EXPERIENCES AT ST. VEDAST (now St. James) AND THE S.E.S

Discussion of the children's schools in the UK.
Daffy
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Postby Daffy » Thu Dec 16, 2004 7:19 am

sparks wrote:You might be interested in this article from the Guardian Education in January this year.

http://education.guardian.co.uk/elearni ... 77,00.html

OMG, Lacey was acting headmaster???

Scotsman
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Postby Scotsman » Thu Dec 16, 2004 7:50 pm

David Lacey was acting head master while Nicholas Debenham was ill and unable to come to the school. This was for a relatively short period earlier this year, I can't remember the exact dates, before Mr Debenham retired in the summer.

I don't think anything different needs to be read in to it. I believe he used to visit Mr Debenham nearly every day, so the latter retained overall control.

Scotsman

Anita
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Reflections on how we got to where we are

Postby Anita » Thu Dec 16, 2004 10:12 pm

I am a woman approaching her seventies and throughout my life, as far back as I can remember, I have been concerned with discovering what really lies behind the fa?ade. As a child in Synagogue I was aware of false piety and before long began to find spiritual guidance in books on Buddhism and Indian mysticism. So it was easy for me, when I came to London and met my future husband and found that he was going to philosophy classes at the School of Economic Science, to reconnect with a spiritual pathway which for me meant embracing the essence of all religions and lacked what I considered to be the humbug and strictures of orthodox religion. I can?t begin to describe, in what I hope will be a short essay, the early days in the SES. I relished the discipline of hard work. I had sought it previously on a border kibbutz in Israel for three years to get away from my petit bourgeois materialistic existence in South Africa, and there was the same pioneering spirit in the SES at that time.

I was never close to Leon MacLaren. He seemed dark and almost sinister but I felt this was my inadequacy rather than his. I was drawn to the teaching, not the hierarchy, nor was I concerned with ?spiritual ambition?. But the comradeship, particularly among the women was the best I?d ever known. The change for me was gradual and imperceptible and was really clarified only when I finally realised what I?d done by placing my two darling sons where I believed they would be cared for in a way I was not capable of. By this time I really believed that my instinctual love was a very primitive thing and that I did not have what it would take to turn my sons into strong spiritual beings. I trusted this extended family to do a far better job than I could do. After all, many of the teachers were my friends.

By the time we left the SES and took the children away from the attached school, St. Vedast, my son Matthew was severely traumatised and could not complete his education. He was one of the first to discover the ?Why Are They Dead? website and it was his first posting on this thread which described graphically his experience at St. Vedast that brought forth the first shocked reactions. A trickle of fellow sufferers found a vehicle for expressing suppressed and festering anger at what they had been put through as young children. This has grown into a virtual avalanche. Many of the victims have survived and have gone on to lead functioning lives, often in the caring and teaching professions. A large number have not, and have been left with permanent mental scarring that has affected them for life; tragically some even got into hard drugs, and are either addicts or died from overdoses.

Psychologists specialising in child-abuse cases have noted that the worst damage is done between the ages of 4 and 9, and that victims are only able to come to terms with it in their late 20s and 30s ? hence the reason why all this is only coming out now. St James was meant to be the spearhead school that was going to turn out a new brand of ?supermen and women?. St Vedast children were the ?damaged goods? who had not been exposed to this ?enlightened? education from infancy.

Amongst the young men and women that I know personally the one thing they all have in common is a profound scepticism of anything with a whiff of the ?spiritual? ? at least the brand dished out at the school. This I believe is a direct result of the school?s leader not following the instructions on the spiritual education of the young as given by his holiness Sri Shankaracharya, the spiritual guide of the SES. He said quite clearly that it should never be forced, it should be given gently with joy, and not in the way adults received it, but rather as I remember, in songs and games.

The idea of Truth and Reconciliation emanated from my husband and myself and was inspired by what was achieved by Bishop Tutu in helping the peaceful transition to take place in South Africa.

