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

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

erikdr

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

Postby erikdr » Sun Oct 17, 2004 7:06 am

Well, not much opinions about what you state on presentday SES. Out of the contacts I had with Dutch SES the last one left School 2 years back, and through them I saw it gradually improving - but still with cores of danger, like the Gurdjieff-style secrecy which I mentioned in another post. But THIS section of yours deserves some scrutiny:

Guest 1003 wrote:
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.



I was also around (okay in Dutch section, but we visited Waterperry festival twice and had to work there at least as hard as the UK support groups!), I stayed around for 3 years after reading and still had a totally different impression from the book - which is still on my shelf.
The main point which can be made against Hounam/Hogg is that they have a bias against serious religion. In their equating meditation (which was relatively unknown in the eighties, okay...) with brainwashing they are ridiculous and spoil quite some parts of their other conclusions.
But the facts themselves which they represent, and are at times horribly 'wrong behaviour', are basically correct for what I experienced from Dutch SES and the UK one. And it's good that SES has learned upto some extent from the book, and since then improved its behaviour. But please don't try to bring down the value of 'Secret Cult', it pointed to a lot of smoke with unfortunately often was related to quite a few fires...

With folded palms,

<Erik> - Amsterdam

erikdr

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

Postby erikdr » Sun Oct 17, 2004 7:08 am

Well, not much opinions about what you state on presentday SES. Out of the contacts I had with Dutch SES the last one left School 2 years back, and through them I saw it gradually improving - but still with cores of danger, like the Gurdjieff-style secrecy which I mentioned in another post. But THIS section of yours deserves some scrutiny:

Guest 1003 wrote:
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.



I was also around (okay in Dutch section, but we visited Waterperry festival twice and had to work there at least as hard as the UK support groups!), I stayed around for 3 years after reading and still had a totally different impression from the book - which is still on my shelf.
The main point which can be made against Hounam/Hogg is that they have a bias against serious religion. In their equating meditation (which was relatively unknown in the eighties, okay...) with brainwashing they are ridiculous and spoil quite some parts of their other conclusions.
But the facts themselves which they represent, and are at times horribly 'wrong behaviour', are basically correct for what I experienced from Dutch SES and the UK one. And it's good that SES has learned upto some extent from the book, and since then improved its behaviour. But please don't try to bring down the value of 'Secret Cult', it pointed to a lot of smoke which unfortunately often was related to quite a few fires...

With folded palms,

<Erik> - Amsterdam

gadflysdreams
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responsibility

Postby gadflysdreams » Sun Oct 17, 2004 6:31 pm

Mr. Hipshon's posting failed to recognise that a headteacher should have complete knowledge of the type of discipline in use at their school. No good saying the head is a just man if he's not even aware of the disciplinary proceedures used by his staff. Might well be a just man; but the claim to "just" in the execution of his duty as head just doesn't hold, unless the perpetrators of these brutal forms of punishment were acting outside the authority of the head. In the latter case, what the hell are some of them still doing teaching there.
Mr. Hipshon's appology is welcome, although he reckons he can't remember any of the actual acts of violence inflicted upon any pupil.
That is difficult to believe!

Tom Grubb
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Reply to David Hipshon

Postby Tom Grubb » Sun Oct 17, 2004 6:59 pm

Reply to David Hipshon


Dear David,

The views I?m about to express in this message are very much my own. I haven?t yet consulted other survivors of St James or St Vedast about your extraordinary post on this forum. Some of them may have very different views from my own.

Thank you for your post! This is the first apology I have read here from a former or current St James or St Vedast teacher and I welcome it. Thank you also for giving out your email address. I suspect that you will be receiving many emails from former pupils in the near future.

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.

Don?t worry about not remembering me. It would be surprising if you did. I was at St Vedast for less than two years and one thing that I was very good at was keeping my head down and not being noticed. This was a useful survival tactic which helped me avoid much, although certainly not all, of the brutal mental and physical cruelty that was so common at the school.

What I say IS true. You once struck me around the head with great force for no apparent reason. However, I don?t expect you to remember this particular incident since you hit so many other boys during, and no doubt after, my time at St Vedast. As I remember it, violent blows to the head were something of a speciality for you. Quite apart from the pain and humiliation that such assaults caused, you must be aware of the danger of severe and lasting injury that might ensue from unexpected and violent blows to the head of a developing child. I hope you are also aware that, were you to behave in such a way nowadays, you would ? in my view, quite rightly ? run the risk of criminal prosecution. Speaking strictly for myself, I accept your apology to me as far as it goes although, as you suggest, I see this as only a first step, albeit a very welcome one, towards reconciliation. Rather than wanting ?a few beers and some talking?, I would consider my dispute with you closed on receipt of a full and unreserved verbal and written apology for your abuse of the pupils in your care. It really is as simple as that.

