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The Aquatic Centre street level of Cranbrook School. Picture: NCA Newswire

Cranbrook responds to Old School

The Cranbrook School council has hit back at claims made in Monday night's ABC Four Corners program, that the school has a history of sexual abuse and misconduct among staff and students, declaring that it handles disputes with “care and confidentially” and supports the principal. 

The episode, ‘Old School’, included interviews with former staff and students who made allegations of bullying, sexual assault and sexual harassment at the private Sydney schools.

The school’s council, led by president Geoff Lovell, issued a statement several hours after the program aired. 

The council threw its support behind headmaster Nicholas Sampson and the school’s leadership team. 

“The council has considered in detail the matters raised by the ABC and remains fully supportive of the headmaster and the school’s leadership,” the statement said. 

“Cranbrook takes all allegations of abuse, and its duty of care to its students, extremely seriously and follows relevant and mandatory reporting processes in relation to these matters.

“We acknowledge survivors and their stories.” 

Fees to attend the top school located at Bellevue Hill are up to $46,497 for domestic year 12 students. 

The episode, by ABC reporter Louise Milligan, detailed allegations former female staff made of being sexually harassed by colleagues and students, and then not being supported by school management.

“Many female staff have left the school, bewildered at their treatment, investigations have been launched, nondisclosure agreements signed, settlements paid,” Ms Milligan said. 

In the report she said the program had “obtained multiple letters and documents from former Cranbrook staff members describing a toxic culture.” 

Former female staff members alleged school boys would make sexual noises as they walked past them in the playground and that students would gift them inappropriate objects including fluffy pink handcuffs.

One former female staff member, who allegedly endured sexual harassment from students, said when she told school management, they said she should expect and tolerate sexual attention from the students because she was young and attractive.

Despite these claims, Mr Lovell said the council is “satisfied” Mr Sampson and the school’s leadership team have “followed due processes in relation to allegations raised in the program by some former staff.”

Former head of the Old Cranbrookians Association, a councillor, and a parent at the school Jason Graham-Nye told Four Corners allegations about a toxic culture were “shocking”.

He also questioned whether the boy’s school was ready to move to coeducation with the transition beginning in 2026.

“I saw behaviour from senior management towards female staff that was completely unacceptable,” Mr Graham-Nye said on Monday night. 

“As Cranbrook stands to go co-ed it concerns me greatly that these serious issues have apparently not been addressed.”

Travis Mathews, a former Cranbrook student, also told of allegations that he was repeatedly abused by an older boarder at the school at the age of 13. 

“He forced me to perform oral sex on him in his room on a number of occasions and threatened that if I told anyone he would make my life hell, basically,” he said.

Mr Mathews is taking civil action against Cranbrook in the NSW Supreme Court 11 years after the alleged abuse took place at the school. 

The Four Corners report said Mr Sampson was copied in on emails about the claims made by Mr Mathews, but Mr Sampson did not get involved in the matter. 

A former teacher at the school, Fiona Richards, who taught economics at the school from May 2022, said she had “never felt so humiliated” in her working career.

Ms Milligan said Ms Richards suggested “fairly straightforward changes to the commerce course”, which resulted in a series of complaints about her work while employed by Cranbrook. 

Soon after the complaints, Ms Richards successfully lodged a workers’ compensation claim with the school's insurer for stress due to workplace bullying.

The school asked its insurer to review the claim, and subsequently conducted its own investigation into the claims. 

Mr Sampson was previously principal of the prestigious Victorian private school Geelong Grammar, where two former students – Shane O’Hare and Jeff O’Hare – blew the whistle about abuse at the school, including sexual abuse against Shane.

Nicholas Sampson, former headmaster of Geelong Grammar and current head of Cranbrook in Sydney, leaves the County Court in Melbourne during the child abuse Royal Commission hearing. Picture: NCA Newswire

The Four Corners episode detailed information heard at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which involved teacher and convicted pedophile Jonathan Harvey

The program detailed claims that Mr Sampson asked Mr Harvey to retire from Geelong Grammar at the end of 2004, the year the claims against the teacher emerged, instead of dismissing him.

Principal Sampson returned to his home country of England to be the Master (principal) of Marlborough College in Wiltshire between his time at Geelong Grammar and Cranbrook.

Four Corners interviewed a former female student from Marlborough, who alleged sexual harrassment and misconduct claims similar to those of former Geelong and Cranbrook students and staff.

The program aired concerns about the school educating the children of Sydney's most affluent business people and politicians, who will go on to have high-profile positions or be leaders of the country.

Cranbrook Alumni include James and Kerry Packer, Mike Cannon-Brookes, David Gyngell, and Liberal MP Julian Leeser. There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by these men.

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One comment

  1. Caroline Farrell

    Of course the School has backed him. And so misogynistic culture aligns with power once again. What more evidence do they need! A fish head stinks from the top.

    I was at a boys private school, also in Sydney and was bullied and asked to leave ( sacked) because I was pregnant and unmarried 12 years ago. It was hideous. The male management team called me a slut and the rumours were insane. All during my first week of pregnancy. They made me sign a Non Disclosure and paid me off.

    These schools exist in a bubble and then the boys come out into the world and do what do you imagine?

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