Sunday, 17 Jan 2021

Top ballet schools closes after being rocked by sex abuse allegations

One of Britain’s top ballet schools closes after being rocked by sex abuse allegations against vice principal from 60 ex-pupils, staff and teachers

  • Ballet West in Taynuilt has closed after being rocked by sex abuse allegations
  • 60 ex-pupils, staff and teachers made accusations against vice-principal 
  • Jonathan Barton resigned from the school while police launched investigation

One of Britain’s top ballet schools has closed after being rocked by sex abuse allegations and has gone into liquidation.

Ballet West in Taynuilt, Arygll, charged £9,000 a year and was partnered with universities across the UK.

But allegations from 60 former pupils, staff and parents about teacher and vice-principal Jonathan Barton, 38, the son of principal Gillian Barton, emerged in an ITV investigation amid claims of inappropriate touching and grooming.

Mr Barton resigned and his mother was suspended, while Police Scotland have launched an investigation.

Detectives are probing allegations made by students at Ballet West in Taynuilt, Argyll, (pictured) as one senior staff member quit and another employee was suspended

In the course of this month, educational partners including the University of Bath which accounted for 70 per cent of students, cut ties.

And it has been announced that liquidators have been appointed, while an independent inquiry headed by a QC which was promised has been scrapped due to lack of funds.

A provisional liquidator was appointed at Oban Sheriff Court and the process of winding up will begin, meaning the school will be closed.

Liquidator French Duncan LLP was appointed.

Allegations from 60 former pupils, staff and parents about teacher and vice-principal Jonathan Barton (pictured above) emerged in an ITV investigation amid claims of inappropriate touching and grooming

A statement said: ‘From today Ballet West’s financial affairs and operational responsibility will the managed by the Provisional liquidator, and all business activities including residential and outreach activities will cease or be wound-down immediately.

‘The Trustees of the charity were required to make an application at Oban Sheriff Court due to the recent decisions of some key customers and partner organisations, as the business was no longer financially viable. The charity regulator has also been informed.

Aware of the recent allegations in the press about individuals and activities at Ballet West, the liquidator will of course assist and make available any information to both Police Scotland and any other regulatory bodies.

‘The Board of Trustees is deeply saddened by this outcome and appalled parent and students have been placed in such a terrible situation. This is the consequence of a catastrophic sequence of events and we could not prevent this from happening.

‘We were advised by email late Sunday evening August 9 that ITN had made allegations as a result of which the Vice-Principal tendered his resignation on Tuesday, August 11 which the Board immediately accepted.

‘Immediate action was required in response, and the Board launched an internal inquiry, committed to an external inquiry and informed Police Scotland.

‘These allegations which were broadcast on Thursday, August 13, were shocking.

‘On Friday August 14, we were informed that Bath Spa University was terminating its relationship with Ballet West with immediate effect.

‘This was devastating news for students and the ballet school as Bath Spa students accounted for nearly 70 per cent of the student intake.

‘Further to this, we were informed that the Royal Academy of Dance withdrew their accreditation and on Thursday, August 20, that the Scottish Qualification Authority had given us notice of termination for the HNC/HND courses at the school.

‘In short, these developments rendered the business of Ballet West unviable.

‘Every option was explored to secure funding or alternative partners to support courses.

‘These efforts were in vain and the Board was legally bound but to inform the charity regulator, OSCR, that Ballet West was on the brink of insolvency.

‘We are immensely grateful for the support of many students, former students, parents and staff as we battled to secure the future of the school, but we were dealt one blow after another.

Ballet West has closed after being rocked by sex abuse allegations and has gone into liquidation (stock image)

‘In addition to our own internal inquiries, on which we gave an update to parents last week, we agreed to instruct an independent QC to conduct an external investigation.

‘Due to the liquidation, the funding is not now available for that to proceed and that is a matter of deep regret.

‘As a Board, we endeavoured to investigate the allegations regarding the Vice Principal and Principal, who is suspended from her post, as fully as possible in the short time available and we have told Police Scotland that we will make all possible information available to them.

‘We will also do the same with any regulatory bodies. We wholeheartedly support the police investigation.

‘We are, however, now constrained by these investigations on what we can comment on publicly.

‘We are deeply sorry that any student should have felt that the school had failed them, and we urge anyone who has a complaint to report this to Police Scotland or any relevant body.

‘The reputation for ballet excellence that Ballet West enjoyed was built on the talent and commitment of students and staff.

‘We can only hope that those who see their future in ballet and the performing arts can find a route to realise their hopes and ambitions.’

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