I abhor fundamentalism in any form, including the one that would attempt to bring down people?s chosen form of worshipping God. I am thankful that I live in a country where civil liberties are still protected. I am convinced the only way these young men and women, who were undoubtedly victims of abuse, will find peace is through forgiveness. We have asked our sons for forgiveness and have supported Matthew in this courageous expos?. I congratulate the young men and women who have agreed to participate in the Inquiry once they are persuaded that this will be an honest investigation and not a whitewash (it?s exact terms are still being negotiated). The Governors face the challenge of organising an Inquiry in which they will have to face up to the iniquities of the past, and take a good hard look at the mind-set that caused them. Only then will they be able to create an educational institution they can be proud of.

As for me, I have come full circle, and am rediscovering the spiritual wisdom in my own roots. I am awed at the continual re-examination of one?s inner motives and how surprisingly modern is the ancient wisdom of my Jewish forebears ? the false piety was just the surface and is present in all religious institutions.

Anita Woolf

dan
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Postby dan » Tue Dec 21, 2004 12:14 am

Hi Anita

I have just read your account and congratulate you on your honesty and humility in being able to describe events in your life.

You are certainly right [in my case] about the childhood victims of the SES schools being 'allergic' to anything that 'whiffs' of spirituality. The awful smug self-righteousness of those who think that they 'know' the answers in any religion/philosophy is enough to send me packing immediately.

The worst thing about the SES and many other cults is that there is so often an egocentric maniac in their midst, surrounded by acolytes who will do anything to gain respect from the crazed one. I can only explain the evil that Debenham and some of his 'colleagues' perpetrated on children, as fitting in to this pattern.

Everyone who seeks spirituality in life should be alert to the pitfalls of cult recruitment, cults which flatter and manipulate are rarely working for the individual's benefit. The need 'to belong' to some kind of elite group seems to disconnect people from their inner humanity and strength.

Merry Xmas or perhaps I should say 'season's greetings'
Dan

sugarloaf
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Mr Barnard

Postby sugarloaf » Mon Jan 03, 2005 1:03 pm

I have posted an account of some of my experiences at St james (boys) school earlier on this forum. I find it interesting that nothing has been mentioned about Mr Barnard, a teacher who joined later on. He arrived at the school with a reputation for having behaved violently towards at least one very young child at SES pre school ?Sunday school? (edge of a metal ruler on head), and he proceeded to make it known to me that he was ?watching me closely? as soon as he arrived at st James. (he?d obviously been given the schools official ?pupils characters? talking to, as we?d never met?). He and I were subsequently involved in several events that were unnecessarily vindictive - and particularly odd, even by St James? standards.

I have no wish to spread rumours, or talk up facts, so if anyone has had, or heard of, similar experiences with this man, but no wish to post them publicly at the moment, I?d be interested to hear from you. (just ?pm? me)

sparks
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Postby sparks » Thu Jan 20, 2005 1:04 am

I was a pupil at St James Boys School from its inaugural day in 1975
until 1986. I remember my first day at the school; it was cold,
intimidating and unwelcoming. We spent much of our first week
learning how to raise and lower our calligraphy boards silently. I
was 5 ? years old.

The hypocrisy of many of the teachers and the absurdity
of much of what was `taught' and practised at the school was
evident to me from a very young age. I soon developed an outer shell
to protect myself from the institution and its staff. The dominant
feature of my experience during the early years was fear and dread of
physical violence and humiliation, the random nature of which
resulted in a permanent state of anxiety.

I was denied a childhood where learning was a joyful experience. I
underachieved academically.

When I left at 16 I was a very angry and frustrated teenager. I
wanted to put the whole experience behind me and start a new life. I
wanted to determine my own direction and form my own opinions and
values free from their bigotry, misogyny, homophobia and their
simplistic black and white view of the world.

I qualified as a teacher 6 years after leaving St James. I was
somewhat disappointed when I first started teaching in a
comprehensive school in London. I found that my desire for the
students to experience a stimulating, non-judgmental and above all
enjoyable education was nothing novel or unusual ? it was
universally shared by the other teachers. I discovered that it was
perfectly normal for children to enjoy school!!!

I'm lucky enough to have been able to
visit schools in Sierra Leone, Sudan, Uganda and Kenya in the last year.
All I've experienced has affirmed my absolute belief that there is nothing
more fundamental and important than for every child to have a fulfilling and
meaningful education.

