There were complaints of abuse from other private residential schools and children's homes in North Wales: Ynys Fechan Hall at Arthog, eight miles from Dolgellau on the coast; Dol Rhyd School, Barmouth Road, Dolgellau; and (confusingly) Hengwrt House at Llanelltyd, near Dolgellau.
All three of these establishments were run by Paul Hett.
The first of these was found by the Welsh Office to be operating as an unregistered school for about a dozen pupils in 1974. According to Hett the property was acquired with the aid of a large mortgage in 1974 and he started the school with three pupils. He was suddenly inundated with applications with the result that he took holiday placements immediately, mainly from Gloucestershire, and he began the academic year with 12 pupils. All the children came from local authorities (primarily in Lancashire initially) and included those subject to care orders, children on remand and emergency placements.
Registration as a school was granted by the Welsh Office in 1975 but this was subsequently transferred to Dol Rhyd School in 1976 as provisional registration. This house, which had formerly been the senior girls' house at the well known Dr Williams' School for Girls, was acquired on 1 December 1975 and, by February 1976, 30 boys were enrolled there, including three of primary school age. It appears that Dol Rhyd took over from Ynys Fechan Hall as the school and the latter became merely a residential annexe until it was destroyed by fire in September 1981; but it was not until 15 February 1979 that the Welsh Office agreed to give Dol Rhyd final registration.
Hengwrt House was acquired by Hett in October 1980, according to his own evidence. It was ten minutes' walk from Dol Rhyd and he had already discussed with the Welsh Office his intention to establish there a junior section of his school for 15 pupils. Thus, he intended to raise the full establishment to about 50 pupils and also to include girls. In the event Hengwrt House appears to have been treated as part of Dol Rhyd until April 1986.
Various concerns about the running of Dol Rhyd were expressed to the Welsh Office during the 1980s, including anxieties about harsh treatment of pupils. At this time Ynys Fechan Hall re-opened briefly in October 1984, after re-building at a cost of £350,000, as a school for dyslexic children but it closed in May 1985, when its pupils were transferred to Dol Rhyd.
It was sold in September 1986 to Barry Young and was registered by the latter with Gwynedd County Council in 1992 as a private children's home for up to 11 boys and girls. It remains open and there have not been any complaints about it during Young's regime.
Hett's aim for Dol Rhyd from 1983 onwards had been to secure approval to admit pupils with statements of SEN under section 11(3)(a) of the Education Act 1981 but this was refused by the Secretary of State in April 1984 and again in April 1987. In the interim period Dol Rhyd had accommodated a reducing number of dyslexic pupils. By July 1987 the school had been discontinued and it was removed from the Register of Independent Schools on 12 August 1987. It was then re-opened by Hett's former wife and her sister as a unit (called Cerrig Camau) for young adults with learning difficulties and registered as such by Gwynedd County Council.
As for Hengwrt House, Hett applied for it to be registered separately from Dol Rhyd and it was provisionally registered in the name of Ysgol Hengwrt on 14 April 1986 as an independent residential school. The application was for up to 20 boys and girls aged 11 to 18 years and Hett had in mind a small, family orientated special school for disadvantaged teenagers, concentrating on vocational courses for the 14 to 16 age range.
The school had a very unhappy history, however, because successive inspectors were critical and there were a number of allegations of sexual abuse that were not satisfactorily resolved. The number of pupils on the roll fluctuated at a very low level and fell to two in January 1990 after Brent London Borough Council removed their six placements at the school.
It was then removed from the register in March 1990, restored provisionally in September 1990 and again removed on 9 December 1991. Registration as a children's home was refused by Gwynedd County Council in October 1992 and the Registered Homes Tribunal dismissed Hett's appeal in April 1993. In his evidence to the Waterhouse Tribunal on 20 January 1998 Hett described Ysgol Hengwrt as "an empty school with a dream" and himself as "headmaster of a residential special school with no pupils since 1993".
Source: All info direct from Waterhouse Report