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

Discussion of the children's schools in the UK.
Hello

Postby Hello » Thu Oct 14, 2004 1:52 pm

Is it true that the school is STILL employing teachers from the peak of the dark days? If so, does that mean that the school endorses the way those teachers behaved? Why otherwise is the current head teacher entrusting children into the hands of these teachers?

StJ79-93

Postby StJ79-93 » Thu Oct 14, 2004 2:36 pm

Hello wrote:Is it true that the school is STILL employing teachers from the peak of the dark days? If so, does that mean that the school endorses the way those teachers behaved? Why otherwise is the current head teacher entrusting children into the hands of these teachers?


Yes, there are at least 3 teachers, whose abusive actions in the "dark days" have been mentioned on this forum, that are still employed by St James School.

The school - headmaster, governors and SES higher echelons - are well aware of the actions of those teachers in question. They even chose to offer the post of Deputy-head to one of them when the previous Dep resigned last year and as far as I know he still holds that position. So, in addition to endorsing his actions, the school would appear to have rewarded his "service" to the school with a promotion.

Guest 1003

Postby Guest 1003 » Thu Oct 14, 2004 4:07 pm

StJ79-93 wrote:
The school - headmaster, governors and SES higher echelons - are well aware of the actions of those teachers in question. They even chose to offer the post of Deputy-head to one of them when the previous Dep resigned last year and as far as I know he still holds that position. So, in addition to endorsing his actions, the school would appear to have rewarded his "service" to the school with a promotion.


They may be aware now, but they were not when he was appointed. Very few people had any idea of what had been going on. They would have been appalled if they had known. NO-ONE in SES would endorse or defend the kind of behaviour described on this website. It's hard to imagine how on earth it could have happened, given the values the people involved supposedly believed in. What the perpetrators themselves think about now, heaven knows.. Horrified guilt, I should think.

The wheels of justice grind slowly - but they do grind. Thanks to this website, the darkness will all come out now. A bit late, but at least it's happening.

Hello

Postby Hello » Thu Oct 14, 2004 4:33 pm

Guest 1003 wrote:
StJ79-93 wrote:
The school - headmaster, governors and SES higher echelons - are well aware of the actions of those teachers in question. They even chose to offer the post of Deputy-head to one of them when the previous Dep resigned last year and as far as I know he still holds that position. So, in addition to endorsing his actions, the school would appear to have rewarded his "service" to the school with a promotion.


They may be aware now, but they were not when he was appointed. Very few people had any idea of what had been going on. They would have been appalled if they had known. NO-ONE in SES would endorse or defend the kind of behaviour described on this website. It's hard to imagine how on earth it could have happened, given the values the people involved supposedly believed in. What the perpetrators themselves think about now, heaven knows.. Horrified guilt, I should think.

The wheels of justice grind slowly - but they do grind. Thanks to this website, the darkness will all come out now. A bit late, but at least it's happening.


What a bizarre post! The SES is a horribly brutal organisation. So why would they not endorse the brutalism that went on at St James and St Vedast?

And why, if they are appalled to find out about the past abuses, are they still happily entrusting the care of children to two men at the centre of the allegations?

The question must be asked: do the current staff actually endorse and approve of the behaviour of past St James regimes?

StJ79-93

Postby StJ79-93 » Thu Oct 14, 2004 5:27 pm

Hello wrote:What a bizarre post! The SES is a horribly brutal organisation. So why would they not endorse the brutalism that went on at St James and St Vedast?

And why, if they are appalled to find out about the past abuses, are they still happily entrusting the care of children to two men at the centre of the allegations?

The question must be asked: do the current staff actually endorse and approve of the behaviour of past St James regimes?


Hello,

I assume that you have had intimate involvement in the SES that you make such a firm statement. I believe that the abuses mentioned on this forum were known to certain members of the SES at the time but that they did not actively "endorse" them - they pretended not to know.

It is the duty of the school and not the SES to appoint its teaching staff and thus it is also the school's duty to deal with these issues. Whether current staff approve of the behaviour of past St James regime is impossible to know without one of them breaking their silence on or off the record.