In the 18 years since leaving St James I've had no contact with
the schools or with former classmates - apart from a couple of close
friends. It has been a strange experience reading the WATD and yahoo
postings and coming across names from the past. It been affirming and
encouraging to realise that so many others totally rejected the SES
and their approach to education.

Many of the ways in which the Schools have affected other ex-pupils
in their adult lives resonate with me.

I am delighted that at long last what went on all those years ago is
coming out into the open ? this can only be positive for all
concerned.
Last edited by sparks on Wed Mar 02, 2005 2:13 am, edited 1 time in total.

Matthew
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Location: London

The School of Economic Science

Postby Matthew » Fri Jan 21, 2005 9:43 pm

www.cultinformation.org.uk
CIC is an educational charity providing advice and information for victims of cults, their families and friends, researchers and the media. CIC was founded in 1987 and became a registered Charity (No.1012914) in 1992. It was the first educational organisation focusing critical concern on the harmful methods of the cults to be granted charitable status in the United Kingdom.

SES is listed here

Nick.
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Location: Canada

My thoughts on St James

Postby Nick. » Thu Feb 10, 2005 7:37 am

My name is Nick [full name removed at user's request], I was a pupil at St James school between 82 & 87, as was my younger brother. I am using my real name because I have nothing to hide and nothing to fear. I only found out about this site yesterday and it has stirred many feelings. I have lived in Western Canada for eight years, and would not have heard about the process unfolding here if not for old friends.
I thank Mike Gormez for what he has facillitated here, it is vital that this process was started, and no ex-pupils had found a way. I also thank those who have spoken out about their experiences at St James and St Vedast, their testimonies say it all. I thank those teaching staff who have had the courage, decency, and integrity to speak on this public forum. It demonstrates who you are as men. I share the sentiments regarding Barrington Barber so clearly expressed by Bruce( hello mate! drop me a line!). To me he was a good man. Will Rasmussen always seemed more humane to me than some, though I did find him impossible to read! As for David Hipshon, in my experience he was intense and intimidating, but a good history teacher.
Where do I begin? After 18 years St James still evokes such strong feelings. Don't get me wrong, I am not going to claim that I was subjected to the level of abuse some suffered. But I will stand witness. I know myself to be a confident, balanced and happy individual; this inspite of time served under the regime that was St James. And this is the main point I wish to express and expand on. Many on this site have taken part in long spiritual / philosophical debates, I see this as a fundamental hangover from time served at these schools. I will state clearly that while I was at St James, and my parents were in the SES, the organisation was a cult. It manifested the classic signs and symptoms of a cult and operated in such a manner. Nothing will ever change my opinion.
The allegations made on this forum must be dealt with in an open and honest manner by the present heads of the organisation. They would, as I am sure they are acutley aware, be foolish to down play this. It would seem that many past students are vocal , organised and prepared to take this foward, myself included. They could simply deal with this situation in a decent and responsible way and show contrition for the multitude of young lives they damaged in the early days. Those who did the greatest wrongs to young children should be made to come foward and offer their most sincere apologies as a start. You know who you are. I am sure you have taken legal advice regarding this, but I ask you to step foward and take ownership of your past behaviours.
If St James School can get their act together to find my address on an island off the coast of Canada inorder to send me their magazine, they can damn well get their shit together to notify me and ALL former pupils about this supposed open inquiry. I hope my point is clear.
To the present students of St James, and members of the SES. Some of the posts on this forum, from you, seem distinctly unsympathetic, almost angry. I ask you to hold your tounges and let the former pupils speak. The very organisations you look to today are what they are because of the failings in the early days. These things happened. All the time. Do not patronisingly suggest these people move on. For many this is the first opportunity they have ever had to do so.
I, like a number of others it would seem, have spent my life working in a wide variety of social/ caring settings. I have first hand experience with many forms of abuse and the tangled web it weaves. Abuse was present in the schools. Many, myself included, left ill equipped to deal with an outside world we had been conditioned to reject. Many, myself included, were serious under- achievers, despite high levels of intelligence. Many, it would appear had problems with relationships. The schools failed us in many ways, academically and emotionally.
At best St James was an idealistic, deeply misguided, mismanaged experiment with young lives. You have all read what it was at worst. I have been told that it has changed , that things are different now. If that is the case, it is because of the price we paid, some far more than others.
It has been stated that many teachers acted the way they did because it, in turn, was the way they had been dealt with as children. The undeniable cycle of abuse. Britain is infamous for its history of physical violence in schools "back in the day". However, for anyone to suggest that during the early and mid-eighties this was still the case is total bollox. Social service agencies all over the country, and the prevailing attitude in the school system, were championing the rights of children. The cane was all but abolished. And I would highly doubt that even if beaten, these teachers as children, had to deal with the daily damping down of their individuality, self esteem and self confidence that was the insidious mainstay of SES philosophy as implemented at St James. This, for me, has always been the greatest wrong commited against the boys and girls of the school.
As for the guilt of Nicholas Debenham? I was fortunate in that he had a certain fondness for me and I was never singled out. I am not prepared to exonerate him however. He was the Headmaster, he bears ultimate responsiblity. It was his watch. It seems to me that he genuinely believes in his system of education. These outpourings must be difficult to fathom from his position. I believe, if he is the man many feel him to be, he should set a precident and address the discontent in a 'truthful' way. Nicholas, you could help many lives.
It took time for me to deal with my upbringing and the effects of my schooling. I do not claim to be a victim of accute abuse at St James, nor was it the cause of all my problems, however the experience was deeply confusing. I still feel anger at times. However I would not change my past , I am who I am because of it. It instilled within me a will to survive and a refusal to defer to any higher truth other than my own. There were moments of total hilarity, utterly unique. As when I was dangled by my ancles out of a second story window by my new classmates because I refused to divulge my 'mantra'. Thank you for taking the time to listen to me,
I wish you all happiness in your lives.

