Cambridge's St Peter's School reveals decades of sexual abuse, apologises to former students


St Peter's School in Cambridge has revealed details of child sexual abuse at the college and apologised to former students for cases stretching back decades.

School board chairperson John Macaskill-Smith described child abuse as a "detestable betrayal of trust".

In a statement, Macaskill-Smith said: "On behalf of the St Peter's School Trust Board, today I want to acknowledge and apologise for historical cases of sexual, physical and emotional abuse against former students at our school by former staff members or anyone acting in that capacity.

"Child abuse is a detestable betrayal of trust, the consequences of which can have lasting effects throughout an individual's lifetime. For these historical cases of abuse, our trustees offer a sincere and heartfelt apology.

"Today we have communicated directly to all alumni to say we are sorry to all former students who suffered abuse while in our care, and for the failure of St Peter's to protect them from such abuse occurring. Current students, staff and parents were also included in this communication."

Macaskill-Smith adds that "a number of the alleged abusers are actually deceased and some are in jail for related offences, and some, we are just not sure where they are".

"Today is about reaching out and apologising. There were a couple of notifications the Board received in 2017 about historical incidents and it triggered debate about [whether] we really know what's gone on," he says.

"We are reaching out to our previous students and first of all saying sorry, but also encouraging them to reach out to our Listening Service for support if there are things to work through."

He says that in reference to future charges, if it requires going to police or seeking prosecution, the school will be there to help.

An investigation uncovered 19 individual notifications of historical abuse between 1936 and 1981 relating to eight former staff members.

St Peter's is regarded as one of the country's most prominent boarding colleges.

The independent Anglican school was established in 1936 and became co-educational in 1987.

Today, it has a roll of more than 1200 students in its day and boarding prep and secondary departments covering years 7 to 13.

Macaskill-Smith said that while the school could not erase its history, it wanted to help anyone suffering from the long-term effects of past abuses and encourages any former students to come forward.

"For many of those former students, the school's acknowledgement of abuse and apology comes many decades too late. But I want to speak directly to those individuals today: when you come forward be certain that you will be heard, you will be respected, and you will be cared for with compassion."

It had set up a confidential listening service for former students so they could discuss getting help and talk to clinical psychologists in privacy.

"In 2018, St Peter's made the decision to begin researching all notifications of abuse documented in our files since records began in the 1930s. No matter what came to light, trustees were committed to facing up to the truth and taking steps toward putting things right," Macaskill-Smith said.

The following year clinical and forensic psychologist Dr Suzanne Blackwell was asked to review all the information that had been gathered and how it had been handled.

"While a thorough examination of school file notes indicated some of these historical notifications were handled with the seriousness they deserved, it is clear in some other cases school leaders failed to take a survivor-centric approach and hold perpetrators to account."

There could also be cases that have not been reported to the school, he said.

He said the school now had many safeguards in place to protect students, including physical changes to its facilities to make the environment as safe as possible.

"We've also invested in ongoing child abuse prevention training for our staff, while implementing a range of child abuse prevention policies, procedures and notification processes," Macaskill-Smith said, adding that protecting students from being abused is discussed openly with them.

"We want them to understand that abuse in any form is not tolerated at St Peter's."

Anyone wishing to access the Listening Service can email