Guest 1003 rightly (in my opinion) suggests that very few people had any idea of these issues but then says that NO-ONE in SES would endorse or defend that kind of behaviour. Surely some of them have, haven't they? The culture of silence in the face of any allegation concerning the SES will continue as it has since the beginning.

To date there has been no admission from anyone in either the school or the SES that the abuses documented here ever took place; yet there has also been no denial that they took place.

I am confused by Guest 1003's comment about the values that they (SES members) believe in, though. What values are being referred to?

Guest

Postby Guest » Thu Oct 14, 2004 6:18 pm

...Inteesting point, I wonder if current teacher Southwell still picks up with one hand seven year olds by their hair and throws them around classrooms....


lowpass

Guest

Postby Guest » Thu Oct 14, 2004 7:52 pm

yesterday I read in the Guardian that a volunteer boys teacher in a mosque had been jailed for 3 months for hitting a child with a stick.
Thank **** for the law! It is no longer an ass. If only the pupils at SES childrens schools had been similarly protected in the 1970s-80s.

Dan

Tom Grubb
Posts: 380
Joined: Tue Feb 17, 2004 10:23 pm
Location: London

Postby Tom Grubb » Thu Oct 14, 2004 8:22 pm

Anonymous wrote:yesterday I read in the Guardian that a volunteer boys teacher in a mosque had been jailed for 3 months for hitting a child with a stick.
Thank **** for the law! It is no longer an ass. If only the pupils at SES childrens schools had been similarly protected in the 1970s-80s.

Dan


Hear hear!

Tom Grubb
Posts: 380
Joined: Tue Feb 17, 2004 10:23 pm
Location: London

Postby Tom Grubb » Thu Oct 14, 2004 8:30 pm

Guest 1003 wrote:NO-ONE in SES would endorse or defend the kind of behaviour described on this website. It's hard to imagine how on earth it could have happened, given the values the people involved supposedly believed in. What the perpetrators themselves think about now, heaven knows.. Horrified guilt, I should think.

I would hope so, but I doubt it. If nobody in the SES endorses what went on at St Vedast and the old St James, why the hell don't they say so? Very many SES members and former SES members KNOW what went on. By their continuing silence, they are complicit in the abuse of children. Mr Debenham, Mr Barber, Mr Russell, Mr Howell, Mr Farndell, Mr Southwell, Dr Hipshon,....are you listening?

Tom
Last edited by Tom Grubb on Thu Oct 14, 2004 8:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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adrasteia
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Postby adrasteia » Fri Oct 15, 2004 10:20 am

StJ79-93 wrote:It is the duty of the school and not the SES to appoint its teaching staff and thus it is also the school's duty to deal with these issues.

Yes, but this doesn't happen in practice, St. James is run by Ses- they're all in Ses, most teachers, governors and the headteachers. Those who were witnesses to the past want everything to be forgotten and if everyone who was involved can get amnesia about the past, so much the better. If it were to 'come out' the continued employment of some teachers might be tricky to explain too.
The slate is wiped clean and they can try to get it right again- no one -even newer Ses teachers- need know that it went a little wrong the first time. This way the ideal of the 'perfect' school can be upheld without a blemish. I think they believed it was, until 'that' book showed them they might be doing something wrong.
If past pupils hadn't spoken up I think they might have succeded, in pushing it all under the carpet.

StJ79-93 wrote:Whether current staff approve of the behaviour of past St James regime is impossible to know without one of them breaking their silence on or off the record.

Have you read Katherine Watson's postings? She is a teacher at St. James Boy's School. She is not representing the school, just giving her personal opinions.

gadflysdreams
Posts: 22
Joined: Fri May 28, 2004 6:30 pm

speaking out

Postby gadflysdreams » Fri Oct 15, 2004 5:27 pm

even as past pupils who knew what was going on and did not speak out we are culpable! of course people in ses knew - those teachers were in ses! ses, until not so long ago was largely responsible for selection of teachers - it must all down to ses who the head teachers are! teachers from outside ses are taken in only in desparation when there has to be qualified staff to get pupils through public exams. German wasn't really wanted as a subject so Dr. Gutmann was sent politely packing! He was much valued by the pupils also.

