Cranbrook School to launch external review into past 15 years of complaints about serious child safety matters

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Sarah Blake
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Nicholas Sampson, the headmaster of elite Sydney private school Cranbrook, resigned on Friday.
Nicholas Sampson, the headmaster of elite Sydney private school Cranbrook, resigned on Friday. Credit: Julian Smit/AAP

Prestigious Sydney private school Cranbrook will commission an independent review into the school’s handling of child safety matters going back more than a decade following a weekend of crisis talks sparked by the shock resignation of principal Nicolas Sampson.

Cranbrook’s school council told parents in an email on Monday morning the college would commission an external review into how it dealt with serious child safety matters “since 2010 (or earlier)“ after a series of complaints from former students and teachers.

Mr Sampson quit on Friday, four days after a report on the ABC’s Four Corners aired allegations of a toxic culture for women at the school. His departure came after the council learned he had promoted a teacher at the school despite being aware since 2015 of allegations the man had sent multiple lewd messages to a former female student from a school at which he formerly taught.

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On Friday, the school council described “an irrevocable breakdown of trust between the headmaster and the school council” and Federal Education Minister Jason Clare said his department would “investigate the issues raised in the media relating to Cranbrook and take any appropriate action”.

After a weekend of crisis talks and an emergency meeting on Sunday night of the school council, its head Geoff Lovell on Monday morning wrote that the school would “establish, in addition to current reporting mechanisms, an external avenue for people to report serious concerns. This will be available to current and former staff, students and parents of Cranbrook, and to anyone else who believes they have relevant information”.

“The school council understands that there is significant work required to maintain the confidence of the school community,” Mr Lovell said.

The wide-ranging review would work with external consultants and explore the school’s treatment of child protection, workplace health and safety, whistleblowing and discrimination and bullying, the letter said.

“Our priority is to ensure that students experience minimal disruption and that our staff are fully supported. The school council believes strongly in the quality and integrity of Cranbrook’s educational programs and the excellence and commitment of its staff,” it said.

The letter also said that the male teacher who had sent the emails to his previous student at a Sydney Catholic school had been suspended and that the school was reviewing the claims.

It comes after a tumultuous period for the 102-year-old Bellevue Hill school, which went through a bruising battle in its transition to coeducation from 2026 in which some of Australia’s biggest names traded public blows.

Former Cranbrook principal Nicholas Sampson stepped down after what the council described as an “irrevocable breakdown of trust”.
Former Cranbrook principal Nicholas Sampson stepped down after what the council described as an “irrevocable breakdown of trust”. Credit: Cranbrook School

A communique from the school’s director of student wellbeing Angelique Sanders on Monday said that students would receive counselling and urged parents to have open conversations with their children given the “disturbing” nature of the claims.

“This is disturbing and will no doubt raise questions,” Ms Sanders wrote to parents, according to reports.

“It is a good opportunity to remind your sons that what they hear from others may not be the entire truth, as we are aware that there are a lot of things being said in group chats. Asking adults for answers or clarifications teaches them to always look at an issue from different perspectives and to seek answers rather than assume something is correct.”

Parents at Cranbrook, who pay up to $48,000 a year tuition, on Friday told The Nightly of their concerns that the controversies were “hurting” the students.

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