I leave your remarks about other pupils for them to answer.

On the subject of your own experiences as a pupil of Leeds Grammar School, I am sorry that you received ill treatment there, whether you ?accepted? it or not. As you will realise from many of the posts on this forum, the level of abuse at St Vedast and the old St James was probably a great deal worse than at Leeds Grammar School and was definitely not something that pupils generally ?accepted?, however much Mr Debenham might want to believe otherwise. Indeed, even today, the resentment and anger that many of us still carry at this appalling treatment is great.

On the subject of Mr Debenham, you write that ?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.? I can only say that just about all of the vitriol I have read here about Mr Debenham is entirely justified! I suspect that, of the former pupils you mention who were so keen to thank him at the recent church service, few were contemporaries of mine at St James or St Vedast. Ascribing the words ?integrity, humanity, vision and courage? to Mr Debenham?s behaviour during my time at St Vedast would be a sick joke.

Tom Grubb

Alban
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Postby Alban » Sun Oct 17, 2004 7:29 pm

Firstly, I personally feel that David Hipshon's post is genuine and comes across as sincere. I thank him for that, and I applaud his efforts to bring reconciliation - that is all I am personally after. I'm glad too that he has recognised that his actions were those of a young and inexperienced (my interpretation) teacher.

I can also understand the arguments that schools used to use corporal punishment twenty years before and am aware that in certain sections of society, there was a feeling that children were undisciplined...and if you read the manifesto of the UKIP you'll probably still find the same sort of complaint.

However, I think my real complaint with the way things were, which was not really touched upon in DH's post, was the culminative effect of all the factors. Firstly, there were the young an inexperienced teachers that lost their temper, true, but the older ones were just as bad if not worse. Very few had any control over the children (and it's not as if St Vedast was a school full of problem children) and so they resorted to violence - what sort of example is that for the kids. Nicholas Debenham MUST have been aware of this and did nothing to stop it. Secondly, the general level of discipline was so high, that there was never any let-up for the kids. It was a constant barrage of "do-this", "don't-do-that...whack" that meant the whole atmosphere was extremely depressed. Thirdly, there was no outlet for creativity in the school - even art lessons were removed from the syllabus for years, and even when we had them, it was "do-it-like-this". Lastly, the influence of the SES on both the Schools and our parents meant there was no let up once we got home (after our extremely long day).

Some of my complaints can be laid at the door of the SES and it's leader at the time, which massively influenced everything the schools did. Some of the blame should be shared by the teachers that lost their temper and lashed out at the kids. But most of the blame MUST be laid at the door of the Headmaster who allowed both of the former to continue unchecked. Not only did he do nothing to stop it, he encouraged and contributed to it.

So David, please do not try and defend Nicholas Debenham, he has many things to answer for. For example, the pupil who said "I never received a punishment from Mr Debenham that I didn't thoroughly deserve." obviously wasn't one of the two classes of children he caned because someone spoke in swimming!

As for certain content being " malicious, misleading, one-sided and libellous", then I would urge you to publicly discuss points raised that you feel aren't fair. I will certainly be happy to defend anything I have written (and a great deal that I haven't). I can say this though, that it generally takes a lot of courage to write about one's personal experiences in a public forum, and when one does so, it is normally done with a great deal of care.

Having said that, I re-iterate that the post was most welcome, and for me it serves as an admission that mistakes were made and you are sorry they were. We have all made mistakes in our past, I certainly am not proud of everything I've done in the last 20 years. I only have a problem with those that still feel they were justified in treating the children that way, and would still be doing so if it were not outlawed.

I truly hope that yours is the first of many similar posts from those that taught in the schools during those hellish years. No-one can give back what was taken away, but an apology goes a very long way if it is sincere.

Alban

Guest 1192

Postby Guest 1192 » Mon Oct 18, 2004 8:48 am

I too welcome DH's post which comes across as essentially sincere and must have taken some courage - a quality lacking among all the cowardly abusers who tormented innocent children at St James Independent School For Boys during the 1980s.

But thank you for your post DH. I don't agree with every word you've written (would be strange if I did) but your genuine attempt to build bridges and heal the wounds that you, Nicholas Debenham and the rest inflicted is admirable.

I can assure you, I am not one of the pupils with anything to thank Debenham for. He presided over an abusive, cowardly regime that inflicted horrendous abuse on innocent children. He should be thoroughly ashamed of the damage he and his teachers have inflicted on so many.

