Argyll's Ballet West dance school closes after sexual misconduct claims

Image caption,
Ballet West is a boarding school based in Argyll

A prestigious dance school based in the Highlands has closed after allegations of sexual misconduct.

Ballet West, a boarding school located in Taynuilt, Argyll, has ceased operations with immediate effect.

Trustees of the ballet school announced on Monday that a provisional liquidator had been appointed.

It followed the withdrawal of accreditation of the school's courses from a series of colleges and universities.

Earlier this month an ITV investigation alleged that the school's vice principal, Jonathan Barton, had been involved in inappropriate sexual behaviour.

Mr Barton resigned from his position at the school but denied any wrongdoing.

Police Scotland said it had been made aware of concerns regarding inappropriate behaviour but that no criminality had yet been established.

Ballet West was established in 1991 and trained dancers to undergraduate level. It also offered courses for dance teachers and operated associate and outreach programmes for young dancers.

In 2018 it launched its own professional touring company, employing former students for performances across the world.

It was named "Best British Ballet School" for 2019/20 at the British Ballet Grand Prix, an an international ballet competition for elite level dancers.

On Monday, trustees of Ballet West issued a statement which said: "The trustees must today report the saddest news. The Sheriff at Oban Sheriff Court has approved the appointment of a provisional liquidator to Ballet West Ltd.

"A process has now begun to wind up Ballet West Ltd, which will mean the closure of the school.

"Due to events over the last two weeks, Ballet West Ltd. a registered Scottish charity, has been driven to the point of insolvency and the trustees had a legal duty to inform the charity regulator and take appropriate action in these circumstances. The board was required to make an application for a liquidator to be appointed."

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Ballet West was regarded as one of the UK's leading dance schools

The company's affairs will now be managed by liquidator Eileen Blackburn of French Duncan LLP.

The trustees said that Ms Blackburn would assist Police Scotland and any other regulatory bodies.

They said: "The board of trustees is deeply saddened by this outcome and appalled that parent and students have been placed in such a terrible situation. This is the consequence of a catastrophic sequence of events and we could not prevent this from happening.

"The allegations broadcast by ITV News regarding the Vice-Principal on Thursday 13 August were shocking. Immediate action was required in response and he resigned. The board launched an internal inquiry, committed to an external inquiry and informed Police Scotland. We hoped the Board's prompt action would allay fears in terms of student safety going forward."

However, Bath Spa University terminated its relationship with Ballet West on 14 August, which accounted for 70% of the school's student intake.

The Royal Academy of Dance withdrew its accreditation and then the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) cancelled the HNC/HND courses at the school.

No external investigation

After the allegations were made, Ballet West arranged for a senior legal figure with no connection to the school to carry out a full independent inquiry, but that will no longer go ahead.

The trustees said that funding was not available for it to proceed and that it was a matter of "deep regret".

The statement ended by urging students to report concerns. It said any student who felt the school had failed them, should report their experience to Police Scotland or any relevant body.

The school provided students with a list of other dance course providers and said it hoped that "those who see their future in ballet and the performing arts can find a route to realise their hopes and ambitions".

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