chrisdevere
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Postby chrisdevere » Thu Feb 10, 2005 10:07 am

Nick your name rings a bell were you in the school cadet unit during the transition from St Vedast to St James? Did you have a brother there? or were you in the same class as my brother John?

a very elequently put post. I agree completley with it all being a failed experiment where we were the guinea pigs!

Best regards

Chris
Christopher de Vere
chrisdevere@hotmail.com

Snowman
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Location: London

Postby Snowman » Thu Feb 10, 2005 12:16 pm

chrisdevere wrote:Nick your name rings a bell were you in the school cadet unit during the transition from St Vedast to St James? Did you have a brother there? or were you in the same class as my brother John?

a very elequently put post. I agree completley with it all being a failed experiment where we were the guinea pigs!

Best regards

Chris


Sorry to butt-in but I can help you out here, Chris

Nick's brother was in John's class and he was in cadets as well. As an NCO he was firm but fair and I had a great deal of time for him. Great lad!!

Nick,

I remember you well, and I would also like to say that I think you have written an excellent piece, well observed/remembered and full of sharp insight into the school, SES and this forum.

I hope that you are well and enjoying life to the full. No doubt whale-watching in that part of the world as well - Ooh, I'm very very jealous.

Please pardon me for my anonymity.

Kind regards,

Snowman

PS I was in the year below your brother.

chrisdevere
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Postby chrisdevere » Thu Feb 10, 2005 5:33 pm

Ah yes i remember alistair Horscroft, bright lad I seem to remeber him beeing keen enthusiastic willing to learn and good at firearms drill and orienteering.

Snowman you knew my brother John? I have pointed him at this place but he still refuses to speak about anything that happened to him at St James, he was in Laceys class. All i know is that when he started he was beright and enthusiastic and very keen on languages (Especially ancient Greek) however he was made to drop this as he was behind the rest of the class (not surprising having never studied it before). I got the impression it was more because he enjoyed doing it, and enjoyment was not what lacey wanted in his controlling little world! He became very withdrawn eventually, but in later years came out of his shell and now lives in Australia.

Perhaps you could shed some light on his treatment while there? as whenever i ask him, his only comment is Lacey, Arsehole. i do remember he had some good friends there though.
Christopher de Vere
chrisdevere@hotmail.com

Tom Grubb
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Postby Tom Grubb » Thu Feb 10, 2005 8:38 pm

Good post, Nick!