David Hipshon

Postby David Hipshon » Sat Oct 16, 2004 5:44 pm

Firstly let me explain that I was only told about this site a few days ago. I looked at it for the first time last night and I have only just finished reading all the contributions. I'd like, therefore, to begin by apologizing for seeming to ignore what you have been discussing. If you had contacted me in any way I would have been only too happy to respond. My e-mail address is dna@dhipshon.freeserve.co.uk .I would prefer to receive messages from people with names, rather than anonymously, but either way I'll do my best to enter a dialogue with you.

I entered the teaching profession in 1979 after obtaining the first of my history degrees and a post-graduate teaching qualification. My hope and intention was to help people and to make a contribution to society. It still is. I am deeply sorry if anything I have done has caused distress or resentment. Although some of the correspondence on these boards is malicious, misleading, one-sided and libellous I am only too painfully aware that some of it is not.

Tom: I'm afraid I don't actually remember you although I recognize your name. If what you say is true and I have caused you pain and unjust indignity, then I am very sorry. Please accept this apology as a first step towards understanding and reconciliation.

Dan: I remember you as a rather difficult and complex individual with a considerable degree of resentment at being in the school in the first place. I nevertheless liked and respected you. I met you at a party some years ago and was shocked by the implaccable hatred I encountered. I immediately apologized to you for any part I may have had in creating that feeling. I do so again. It's time to begin to resolve these feelings and I would very much like to meet you to start the process. Please get in touch.

Alban: You mention my throwing a board duster at you and a piece of chalk (which was apparently intended for someone else). Sorry. I don't remember the incidents you mention but I do have a vague recollection of you as a lively young man with a great sense of humour.

From my perspective it's important to remember the context of the times. When I was at Leeds Grammar School in the 1960s corporal punishment was normal and used by almost all the staff. I received, for instance, three whacks with a cricket bat for running in a corridor. We were regularly hit for minor midemeanors. I was slapped across the face for speaking out of turn. We accepted it because we didn't think there was anything wrong with it and believed it was making us stonger characters, better able to deal with the vicissitudes of fortune. After a gap year, three years at uni and a PGCE year I was offered a job at St Vedast. The school was still quite new and the prevailing ethos was one of restoring values to a society that was rapidly abandoning them. We believed that to have self-respect and tolerance you had to be well-disciplined yourself. The parents of our pupils wanted a strict school where teachers were obeyed so that there was order and therefore better opportunities for learning. In the context of the seventies, when there was a general perception that education had gone off the rails because school pupils were no longer disciplined, I was happy to teach in the way I myself had been taught in the belief that this would help my pupils and society at large. This attitude, combined with the smallness of the school which added to the intensity, undoubtedly led to the feeling of oppression that some of the correspondents mention.

I moved to St James in 1984, a year before St Vedast closed, and as the school grew, so in many ways did we. I was only 23 when I began and there can be no doubt that I was insensitive, over-bearing and over-zealous. I'm glad I wasn't a pupil in my own classes at that time. It must have felt stifling and oppressive. I'm sorry to all of you who had the misfortune to meet the arrogant and bigotted young idealist I probably then was. I've been teaching now for 26 years and although my present pupils know that I don't put up with anti-social behaviour and deliberate disruption to my lessons (detention is pretty much the ultimate sanction these days) I like to create an enjoyable learning environment and to encourage pupils to express themselves as much as possible. I think I've learnt to be sympathetic and understanding whatever the problems the pupil might have.

I would like to say one final thing about Mr Debenham. I can accept any criticism of myself. I think I deserve it and it helps me to become a better person and a better teacher. I think much of the vitriolic bile against him on these boards is unjustified, nasty and disgustingly puerile. He is remembered by hundreds of his former pupils as a man of outstanding integrity, humanity, vision and courage. At a church service a few months ago to celebrate his retirement as the founding Headmaster of St James the place was packed with former pupils and their parents who wanted to thank him. Their feelings were just as valid and genuine as those of the comparitively few who have contributed to the criticism of him on these boards. Many former pupils came to the reception afterwards and one of them said to me, "I never received a punishment from Mr Debenham that I didn't thoroughly deserve. He is the most just man I have ever met."

