Published in the BFP on 10/11/95: Suffolk County Council issued a dramatic statement last night warning parents to the ‘perceived risk’ of sending their children to a Bury St Edmunds dance school.
The school is the Academy of Dancing and Performing Arts, in Fornham Road.
It is one of the biggest dance schools in East Anglia and its pupils have appeared on TV and in West End shows.
The statement follows a hearing in the Court of Appeal in London yesterday. It says:
“Suffolk County Council believes that parents of children attending the Academy of Dancing and Performing Arts or considering sending their children to the academy, should be aware of the following information.
“In 1993, at the conclusion of a case heard in the High Court, a number of findings and observations were made regarding the academy and the conduct of a senior member to which the local authority are not at liberty to refer.
“Suffolk County Council had concerns about the unhealthy atmosphere at the academy and an environment in which some pupils moved their allegiance from their parents to that senior member and the academy.
“This occured unbeknown to their parents.
“The local authority felt that the situation was reminiscent of those cases in which parents sought to extricate a child from the influence of a religious or supposedly religious cult.
“There was also considerable anxiety felt as to levels of intimacy that existed between the senior member and pupils.
“The academy had produced written material stating that it had close links with Social Services. It is no longer the case that such links exist.
“In view of the above information, Suffolk County Council’s social services department cannot recommend that children attend the academy and would wish to alert parents and carers to the perceived risk.
“Suffolk County Council’s education department would also wish to alert parents and school governors to the use made by the academy and its staff of premises in the area for the teaching of dance and other activities.
“These classes are held sometimes in schools and sometimes elsewhere.
“Suffolk County Council wishes to make it clear that it does not recommend that children attend these classes.”
In issuing the statement Suffolk County Council said: “No further information may be given because of the confidential nature of the court proceedings.”
Investigations by the Bury Free Press later revealed the ‘senior member’ referred to in the statement to be academy founder and former principal Richard Scott-Rogers, now known as Scott Rogers, who on Wednesday is said by police to have been shot dead at his US home by son-in-law and former academy student Mathew Hodgkinson.
Following Suffolk County Council’s warning, the Bury Free Press published the results of its own two year investigation into the former Academy of Dancing and Performing Arts, which was based in former British Rail buildings, revealing how parents took their children away when they felt the academy was taking over their lives.
Parents told how Mr Rogers wanted to ‘control’ their children and former students recalled ‘sleep-overs’ by young children at his house when the then principal cuddled them in their sleeping bags.
They said he also got them to stroke his hair and massage his back and told them the academy was its own religion.
One former student accused Mr Rogers of ‘brainwashing’ them.
At the time the academy denied the allegations in the council statement with then principal Rachel Richards saying: “I don’t think there is any substance in the statement because it was not written by people who have ever been to the academy”.
- Were you a pupil at the Academy of Dancing and Performing Arts? What are your memories of Mr Rogers? Contact Head of News Content Paul Derrick on 01284 757857 or email firstname.lastname@example.org