Allegations of Sexual Abuse, the Arrest of a Senior Master, and a Vicious and Macabre Hate Campaign. Only Now Can the Mail Reveal the Truth Behind the Headmaster of Winchester's Shock Resignation

By Levy, Geoffrey; Allen, Peter | Daily Mail (London), August 9, 2003 | Go to article overview

Allegations of Sexual Abuse, the Arrest of a Senior Master, and a Vicious and Macabre Hate Campaign. Only Now Can the Mail Reveal the Truth Behind the Headmaster of Winchester's Shock Resignation


Levy, Geoffrey, Allen, Peter, Daily Mail (London)


Byline: GEOFFREY LEVY;PETER ALLEN

THE voice on the telephone was uneasy but clearly that of an educated man, and as he began to speak, the woman police constable taking his call, Lisa Tyson, was initially lost for words.

For the man who was reporting allegations of sexual abuse stretching back almost a decade at Winchester College, Britain's oldest school, was the headmaster himself, Dr Nick Tate.

It was March 26, and when Dr Tate had explained in full why he was calling, Pc Tyson referred him to the Hampshire child protection squad.

So began an episode that threatens to destroy the reputation of a great seat of learning built up since 1382 when the school - now England's most expensive at [pounds sterling]21,216 a year per pupil - was founded.

That reputation, envied by rivals and protected by Wykehamists proud of their world-famous motto Manners Mayketh Man, is seen as the crucial factor in what is claimed to be a 'sustained cover-up' at the school whose ancient turrets appear in the Harry Potter films, and whose grounds were used for the recent television remake of the classic Goodbye Mr Chips starring Martin Clunes.

A senior master, divorcee Peter Metcalfe, 51, is now on police bail after being questioned about allegations going back to 1995 involving naked showers with boys, making pupils strip and indulging in various kinds of 'odd behaviour'.

Mr Metcalfe was housemaster of Du Boulay's, a boarding house known in the Winchester vernacular as Cook's. He has now stepped down from that role but continues to work at the school as a history teacher.

These are troubling allegations, the truth or otherwise of which has yet to be established. Even so, the very fact that the allegations have been made and the furore surrounding them give just a glimpse of the clashing undercurrents and venom that have been swirling among the staff of this most illustrious of colleges.

Intriguingly, Dr Tate's awkward telephone conversation with the police officer was practically his last act as Winchester's headmaster before leaving the prestigious post the very next day. His shock departure earlier this year after a mere two-and-a-half years was bang in the middle of the school year - when it is almost unheard of for a head to step down - and, being only 59, six years before he originally planned to retire.

BUT the Mail can now reveal that he and his wife Nadya were more or less driven out by a vicious and grotesque personal campaign against them involving, he believes, members of his teaching staff.

To understand the full implications of the scandal we must go back to the autumn of 1994 when allegations of sexual abuse were made in conversation with one of the school's chaplains.

'Rumours started swirling around the college soon afterwards and everybody had a good idea of what was said to be going on,' says one former member of Cook's house.

The allegations were against Mr Metcalfe, the Cambridge- educated Cook's housemaster, known to fellow teachers by his initials PJM but to pupils as 'Sid'.

The traditions of the Winchester house system have remained unchanged for hundreds of years. Parents of prospective Wykehamists must apply to a house rather than to the school, and housemasters enjoy almost unchecked power in their exalted positions.

'The housemaster is completely in charge and everybody, including the headmaster, defers to him over most matters,' says the former Cookite. 'A Wykehamist's loyalty is first to his house, then to his school.' It was against this background that Mr Metcalfe, a former RAF officer who arrived at Winchester to teach history in 1986, took over the running of Cook's in 1992.

He soon established himself as a fine housemaster.

'Sid is very sporty and knows how to control a big group of boys,' says the former pupil. 'He took loyalty to the house very seriously and would not allow anybody to let him down. …

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