POLICE have launched an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse at a Scots ballet school as it emerged one Scottish university raised "serious welfare" allegations with the force nearly ten years ago.

The formal probe was announced after Police Scotland yesterday confirmed they had received "a number of reports" in connection with claims of sexual impropriety at Ballet West Scotland in Argyll.

On Tuesday, Police Scotland had said there was no police investigation because there no complaints or reports had been made, six days after allegations of sexual impropriety surfaced which led to the resignation of the Ballet West Scotland's vice principal Jonathan Barton and the suspension of its principal, his mother Gillian Barton.

HeraldScotland:

Gillian Barton

An ITV investigation heard last week from more than 60 women - former students, staff and parents - who have made allegations of Mr Barton's inappropriate behaviour going back as far as 2004 and as recently as 2018. The allegations include sexual contact with his students.

It is alleged that as further 30 have spoken out about alleged misconduct.

Mr Barton, a 38-year-old award winning dancer and teacher quit after being accused of abusing his position to sleep with teenage pupils at the £9,000 a year boarding school his family runs.

A Police Scotland spokesman said yesterday: "Police have now received a number of reports which will be thoroughly investigated.

“Police Scotland is committed to bringing sexual offenders before the courts and treat all reports of sexual abuse with the utmost seriousness and sensitivity. Anyone wishing to report any kind of sexual offence should call us."

It has emerged that the University of Highlands and Islands were among three that have cut ties with Ballet West because of concerns over allegations.

The University of Highlands and Islands closed its BA classical ballet and dance performance and HNC/HND professional stage dance courses delivered through Ballet West Scotland at the end of academic year 2011/12.

HeraldScotland:

Jonathan Barton during one practice session

It came after the university raised "serious allegations" involving "student welfare", with police in Oban in late 2011.

The Ballet West board has said it was "unaware" of any complaints being raised with the school by the university.

Police Scotland confirmed that it had investigated allegations about "behaviour" at the school eight years ago but it concluded with no further action "with no criminality established".

If further emerged that the Open University ended its partnership with Ballet West in December, 2018, following "safeguarding concerns, including allegations of inappropriate sexual relations between students and a staff member".

Bath Spa University has said it has cut its ties with Ballet West.

Bath Spa University had approved the BA Ballet degree for delivery at the Ballet West since September 2019, but they said they are now “very concerned” by allegations and have ended their partnership with immediate effect.

Both Mr Barton’s and Mrs Barton's membership with the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) - a body that accredits ballet teachers - have been suspended as the inquiries into what happened continue.

Ballet West urged anyone with any information to shed light on what happened to contact the police as it emerged there was no live investigation. It said since the allegations were broadcast last Thursday, the board had yet to receive any complaint from either students or parents.

The Open University said it had a range of concerns about Ballet West which included "environmental and health and safety issues, to concerns about governance and management".

"The OU raised these issues directly with Ballet West during our time as validator.

“Concerns about safeguarding of students at Ballet West were raised in September 2018 and we immediately informed Argyll and Bute Council.

"These safeguarding concerns, including allegations of inappropriate sexual relations between students and a staff member were also raised directly by the Open University with the Chair of the Board of Trustees at Ballet West in October 2018.

"Following this, our concerns about the competence of Ballet West management and compliance with OU partnership requirements led to the termination of our partnership with Ballet West.

“The Open University gave notice to terminate our validation agreement with Ballet West in December 2018. As a result, validation formally ceased at the end of July 2019. This supported students in academic year 2018/19 to complete their qualification.

“We additionally contacted the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) and the Office for Students in England regarding this.”

The University of Highlands and Islands said: Following concerns raised with us in late 2011, which included serious allegations involving student welfare, we contacted Strathclyde Police representatives at Oban and brought these allegations to their attention.

"We also initiated an evaluation of the standards of delivery of courses and student support at Ballet West. Following this evaluation, we decided not to recruit further students to either the HNC or HND Professional Dance or BA Classical Ballet. "Our primary consideration throughout was the interests and welfare of students.

HeraldScotland:

Jonathan Barton (left above, right below) played the part of Romeo in a Ballet West performance of Romeo and Juliet five years ago. These was taken from stage rehearsals.

HeraldScotland:

"Provision was made for students to complete their current year of study and assistance offered to any students who wished to transfer to other institutions."

The prestigious Taynuilt academy launched an external independent inquiry into allegations of ‘inappropriate sexual behaviour’ by what it described as a "member of staff" towards students last Thursday.

The Board of Trustees of the school said that the member of staff had "emphatically denied" any wrong-doing.

They said Mr Barton offered his resignation so that an investigation can be undertaken "freely" and that he said he will "vigorously contest" any allegations.

His decision to resign had been made to ensure the school is "not brought into disrepute", the trustees said.

In response to the launch of the police investigation, the board of trustees at Ballet West said: "When these allegations were first brought to our attention, we contacted Police Scotland as soon as possible. We welcome the police investigation and urge anyone with any information to contact the police. We are deeply sorry that any student should have felt they had been subject of improper treatment by a member of staff and that needs to be investigated thoroughly.

"The current Board does not know of any allegation of sexual relations between students and a teacher being raised by the Open University. Furthermore, correspondence held by the board from the Open University to Ballet West stated that termination of the contract was on a no-fault basis.

"The Board of Trustees has, and continues, to take these allegations extremely seriously. In light of the allegations, they have contacted all past educational partners requesting information on the due diligence procedures, and any communication that was in existence to the previous board, and the staff at Ballet West."

The school was founded in 1991, by Mrs Barton who brought with her extensive experience working in film and television, on the Michael Caton-Jones film Rob Roy and on the movie Mrs Brown a film starring Dame Judi Dench and Ballet West patron, Billy Connolly.

Just this year, it won the Best British Ballet School award at the British Ballet Grand Prix awards.

It has since steadily developed vocational training programmes, most notably, the Ballet West High Performance Lower School and Ballet West Upper School, which offers a BA (Honours) in Ballet.