I also note with interest that you mention libel in your post. I think you know that the only people with anything to fear from the courts of law are you former teachers from St James Independent School For Boys.

All the same, I welcome your post which is a significant but small step in the right direction. But there's much, much, much more needed to come before we will even consider stopping this campaign.

I note that David Lacey is still teaching at St James Independent School For Boys. So for all the posts from 'current pupils' claiming that the current regime is free from the abusive days of old, the truth seems to be quite different.

Why is David Boddy, the current headteacher of St James Independent School For Boys still employing David Lacey?

Katharine Watson

Postby Katharine Watson » Mon Oct 18, 2004 5:03 pm

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


Of course not!

Katharine Watson

Postby Katharine Watson » Mon Oct 18, 2004 5:25 pm

Guest 1192 wrote:

I note that David Lacey is still teaching at St James Independent School For Boys. So for all the posts from 'current pupils' claiming that the current regime is free from the abusive days of old, the truth seems to be quite different.


On the contrary. Whatever may have happened in the past (and I am not wishing to deny anyone's claims), the school today is a friendly, open and cheerful place. If I thought for one moment that abuse was happening, still less permitted or endorsed, I would not be working there. The boys speak very freely of any complaints they have, and I was amused in a rather grim sort of way when last week one boy made a speech (as part of his GCSE English course) in which he actually advocated a return to corporal punishment!

Why is David Boddy, the current headteacher of St James Independent School For Boys still employing David Lacey?


Possibly because he is an excellent teacher and until now neither the school nor the governors have ever received any official complaints about him or, as far as I know, about any of the others. Posting stuff on this board is obviously very cathartic for most people, but it doesn't of itself communicate with the school.

Before David Hipshon sent his recent post (which I also very much welcome) I was about to comment that people on this message board seem unaware that they are mainly talking to themselves and each other. David Hipshon's post confirms what I have long suspected: most of the people accused here have been all this time quite unaware of all the website's existence.

However, before everybody gets too angry and frustrated, can I just say that I know that further moves to bring about reconciliation are afoot. A lot of work has been going on behind the scenes for some time, as some of you know. It's not actually my place to say any more for the moment, but I can tell you that there are reasons to be cheerful in the wind.

With goodwill to all,

Katharine[/quote]

David Hipshon

Postby David Hipshon » Mon Oct 18, 2004 6:06 pm

Thanks for your recent posts and E-mails. Keep them coming. The strength of feeling in them is indicative of great hurt and resentment and I would like to do everything I can to help. There are no qualifications on my apologies for contributing to your feelings of pain and anger. I am truly sorry. If any of you would like to meet me let me know by E-mail. I'm away over Half Term but get back 30th October. I would welcome the opportunity to face up to my mistakes and the people who have suffered as a consequence of them.

David Hipshon.

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adrasteia
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Postby adrasteia » Mon Oct 18, 2004 7:55 pm

David Hipshon,

But I would salute your courage in posting on this site and making steps towards a redressing.
Your apology is not for me as I was never your pupil, but I had some thoughts about your first post.

David Hipshon wrote: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.


I would ask exactly what it is you're apologising for?! You don't seem to remember any of the incidents mentioned, and have referred to none yourself. I'm sure that being "insensitive, over-bearing and over-zealous" and therefore an unpopular teacher is not in itself a crime! They still exist today!
But I do think it?s a bit dangerous to leave that last sentence unresolved?

David Hipshon wrote: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?
I would like to say one final thing about Mr Debenham..


So would I!
It?s all very well saying ?We believed? and ?the parents wanted this?, but as the head of the School Mr. Debenham would have been responsible for what happened in the school and for any ?over-zealous? teachers. He must defend himself, and must ultimately shoulder responsibility for his staff?s actions too.

This came up in another post:
Katherine Watson wrote: Possibly because he is an excellent teacher and until now neither the school nor the governors have ever received any official complaints about him or, as far as I know, about any of the others.


If we are to believe the reports on this site, then he has not always been an excellent teacher, or at least manager of children. Although it is still unclear what on this site St. James/Ses deems slander.
If they are true, and the previous headmaster, Nicholas Debenham, knew that he had been harming the children in his care ?and he should have made it his duty to know this- then why did he continue to employ him?
Does Mr. Boddy defend Mr. Lacey from the accusations made on this site because he has seen no evidence of it? (I know the accusations on this site are not official, but it is obvious that both Headteachers are aware of its existence, as they have responded to it.)

