Cranbrook School settles with former headmaster as he files complaint with ABC ombudsman

<span>Former Cranbrook headmaster Nicholas Sampson has lodged a complaint with the ABC Ombudsman after a Four Corners program about the school aired last year. </span><span>Photograph: Julian Smith/AAP</span>
Former Cranbrook headmaster Nicholas Sampson has lodged a complaint with the ABC Ombudsman after a Four Corners program about the school aired last year. Photograph: Julian Smith/AAP

The former headmaster of Sydney’s prestigious Cranbrook School has lodged a “detailed complaint” with the ABC ombudsman after the broadcast of a Four Corners program about the school earlier this year.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Nicholas Sampson said he had been “vindicated” after settling a legal dispute with the school’s council, while labelling the reporting that led to his resignation as “wildly inaccurate” and “biased”.

Sampson left his position, which he had held for more than a decade, on 8 March after it emerged he allegedly knew one of his teachers had engaged in “extremely concerning past conduct” and kept him in his role.

The allegations came days after a Four Corners episode aired interviews with former staff and students who claimed the school had a toxic culture that included bullying, sexual harassment and sexual abuse.

In a statement on Tuesday, the school council walked back claims that Sampson had failed to disclose allegations of historic misconduct involving a senior school teacher while employed at another school, clarifying he reported the matter to a differently constituted council in 2015.

“The council … acknowledges that its statement may have caused confusion,” it said.

Sampson, who had engaged the barristers Arthur Moses SC and Sue Chrysanthou SC as well as the high-profile solicitor Rebekah Giles to represent him, said he was “extremely pleased” he was no longer in dispute with the Cranbrook school council.

“The school’s position in relation to my tenure and conduct as headmaster has been clarified in its statement today,” he said.

“The harm done to my reputation arising out of the misinformation that followed the earlier statement has now been ameliorated and I have been vindicated.”

Sampson said he appreciated the council’s “goodwill”, adding “there now cannot be any doubt that I reported the matter to the council in 2015 and that the allegations were externally investigated by an independent body, NSW Police and notified to the Office of Children’s Guardian”.

“Throughout these difficult few months, I have been honoured to have the support of so many within the Cranbrook School community, my colleagues, family and friends and wish to thank each and every one of them for their backing,” he said.

“It has been a genuine privilege to serve this distinctive, progressive and exhilarating school for twelve years.

“My experience has shown that the pathway to reform is not always easy but I firmly believe that we have an excellent team that will deliver a first rate co-educational offering, environment and community.”

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Sampson added that while settling his dispute with his former school, he had lodged a detailed complaint with the ABC ombudsman concerning the Four Corners program, which aired on 4 March.

He labelled it “wildly inaccurate, lacking in impartiality and in contravention of a number of the ABC’s own Editorial Standards”.

“It is gravely concerning that our own national broadcaster is prepared to broadcast dishonest and biased reporting callously and unfairly impacting so many,” he said.

“I am determined to pursue that complaint to its conclusion.”

It followed revelations in Senate estimates last week that Cranbrook School was yet to have answered key questions on how it dealt with and whether it formally recorded welfare complaints, months after a federal education department investigation into the private school began.

The assistant minister for education, Anthony Chisholm, said the government had hoped the school would be “more cooperative” in the investigation, while adding the investigation should be completed before “casting judgements”.

The ABC was approached for comment.