School play re­search prompts abuse claims

The Daily Telegraph - - News - By Camilla Turner ed­u­ca­tion edi­tor

A LEAD­ING girls’ school is fac­ing sex abuse al­le­ga­tions af­ter its drama depart­ment asked alum­nae to con­trib­ute to­wards a “real-life” Ed­in­burgh Fes­ti­val Fringe play on the sub­ject.

Two for­mer pupils of St Paul’s Girls’ School, in Ham­mer­smith, west London, have made al­le­ga­tions about historical sex­ual abuse.

Sarah Fletcher, high mis­tress at the £24,000-a-year school, wrote to alum­nae this week to tell them that she had asked the lo­cal au­thor­ity des­ig­nated of­fi­cer to carry out an in­de­pen­dent safe­guard­ing in­spec­tion at the school, af­ter the claims.

Her let­ter, seen by The Daily Tele­graph, said the school had been told by ex­pupils about al­le­ga­tions of “past sex­ual abuse at St Paul’s”. This month, Liza Coutts, the school’s di­rec­tor of drama, emailed ex-stu­dents about a piece of “ver­ba­tim/doc­u­men­tary the­atre based on real-life ac­counts of sex­ual ha­rass­ment and as­sault”. They were in­vited to give an anony­mous in­ter­view about their ex­pe­ri­ences, to be used as re­search for the pro­duc­tion.

Ms Fletcher’s let­ter stated: “Two wrote from per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence, oth­ers about what they had heard from friends. The al­le­ga­tions re­late to a pe­riod span­ning from the Sev­en­ties to the Nineties.”

The school, whose alum­nae in­clude Rachel Weisz, the ac­tress, and Su­sanna Reid, the Good Morn­ing Bri­tain pre­sen­ter, is one of the coun­try’s best per­form­ers.

A school spokesman said: “We can con­firm that the school re­cently re­ceived some al­le­ga­tions of past abuse. We take any in­for­ma­tion of this na­ture ex­tremely se­ri­ously and have passed all the de­tails im­me­di­ately to the rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties.”

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