Dilworth School management has apologised for harm caused to former students who suffered alleged sexual abuse and say anyone who comes forward will be listened to and receive the support they need.

Six former teaching staff were yesterday arrested and charged in relation to a number of alleged serious offences, many sexual, against 17 victims. The charges related to offending between the 1970s and early 2000s.

The school's board of trustees and headmaster moved to reassure parents of students that their children were safe and the charges were against staff members who no longer had anything to do with the school.

Board chair Aaron Snodgrass said the school had been fully engaged with police through the investigation, which began a year ago when a complaint was made to police.

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He said 5200 students had been through the gates of Dilworth during the past 114 years, including himself, and the school apologised for what had happened to old boys who suffered abuse during their time.

"Mostly this historic abuse was physical and emotional, such as bullying and excessive corporal punishment, but sadly also sexual abuse.

"We deeply regret what has occurred in our school's past and the detrimental effects on our old boys who suffered abuse in our care.

Dilworth College Headmaster, Dan Reddiex (left) and Chairman of the Dilworth Trust Board, Aaron Snodgrass address media. Photo / Greg Bowker
Dilworth College Headmaster, Dan Reddiex (left) and Chairman of the Dilworth Trust Board, Aaron Snodgrass address media. Photo / Greg Bowker

"We are truly sorry. So, to any old boy that suffered abuse while at Dilworth, I want you to know that if you engage with our listening service you will be listened to, you will be believed and you will receive the professional support you need."

He said the board has full confidence in the school's student welfare network and current employees led by headmaster Dan Reddiex.

Dilworth is a private boarding-only school in Epsom.

It is governed by the Dilworth Trust Board and offers scholarships for boys from families who struggle financially.

Reddiex, who was appointed last year, said the school had zero tolerance for abuse of any kind and as a "father, educator and human being" he found the allegations "appalling" and "deeply saddening".

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"I cannot comprehend the trauma or pain those who suffered abuse must have endured," he said.

Reddiex said there was no denying the allegations had "cast a dark shadow" on the school — but it "need not, and it will not, define us".

"We will take all necessary steps to ensure this chapter in our past is never repeated again."

Male Survivor advocate Ken Clearwater said sexual abuse was a challenging thing to come forward about.

"People have no idea how hard it is, particularly as a male, to say you've been sexually violated because we've lived in a patriarchal system all our lives where we're supposed to be tough and staunch."

He said the arrests would allow other men to tell their stories.

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"It will let others who are victims of that sexual abuse know that they aren't the only ones, because one of the problems we face as survivors is you think it only happened to you, and that's why we don't come forward."

Snodgrass said the board commissioned an independent review by leading psychologists and a free confidential listening service for old boys in 2018 if they wanted to discuss their experiences.

The men, aged 73, 68, 69, 78 and two aged 72, are expected to appear in the Auckland District Court in October.

Where to get help:

• If it's an emergency and you feel that you or someone else is at risk, call 111.
• If you've ever experienced sexual assault or abuse and need to talk to someone call the confidential crisis helpline Safe to Talk on: 0800 044 334 or text 4334. (available 24/7)
Male Survivors Aotearoa offers a range of confidential support at centres across New Zealand - find your closest one here.
Mosaic - Tiaki Tangata: 0800 94 22 94 (available 11am - 8pm)
• Alternatively contact your local police station
• If you have been abused, remember it's not your fault.