Children sexually and physically abused at town boarding school, inquiry finds

Children were subjected to corporal punishment, bullying, physical violence and sexual abuse between 1945 and 2007.

Children sexually and physically abused at Morrison’s Academy in Crieff, Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry finds Google Maps

Children at Morrison’s Academy in Crieff were subjected to physical, emotional and sexual abuse for decades, the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry has found.

On Tuesday, Lady Smith, chair of the Inquiry, published her findings relating to the provision of residential care for children at Morrison’s Academy between 1945 and 2007.

Morrison’s was one of the schools investigated in the boarding schools case study and explored in evidence in the course of public hearings.

She concluded that children were abused at Morrison’s Academy and that the abuse was primarily physical and emotional, but there was also sexual abuse.

The inquiry found there was an excessive and inappropriate use of corporal punishment at the school, poorly run and managed boarding houses and a strong tradition and culture of not reporting abuse.

Lady Smith said this resulted in children being abused and deprived of what could have been – and should have been – positive childhood experiences of boarding at the school.

The inquiry also heard some children at Morrison’s Academy engaged in abusive conduct towards other children, including bullying and physical abuse. Prefects were found to have carried out corporal punishment, physical violence and emotional abuse towards children.

Meanwhile a few older pupils engaged in sexually abusive conduct against younger children in the boarding houses.

All three of the main boys’ houses – Academy, Dalmhor and Glenearn – were places where physical and emotionally abusive cultures were allowed to flourish for lengthy periods between the 1950s and the 1980s, the inquiry found.

Lady Smith said: “Children who boarded at Morrison’s were exposed to risks of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse. For many, those risks materialised, and children were abused. That abuse had long-term impact.

“For decades, Morrison’s harboured a culture of violence and emotional abuse. The abuse was primarily physical and emotional, but there was also sexual abuse.

“Some members of staff at Morrison’s abused children, both in the school and in the boarding houses. Corporal punishment was used excessively and inappropriately by staff. It was even used in advance of misbehaviour taking place. On occasion, teachers indulged in mass beatings.

“Morrison’s response to excessive and inappropriate corporal punishment was inadequate.”

Evidence relating to Morrison’s Academy was explored during case study hearings which took place between March 24, 2021 and May 12, 2021.

The Inquiry heard oral evidence and statements were also read in to evidence. Since hearings concluded, further evidence in the form of signed statements has been provided and it has been considered and taken into account in the preparation of these findings.

Lady Smith added: “When boarding was established at Morrison’s in 1880, the ability to educate children was assumed to include an ability to provide appropriate residential care for them. That was an erroneous assumption and it prevailed for much of the time boarding existed at the school.

“It was assumed that allowing teachers, and others, to operate private boarding houses, without apparent supervision or oversight, would be appropriate. That was not a safe assumption to make.

“Far too often, houses were poorly run and poorly managed by ill-equipped and inappropriate housemasters/housemistresses who allowed abuse to become endemic. Boarding houses were, until the 1990s, not subject to adequate oversight by the school management. They could operate as separate “fiefdoms” where the character of the house master or mistress determined the character of the house for good or ill.

“I am very grateful to all who rose to the challenge of engaging with the Inquiry, whether former pupils, former staff, or others. Their willingness to cooperate, assist, and contribute accounts of their experiences was welcome and invaluable.”

Morrison’s Academy, which became a day school in 2007, said it “sincerely apologises” for historic failings during the decades it functioned as a boarding school.

David Glen, chair of the board of Morrison’s Academy, added: “We accept the findings of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry in full.

“Morrison’s Academy would like to reiterate our gratitude to the former pupils who came forward and gave evidence to the Inquiry. We were deeply saddened by their accounts of historic abuse and we commend them for their bravery and strength in coming forward. 

“Morrison’s Academy has supported the important work of the Inquiry since 2017 and we sincerely hope the contributions that the school and our former pupils have made will help improve pupil safeguarding practices across the breadth of the education sector.

Morrison’s Academy is committed to learning from the past and ensuring the continued welfare and safeguarding of pupils.”

Lady Smith has now published 11 sets of findings, most recently in relation to Child Migration, the abuse of pupils at Loretto School and now, the abuse of pupils at Morrison’s Academy.

Lady Smith’s findings in relation to other boarding schools case studies will follow.

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