I'd like to end by reiterating my opening sentiments. I am saddened that I may have contributed to the continuing unhappiness of any of the correspondents and while apologizing to them I would urge them to get in touch with me privately. A few beers and some talking might begin the process of resolution. I sincerely hope that we might at least begin to understand each other more. Nothing would give me greater satisfaction.

David Hipshon.

Guest

Postby Guest » Sat Oct 16, 2004 10:55 pm

David Hipshon wrote:
I would like to say one final thing about Mr Debenham. I can accept any criticism of myself. I think I deserve it and it helps me to become a better person and a better teacher. I think much of the vitriolic bile against him on these boards is unjustified, nasty and disgustingly puerile. He is remembered by hundreds of his former pupils as a man of outstanding integrity, humanity, vision and courage.


And by others as something completely different. I remember the 8 years I spent under his 'teaching' as quite simply the worst most horrific time of my life. When i finally left the school it took me months to realise I was finally free of his vicious cruelty. There are possibly many students who studied alongside me at the time who may have a more glowing memory of him.He picked on certain individuals, perhaps who he felt were tainted by something, modernism,the non SES outside world ( i loved jazz and was constantly admonished for talking playing and listening to it). His solution was to cane. The more he caned the more I stood up to him. His response was to simply keep on caning. A pathetic approach to teaching a young 7 year old. The cane was so severe that blood was drawn and bruises lasted for weeks being punished twice in a week was awful as it reopened bruises.This was given for being late for school. What this treatment does to the pscych of young children you can only guess at. I am not vitriolic purile or full of bile. Just telling something that happened to me that I wish had not. It borders on the sadistic to tell a student their punishment will happen at the end of the week, so they have to wait.

David Hipshon wrote: Many former pupils came to the reception afterwards and one of them said to me, "I never received a punishment from Mr Debenham that I didn't thoroughly deserve. He is the most just man I have ever met."



Well I am a former pupil of his for 8 years, and I can say In all my life he was the most cold, unpleasant, cruel, violent, repressed, aloof and unjust person I have ever encountered. I have taught a few young children myself and I cannot comprehend someone doing to them what he did to myself and others.

best anon

Guest 1003

Postby Guest 1003 » Sun Oct 17, 2004 12:42 am

StJ79-93 wrote:

I am confused by Guest 1003's comment about the values that they (SES members) believe in, though. What values are being referred to?


OK

Love, respect and care for all beings.
Honesty, truthfulness, fairness and straightforwardness in all dealings.
Truth to oneself.

I think that's more or less it. Or I could put it more succinctly - love thy neighbour as thyself. Or, again, from the Upanishads - to see oneself in all creatures, and all creatures in oneself.

And yes, I am all too aware of the irony of this.

Guest 1003

Postby Guest 1003 » Sun Oct 17, 2004 2:42 am

Hello wrote:The SES is a horribly brutal organisation. So why would they not endorse the brutalism that went on at St James and St Vedast?



Brutal? Really? SES does not exist apart from its members, so you must be referring to them. Maybe I just haven?t met the right people, but I have, over getting on for fifty years, seen nothing I could describe as brutality ? ever. I have seen some people puffed up with self importance, rigid and conservative in their views, and short-sighted and insensitive in their dealings with others. In the past, there were definitely some who, as tutors given power that was not good for them, were manipulative and bullying. Today, I see very little indeed of any of that. We have come a very long way since the days of ?The Secret Cult? (of which more in a moment). Even the so-called ?hierarchy? has now been dissolved, and it has been made abundantly clear to everyone that we are all equals, brought together solely because we share a single aspiration. (Namely, what is variously referred to as self realisation, enlightenment, or awakening. ?A lot of old guff? to you perhaps, dear reader, but I wouldn?t expect anyone not interested in this kind of thing to understand or sympathise ? any more than I can share in or comprehend a taste for, say, potholing or stamp collecting. Each to his own.)

There are still aspects of the organisation which I disagree with (for example the idiotic and unnecessary ?dress code?) but I regard them as irrelevant and mild irritants.

