Armidale School headmaster's letter angers parents of abused boys

The headmaster of a prestigious private school where a female staff member slept with five male students has angered the parents of the boys by writing a letter saying the school had "worked hard" to support all those involved.

The Armidale School headmaster Murray Guest wrote the letter to the school community following a sentencing hearing in the NSW District Court for the 25-year-old woman, who is due to be jailed over the prolonged abuse this week.

The 25-year-old former staff member (centre) is due to be sentenced on Monday after pleading guilty to the charges.

Photo: Brook Mitchell

"We are deeply sorry that these offences occurred and for their impact on former students and their families," Mr Guest said in the letter distributed on Friday.

"Behind the scenes, we have worked hard to support all parties involved over the past three years."

The woman pleaded guilty in April to six counts of sexual intercourse with a person under her care and three counts of aggravated sexual intercourse.

The behaviour occurred over several months during 2014 and 2015 with students between 15 and 17 years old.

The Armidale School Headmaster Murray Guest

Photo: The Armidale School website

Parents of the affected boys, some who have previously accused the school of heaping "abuse on abuse" over its handling of the scandal, rubbished Mr Guest's letter, with one mother describing his explanation as "crap".

"I have had three phone calls from the school this entire time," the mother told the Herald, adding her son felt as though he had been shunned by staff following the affair.

Another mother said she had received just one phone call from Mr Guest since the behaviour emerged and, along with other affected families, had not received the letter.

"As the parent of a victim, I think it's an absolute joke," she said, agreeing with other parents' opinions that the school had allowed a toxic culture to develop.

Another mother said: "These boys made some poor decisions, but what was the culture of the school in which those decisions were made? These boys were in the school's care. Where was the education and mentoring of the boys before, during and after these events?"

That mother said the school should be externally investigated, fearing it would escape accountability over the affair.

In the letter, Mr Guest said the school had a range of systems in place, including a "comprehensive" code of conduct, detailed background checks and formal training for boarding staff.

"I sincerely regret that these measures were not enough to prevent criminal conduct in this instance, and that it was not brought to our attention sooner," he said.

The Armidale School headmaster Murray Guest said staff had "worked hard to support all parties involved".

Photo: Steve Green

The Herald last week sent a list of questions identical to a previous query to The Armidale School over its handling of the abuse, including whether the school believed it had breached its duty of care to the students.

The school, which previously declined to comment, sent Mr Guest's letter in response on Friday.

The school is expected to conduct a review of what happened and is legally bound to refer "reportable conduct" to the NSW Ombudsman.

An investigator can be appointed by the Association of Independent Schools at the school's request, though it is not required.

Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson wrote to the AIS on August 13, relaying parents' concerns, including what body is responsible for overseeing and regulating the conduct of private schools such as The Armidale School.

It is understood Mr Anderson is yet to receive a response.

Bishop Rick Lewers, of the Anglican Diocese of Armidale, told the Herald it was up to the school board to investigate the abuse.

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