressed intense exasperation with [WYO] to me.   Here are some of the comments I received (the bold emphasis is mine):

13. (Evidence) Committee member 1:

“I fully support your view and how you intend to deal with it.  I saw [member of staff 1] today and [he/she] is certainly ‘stressed’ with the way [WYO] assumes [he/she] will just carry on and do [WYO] ‘bidding’.… [redacted]  has performed brilliantly but [his/her] people management is not good”.

14. (Evidence) Committee member 2

“I have felt for some considerable time that [redacted] has had far too much say in what happens at CWYM.  We are all aware of the idea that [redacted] believes [he/she] is in charge, whereas [line manager] is ultimately in charge….  We, as a committee are simply a tool to pass through ‘on the nod’ anything [he/she] wants to happen with no knowledge of the costs involved, other than [SWYM Treasurer] and probably [member of staff] and yourself.  I have never been comfortable with that idea but have felt constrained by [child name] being there to be overly critical – ‘just in case’, and that is wrong.”

 (and a couple of days later):

“Has the committee ever told [redacted] [he/she] can’t do something?  I suspect not, for two reasons. One they don’t want to jeopardise their own children’s  situation (something I mentioned in my last email)and secondly because they don’t fully understand what’s going on.” 

 (I replied saying that as far as I was concerned, no part of the SWYM finances was confidential, except the identity of bursary recipients).

(Evidence) Committee member 3:

 ”Thank you for letting us know your intentions.. I fully support your views.. the last committee meeting was awful. I really felt for [member of staff 1] and wanted to say something at the time.. but didn’t feel it was my place to… also I felt for [redacted] as well….”.

(Evidence) Committee member 4:

 “I have only just read your email below and can fully understand your concerns particularly regarding the [member of staff 1 and WYO etc]. I believe that you are respected by current committee members.   Your time and devotion  to the centre is highly thought of and should not be underestimated (well by me anyway).  You are a good chairperson.”

End of extract

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