Among the thousands of fellow students I have known, many have been brilliant, energetic, talented, original, funny, warm-hearted, intelligent, learned, saintly even ? and some have seemed, at least in my subjective judgement, fairly dull, plodding, conventional, unthinking, or just weak, or humourless, or timid and fearful, or conversely conceited or over-confident. (I have to say, though, that I?ve usually found myself having to revise my opinion of the latter once I?ve got to know them.) I?ve even come across the odd bastard. We are, like the rest of society, a mixed bunch. But I really don?t think it?s correct to say, just like that, that as a body of people we are ?horribly brutal?. That some, apparently, have indeed been brutal is most certainly horrible.

Maybe you are thinking of the allegations made in ?The Secret Cult?. I was around when that book came out, and I read it right through. In my opinion it was a very clever but outrageously biased, pernicious and sensationalist piece of journalism. The way the two journalists subtly manipulated language in order to twist facts and insinuate damning interpretation of them was amazingly skilful. You had to admire it. The pair of them went round the world diligently dishing up whatever dirt they could find, but absolutely refused to listen to anything whatsoever positive about the school. They seemed particularly disappointed, so I heard, to find that they couldn?t unearth any evidence of racism in the South African school, even though they tried very hard. (Of course they did find a lot that was wrong ? especially, I think, in Australia. Mavro does seem to have been a nutcase, by all accounts. And it must be admitted that the attitude to women prevailing in the school generally at that time was Neanderthal.) Some of the girls in St James sixth form at the time ? including my daughter - also tried to talk to them and tell them they had got many things completely wrong, but they flatly refused to listen. I met one of them once. I made a rather feeble attempt at a joke and was met with utterly implacable, ice-cold hatred such as I have never encountered before or since. We also very soon found there was no point in trying to defend ourselves. Anyone who tried to talk to the press found their words twisted out of all recognition so that it appeared that they were saying the opposite of what they intended. We tried to get people to come and see for themselves, but nobody was interested. Minds had been made up. I myself attempted to make contact with a bishop (I forget which one) who had, while knowing nothing about us, never having met any of us, taken it upon himself to denounce us on the back of what those two journalists had said. He refused to have anything to do with me. Perhaps he didn?t have a long spoon.

That said, in the end we were grateful to those journalists. The SES was advised by Shri Shantananda Saraswati (our spiritual guide) to treat the whole event as a warning, and to examine carefully the allegations made against us to see what truth there was in them. As a result, a whole lot of changes were made. A sort of general spring cleaning took place, and a large amount of stupid and/or pernicious stuff was simply ditched.

Since Mr MacLaren died ten years ago, a great deal more beneficial change has taken place. Donald Lambie, the man who has taken his place as leader of the SES is, in terms of his personality, almost the opposite of Mr MacLaren (to the relief of many). He is quietly spoken, modest, unassuming, friendly in a slightly awkward sort of way, careful almost to a fault in what he says, not particularly imaginative or creative and not in the least charismatic, but he more than makes up for that by his good-heartedness and his utter honesty and integrity. And one thing he most definitely isn?t is brutal!

Sometimes I wonder what people imagine goes on in the SES. We just meet once a week, in groups of about a dozen, where we meditate together, perhaps read and discuss together a passage from a philosophic or scriptural source, or consider together some idea or concept, talk about the practical implications of what we have read/discussed, practise simple exercises designed to still the mind and perhaps allow a deeper understanding of ?what is? to emerge in the silence. We take coffee, we chat. We discuss or practise some more. And then we go home again. In addition, almost all of us contribute in some way to the running of the school ? either as tutors, administrators, receptionists, or by helping with catering and maintaining the buildings etc. ? once a week, either on a weekday evening or for a morning or afternoon at the weekend. Once a term we go with fellow members of our philosophy group for a weekend retreat at Nanpantan Hall or Waterperry. Once a year we have a week-long retreat. And that?s it.

You can also, if you want, join various kinds of study groups, or do things like art, calligraphy, music, dance etc., depending on your tastes and interests. It is true that in the past pressure used to be put on people to stay in the school, but that is no longer the case. Anyone is entirely free to leave when they want to ? and they are equally welcome to come back if they want to. As things stand in the present, it is hard to see quite what people who object to the SES ? some it seems quite violently ? have got against it.

Brutal? Unequivocally, I say your charge is false.
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