Discouraging boarding school pupils from reporting abuse was a disgrace – headmaster
The headmaster of a military boarding school has said discouraging pupils from reporting abuse was a disgrace, as he offered an apology to those affected.
Donald Shaw, of Queen Victoria School (QVS) in Dunblane, was giving evidence to the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry on Wednesday when he told how he had mistakenly presumed the investigation would just be about adult sexual assaults on children.
He told how it was then through reading witness statements that he became aware of “significant” potential instances of peer-on-peer abuse during the school’s history.
Mr Shaw said: “Abuse does come in many forms and no matter the form, one case of abuse in a school is one case too many.
“I would like to offer my appreciation to anyone who has now come forward.
“It’s an incredibly hard thing to do but it’s also an incredibly brave thing to do.
“I would also like to say sorry, sorry to anyone who has experienced abuse at QVS and their life has been tarnished.”
He went on to offer former pupils an opportunity to visit the school grounds to receive an apology in person and also see how life at the premises currently operates.
The inquiry heard there were five allegations made about abuse at the school between 1908 and 2014, although there were no criminal convictions.
Mr Shaw said this number does not “accurately reflect the historic peer-on-peer abuse” which may have occurred.
He described a previous culture at the school which “failed to allow” adequate opportunities for youngsters to reports such incidents.
He said: “Children were discouraged from reporting abuse and that’s appalling.
“There was a systemic failure which failed to allow children adequate opportunities to report abuse they were experiencing and also they had to suffer in silence – that’s a disgrace.”
Mr Shaw added that by reading documents he was able to say there may have been “significant peer-on-peer abuse” at some time.
It was heard he had changed some policies at the school to improve the safeguarding of children.
He said when he was at the school as head of maths in 2007, former pupils were found to be drinking alcohol on the grounds.
This led to the then senior management introducing new visiting rules and the site is now alcohol-free.
Mr Shaw, who has been headmaster since 2016, said he is confident in the school’s handling of abuse and wrongdoing.
He added he feel they sometimes “overreported”, but would rather that was the approach.
The first phase of the inquiry looking into boarding schools has now concluded.
Phase two, before judge Lady Smith in Edinburgh, is due to begin in May.
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