You wrote:
As for the guilt of Nicholas Debenham? I was fortunate in that he had a certain fondness for me and I was never singled out. I am not prepared to exonerate him however. He was the Headmaster, he bears ultimate responsiblity. It was his watch. It seems to me that he genuinely believes in his system of education. These outpourings must be difficult to fathom from his position. I believe, if he is the man many feel him to be, he should set a precident and address the discontent in a 'truthful' way. Nicholas, you could help many lives.


Indeed. Along with two other former St Vedast pupils, I met Nicholas Debenham last year. He stated that "everyone" at St James "was happy" and that pupils at St Vedast "accepted" their punishment.

Tom

Matthew
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Postby Matthew » Thu Feb 10, 2005 10:25 pm

Tom Grubb wrote:Indeed. Along with two other former St Vedast pupils, I met Nicholas Debenham last year. He stated that "everyone" at St James "was happy" and that pupils at St Vedast "accepted" their punishment.


Myself and Dan Salaman were the other two former St V pupils at that meeting, and I can vouch for Tom that those were Debenham's words. (I'm sure Dan wouldn't mind me mentioning his name as he has previously referred to that meeting on this forum).

Matthew Woolf

Matthew
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Location: London

Postby Matthew » Tue Mar 01, 2005 10:29 am

Just because I don't contribute to these boards as actively as I used to it doesn't mean that I still don't read every single word written here with very keen interest. After a whole year of writing, campaigning, and basically getting this whole thing started, its now time for me to return to other important areas of my life that have since become neglected. Of course in no way am I saying that the fight (for me) stops, just that there are other ex-pupils, whom I have total faith in, that have since come along to share the load, and for this I am eternally grateful. Living with a condition like OCD (caused largely as a result of my "Experiences at St Vedast and the SES"), makes it extremely difficult to simultaneously manage too many things going on in one's life. Anyone who lives with OCD (or knows someone that does) will understand this. This is not an excuse, it's a fact. I'm still very much here in the background keeping a very keen and watchful eye on proceedings. (I'm sure there are also many others who, for a variety of reasons, fall into this category).

The foot will not be taken off the pedal.
I wish you all well,

Matthew Woolf

Snowman
Posts: 75
Joined: Fri Jan 28, 2005 9:31 am
Location: London

Postby Snowman » Tue Mar 01, 2005 6:05 pm

Matthew

There are many people out here who appreciate what you have achieved in getting the campaign moving and my thanks extends to all those who have played a part in this. I can assure those who are not directly involved in the campaign that Matthew has galvinised a campaign that has gathered such support and momentum that it will see through its goals.

The schools' leaders WILL acknowledge and apologise for ALL abuses that were undertaken at ALL of the ST James and St Vedast schools from their inception to the present day.

I have experienced such a range of emotions since finding this forum and have found it to be an extremely useful aid for remembering, acknowledging and understanding the extreme and painful experiences of my childhood. I am still living with these memories and even remembering more each day and there are so many that make me sad. I have wanted, at times, to go back to that little boy cowering in fear in the classroom to comfort and reassure him that he is not inadequate, ignorant, sinful and naughty. He was just a little child but now he is a man; a man who will expose the depraved ideology behind a school for innocent children.

A school whose regime of discipline involved the systematic abuse of every facet of their pupils' souls; emotional, psychological, physical and spiritual.

A school where control over the children in its care was exerted by instilling an atmosphere of confusion, fear, anxiety, humiliation, pain and isolation.

All this inspired by the same philosophical teaching of the School of Economic Science, that preaches love as the cornerstone of the creation yet wilfully harmed and humiliated thousands of innocents.

The principles that it continues to stand by have not changed in the 30 years since the schools were born and yet the schools continue to grow under the direct governance of the same parent organisation, the SES.

I have no power on this earth to judge the deeds of those teachers who abused those small children, that is the right of a higher power, but I offer my forgiveness to them. That does not condone their actions and does not make amends to thousands who hold them responsible. The time is nigh for apologies to be made by those guilty men and women, taking a lead from the courage demonstrated by David Hipshon, Barrington Barber and Will Rasmussen.

God Bless you all


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