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ArtsEd: Two More Trustees Quit Andrew Lloyd Webber-Backed Drama School Amid Bullying Crisis

EXCLUSIVE: ArtsEd has lost another two board members after Deadline exposed bullying and misconduct allegations at the prestigious London drama school.

Simon Dowson-Collins, general counsel at Rupert Murdoch’s publishing firm HarperCollins UK, and London Metropolitan University executive Jennifer Wilkinson have stepped down as trustees.

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They were appointed in June 2022, meaning they only served for a year and a half on the ArtsEd board. Under UK charity rules, trustees can be in place for nine years or more.

Their exit coincides with the departure of Brian Brodie, who resigned as chairman in December for personal reasons. It followed criticism of the board’s handling of the bullying allegations.

Dowson-Collins and Wilkinson did not respond to a request for comment and the reasons for their departure are unclear.

An ArtsEd spokesperson said: “We have ten trustees serving the institution and managing all the necessary day to day responsibilities. We are in the process of choosing a firm to engage in recruiting trustees and a new chair, and we will be updating stakeholders about that process in the coming weeks.”

In November, Deadline uncovered bullying and misconduct allegations against ArtsEd principal Julie Spencer. ArtsEd initially brushed off the concerns, but as anger grew among employees and parents, the performing arts school was forced to launch an independent, barrister-led inquiry.

After ArtsEd committed to the inquiry, Deadline published further allegations, including audio evidence of Spencer branding students “snakes” and appearing to threaten them with legal action after being accused of favoritism.

Ghazaleh Rezaie, the senior attorney engaged to investigate the allegations, is expected to report back to ArtsEd’s board with her findings in March.

A terms of reference was published last week, revealing that the deadline for evidence submissions is January 22. Interviews with witnesses will then take place over the next month. ArtsEd plans to issue recommendations and a public statement by March 29.

Rezaie will be invited to determine if there is a “disciplinary case to answer” for Principal Spencer and whether her seat on the board presents a conflict of interest. Spencer is on medical leave and will not return to work while the investigation is ongoing.

Rezaie can examine evidence from graduates of St Mary’s University, Spencer’s previous employer, to establish a potential “pattern of behaviour.” Deadline revealed concerns from people who studied under Spencer at St Mary’s, including allegations she made disparaging remarks about their weight.

It is the second independent investigation at ArtsEd in as many years after barrister Rebecca Tuck found in 2021 that the institution demonstrated a “lack of regard” for the wellbeing of students, exposing them to favoritism, bullying, and other misconduct.

Lloyd Webber is ArtsEd’s president and his foundation has donated millions of pounds to the school. He has not commented on the allegations. ArtsEd’s patrons include The Crown star Lesley Manville.

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