Watching this unfold with interest,
Adrasteia

Tom Grubb
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Postby Tom Grubb » Mon Oct 18, 2004 7:59 pm

Katharine Watson wrote:Posting stuff on this board is obviously very cathartic for most people, but it doesn't of itself communicate with the school.

Before David Hipshon sent his recent post (which I also very much welcome) I was about to comment that people on this message board seem unaware that they are mainly talking to themselves and each other. David Hipshon's post confirms what I have long suspected: most of the people accused here have been all this time quite unaware of all the website's existence.

If this is the case, Katharine, perhaps you could ask any of the "accused" whom you may be in touch with to let me have their contact details. There are a lot of people who would love to talk to them. Also, they might want to contribute to this forum as David Hipshon has done.

Tom

Tom Grubb
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Postby Tom Grubb » Mon Oct 18, 2004 8:03 pm

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


Of course not!

Katharine, is this an admission that you are aware of abuse having occurred at the old St James or St Vedast? If so, would you like to make public what you know of this?

Tom

Guest

Postby Guest » Mon Oct 18, 2004 8:55 pm

Tom Grubb wrote:
Katharine Watson wrote:
Hello wrote:
The question must be asked: do the current staff actually endorse and approve of the behaviour of past St James regimes?


Of course not!

Katharine, is this an admission that you are aware of abuse having occurred at the old St James or St Vedast? If so, would you like to make public what you know of this?

Tom


Sorry, but no, it isn't. I knew, of course, that the school used corporal punishment, and for that reason, as I told you privately, would not have wanted to work there until the policy had changed. (Not that I was asked: I was teaching elsewhere at the time.) I knew also of a couple of teachers - one in particular who has now left - who had a reputation among the boys for going over the top. (I am not going to accuse him; I am hopeful he will come forward in due course himself.) But I understood that he had been held to account and told that his behaviour must cease. I assumed he had complied, but he was not teaching at the boys' school by the time I got there.

As you know, I have been following the posts on this website from the beginning. I first was alerted to it when I discovered that boys in the Sixth Form under my care were logging onto it. (Well actually it was the earlier one, run I think by Antises.) So I decided to have a look for myself. What I read horrified and appalled me, as I made quite clear at the time. I had had absolutely no idea that the kind of violence described had taken place. All I had heard about was some over-zealous caning and a lot of sarcasm, which I well know is extremely undermining to young people's confidence. I also knew that some boys had been unhappy at St James, but I never imagined the kind of thing people here have spoken about. Those of us who were in at the beginning (my daughter was in the first class) felt we were pioneers in what we hoped would be a wonderful educational adventure. We started out with the highest hopes - and in many respects as far as my own family is concerned, they were fulfilled.

It was Matthew, I think, who was the first to document his experiences, and as you may remember I immediately expressed to him my deep sympathy and sorrow for all he had suffered. Since then I have done what I can to get the process of 'truth and reconciliation' which I so much want to see happen started. Over this whole year I have been playing a waiting game, knowing that eventually there would be a resolution, if people were patient enough.

I know it must seem extraordinary, but people really did not know. My daughter were both very happy at school - one at St Vedast and one at St James. We dealt with the wilder of the batty notions they reported to us at home by laughing at them. And they got a terrific education and have since in their very different ways gone on to be happy and successful women. Of course there must have been people who did know - parents, presumably, for a start. And obviously the perpetrators themselves, but to some extent even they may not have registered how out of order they had become. And it's hardly the sort of thing you go telling people.

I also believe there is good evidence that Mr Debenham did not himself know what his staff were getting up to. I wonder if Julian Capper did, when he was headmaster - presumably all this was going on on his patch too.

Over the past year I have spoken to a number of staff about all this. They have all been as shocked as I was. One at least already knew because his own son was a victim. A large number of the staff (all, incidentally, very well qualified and thoroughly professional - somebody a while ago suggested they might not be) are young people. One or two were not even born when St James was started. But they don't tend to visit the website, quite simply because they don't have time. No-one who hasn't been a teacher can have any idea just how impossibly busy and hard-pressed teachers are. And to be honest, their priorities are elsewhere - trying to make a good job, not just of teaching, but of looking after their pupils, running their departments, supervising, marking, preparing, helping to run the school, attending meetings (oh my God the MEETINGS!), talking to parents, caring for their particular forms, catching up on reading... etc.

If I had known what I know now, I hope I would have had the guts to try to do something about it. But that's just speculation.

Again, I'm sorry. I have done what I can to help, though I know it ain't much.

Katharine

Katharine Watson

Postby Katharine Watson » Mon Oct 18, 2004 8:59 pm

Sorry, that was me. Obviously.


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