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Bury St Edmunds/UK: Mothers of pupils at Scott Rogers’ dance and performing academy told how they were losing their children

PUBLISHED: 15:22 04 September 2014

Former Bury St Edmunds dance school principal Richard Scott Rogers

Former Bury St Edmunds dance school principal Richard Scott Rogers

Exclusive strictly copyright Andy Abbott

A swirl of suspicion had enveloped Richard-Scott Rogers when he moved from England to the US in the mid 1990s.

Having founded the Academy of Dancing and Performing Arts in Fornham Road, Bury St Edmunds, in 1983 he used it to cultivate and exert control over some of its pupils, particularly the gifted ones.

The chosen ones slept over at his home and some are said to have gravitated away from their families to live at the Rogers’ home.

In 1995, Suffolk County Council was so disturbed at what came out during Mr Rogers 1993 trial it issued a statement warning of a religious cult-style atmosphere at the academy.

In rebuttal to the warning Mr Rogers said some youngsters needed to stay with him and his family at his home with their parents’ consent because their homes were too far away for them to travel every day.

Mr Rogers said: “If people read it (the council statement) it is an opinion. But it’s not a valid opinion”

He then urged the council to carry out a full investigation and claimed parents had nothing to fear, although he did concede there was a strict code of discipline at the academy.

Mr Rogers added: “We influence children to behave in a certain way. That’s the ethos of the arts and to attack that is attacking the way the arts are taught right through to the Royal Ballet.”

After the warning was issued one mother, who could not be named for legal reasons, told how she feared she would never see her son again after he abandoned a promising future to become more involved with the school.

When the family decided to leave Bury St Edmunds in the early 1990s their teenage son said he wanted to stay.

The boy’s mother said: “I don’t feel we did anything wrong. We just did everything to make our son happy.

“We must have been as trusting as everyone else.”

Another mother told how her dancer son moved out of his home and went to live with Mr Rogers’ family.

In December 1995, she said she was concerned about her son after reports that Mr Rogers had gone to the US.

Another woman, whose daughter started classes at the academy when it opened, told how she came close to losing her to the academy.

At the time the headteacher was running a support group for 18 families who claimed their children had suffered “serious” problems at the school.

The mother said her daughter began spending more and more time there.

She said: “Each time she asked if she could start a new class I was made to feel that to refuse would show that I didn’t love her.”

When her concerned mother suggested to her daughter that she cut back her classes she became “hysterical” and ran away for a brief period.

The mother said at the time: “I want parents to know what has happened to other people.

“I don’t want to what has happened to my family to happen to anyone else.”

Her daughter left the academy 15 months after her mother first became concerned.

On December 12, 1995, it was announced that the Academy of Dancing and Performing Arts was to undergo a major shake-up.

It was to split into two separate schools with different names.

More than 500 children were part of the Academy of Dancing and Performing Arts.

The academy’s teachers also went out to schools including Great Cornard Middle, Mildenhall Upper, and Thurston Upper, as well as RAF Lakenheath.

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