Course leader suspended by Conservatoire of Scotland amid review into ‘bullying’

Course leader suspended by Conservatoire of Scotland amid review into bullying
Course leader suspended by Conservatoire of Scotland amid review into bullying
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The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland has vowed to act after an independent review of one of its leading degree programmes highlighted allegations of “bullying, favouritism and misuse of authority”.

It is understood Professor Deborah Richardson-Webb, who leads the contemporary performance practice course in the institution’s school of drama, has been suspended pending an investigation.

The suspension took place prior to the publication of the review by Professor George Caird, a music educationalist, and Danielle Chavrimootoo, director of the Dorcas Inclusive Education consultancy.

They said that the culture of the course had been “brought down” by “alleged inappropriate and unchallenged behaviours” which created an environment in which “students are unable to work together”.

The institution, which counts Hollywood stars James McAvoy and Richard Madden among its alumni, said a “full action plan” addressing the issues raised in the review will be developed.

Mr Caird and Ms Chavrimootoo concluded that there was extensive criticism of the course, with some respondents of the view that it “over-reaches appropriate boundaries of behaviour, favouring some students over others and undermining the confidence of many students.” However, in a sign of how the course “sharply divides opinion,” they added that others regarded it as a “unique programme run with vision, invention and great social awareness”.

They added: “Despite a body of supportive opinion about the [head of programme], there is a significant weight of critical opinion, much of it very strong and over a considerable period of time, to give grounds for concern for the programme and its students.”

The review makes a range of recommendations, including a review of its complaints handling procedure, and the “active” discouragement of offensive stereotyping of any person or group.

Professor Jeffrey Sharkey, principal of the RCS, described the course as “rightly challenging”.

He said: ‘This is a thorough and thoughtful review. A full action plan to respond to the issues it raises will now be developed.

“We will also continue to nurture this valued programme and the students who undertake it.

“This is a groundbreaking programme with a committed community of staff, students and alumni. It and they are an important part of Scotland’s and the international artistic ecosystem.”

Ms Richardson-Webb was not available for comment.