Pupils at Musselburgh's Loretto School suffered sexual, physical and emotional abuse, says inquiry

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Response to teacher described as ‘prolific sexual predator’ was ‘woefully inadequate’, says inquiry chairwoman

Pupils at Loretto School in Musselburgh were subjected to sexual, physical and emotional abuse, an inquiry has found. And the school’s response at the time to the behaviour of one teacher branded a “prolific sexual predator” was “woefully inadequate”, the inquiry chairwoman said.

Loretto, which is Scotland’s oldest boarding school, is one of a number of boarding schools investigated by the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry (SCAI) and evidence was explored at case study hearings. Publishing her findings about the school on Wednesday, inquiry chairwoman Lady Smith found some pupils suffered to physical, sexual and emotional abuse and that while some of them have learned to live with the impact, "for some, it has been and will be lifelong".

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She found that a small number of staff at Loretto abused children, including the late Guy Ray-Hills, a French teacher at Loretto junior school – known as “the Nippers” – between 1951 and 1967, who Lady Smith described as a "prolific sexual predator". He groomed many children and established abusive sexual relationships with them, some of which were one-offs but others lasted for four years, she found.

The abuse suffered at Loretto School in Musselburgh would have a lifelong impact on some pupils, said inquiry chairwoman Lday Smith.   Picture: Jane BarlowThe abuse suffered at Loretto School in Musselburgh would have a lifelong impact on some pupils, said inquiry chairwoman Lday Smith.   Picture: Jane Barlow
The abuse suffered at Loretto School in Musselburgh would have a lifelong impact on some pupils, said inquiry chairwoman Lday Smith. Picture: Jane Barlow

On Wednesday, Loretto School reaffirmed its "unreserved apology" and deep regret for the hurt and pain suffered, and said the well-being of pupils in its care remains its "highest priority". Lady Smith made clear that the current leaders of the school inspire confidence that Loretto is now committed to child protection, and it has learnt and is keen to keep learning from its past mistakes.

She said: "At the outset, I want to make it clear that I find there were many children who had positive experiences at Loretto and, in many ways, went on to have rewarding adult lives. Also, there is no doubt that the school has provided many children with a good education. However, not all children had positive experiences and amongst those who did, there were children who also suffered abuse.

"Children who boarded at Loretto were exposed to risks of sexual, physical and emotional abuse. For many, those risks materialised, and I have no doubt that children were abused whilst in Loretto's care."

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Lady Smith found the response by Loretto to the behaviour of Ray-Hills at the time was "woefully inadequate" and he was allowed to resign rather than being dismissed. The school has previously apologised for giving a good job reference to Ray-Hills after he left.

She also found that another teacher groomed a final year pupil, and four other teachers were reported to have touched children inappropriately or made sexual comments that were offensive and upsetting to pupils. The period covered in evidence ranged from 1948 to 2021, which is beyond the terms of reference of the inquiry which covers up to December 2014, but Lady Smith said it would have been wrong to curtail it.

Sexually abusive conduct by older children towards younger pupils was also normalised in the all-male environment of the houses at Loretto, Lady Smith said. She found there was a lack of oversight and review of the administration of corporal punishment by older boys over decades, which she described as a serious failing by the school. Lady Smith found bullying, with associated physical abuse inflicted on younger boys by older boys, was a constant at Loretto throughout the 20th century and bullying cultures were allowed to prevail because of staff complacency and a lack of supervision by them.

A Loretto spokesman said: "Today's report from the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry has been a stark reminder of the first-hand evidence given by those who survived abuse whilst pupils at Loretto. We found listening to the accounts from survivors at the time of the inquiry profoundly troubling, and reading Lady Smith's report reignites these feelings: much of the content is deeply disturbing. On behalf of the school, we reaffirm our unreserved apology and deep regret for the hurt and pain suffered.

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"Throughout the process of the inquiry, Loretto has acknowledged the testimony of the survivors, and fully recognises and respects the courage and the determination that they have shown. Our aim throughout has been to listen, learn and reflect and we will now continue to do so by considering the terms of Lady Smith's findings. As part of our ongoing work, Loretto remains open to hearing from, and continuing to learn from, survivors.

"We have worked hard to create an environment where every pupil, parent or member of staff can raise any concerns and know that they will be listened to and supported by appropriate action. We remain committed to this aim and the well-being of pupils in our care remains our highest priority. There can be no room for complacency. Whilst these findings focus on the period 1945-2021, and form an important milestone, they do not mark the end of our work. We strive to ensure that we get it right for every child."

The inquiry, which aims to raise public awareness of the abuse of children in care, is considering evidence up to December 17, 2014, and which is within the living memory of any person who suffered abuse.