two sides…

“Children who board in prep school experience abandonment and bereavement at a very early age. Even when surrounded by kindly adults and a caring ethos, they are captive: powerless to leave unless released by staff or parents” says Joy Schaverien in this powerful argument about early boarding.”Living in captivity, even benign captivity, is still imprisonment. The psychological parallel is that the emotional self also becomes imprisoned.”

On the other side of the argument, the director of the other BSA Robin Fletcher challenges those who say it is unquestionable that boarding is harmful, and that this approach ” simply does not present a full and honest picture of the sector”. He describes how as in any other school, there will be those who love it and those who don’t. As ever, there is a lack of recognition that if you don’t love it the damage has already been done by the time you can do anything about it.

15 thoughts on “two sides…

  1. I understood the case “against”… I couldn’t find a case “for” … I assume you mean the simplistic business plan/mealy mouthed statements by Robin Fletcher who doesn’t appear to be very bright!

    • I think inevitably there must be some, if not major psychological damage to a boarded child.
      Of course, I am basing this mainly on my own experience (as related in my recent childhood autobiography,
      Don’t Come Crying Home.)

  2. william, i have just downloaded your book from and look forward to reading it.
    what has happened to sally frazier? what has happened to this website? there apoear to be only 49 of us following this blog. i find this extremely strange considering the importance of this subject.

    • hi mary, I am sorry you did not receive the email to all supporters explain that I have had to resign from my role in boarding school action unfortunately, you can see my letter on the news and events page. Sam is taking over from me but it might take him a while to get the hang of updating the website. Best, Sally

  3. The case against: There’s absolutely no question…
    I have and still am suffering psychological damage from nothing other than my traumatic childhood.
    I was sent to BS at the earliest possible attendance age as soon as i turned 7.
    My emotional self did become imprisoned and has been ever since.
    I rebelled school right up to the age of 16 and then threw my future away just to be free.
    I soon turned to alcohol and drugs as I found relief for my endless loneliness and other issues but this of course eventually brought me to my knees after several close calls to deaths door.
    I am now 40 and in recovery. I work a 12 step program but its not enough.
    I suffer depression in the form of anxiety & discontent and also major mood swings.
    Ive finally given in to medication for this but still have not stabilised and am literally still in hell.
    This has had such an impact on me its unbelievable. I am still that helpless little boy.
    I am willing to go to any length to expose the gravity of psychological damage this can cause and has caused me and probably many others too. It must be stopped. End of story.

      • goodness me, that is young Hugh. Thank you for sharing your thought and stories, and I am really pleased to hear about your commitment to this very important cause. Personally I am taking a break from campaigning at the moment to work on a longer writing project around the issues, but you can get in touch with those actively campaigning via facebook or twitter. Best of luck, I look forward to hearing how you get on. SF

  4. dear hugh, i just read your harrowing story and will reply in full when i return from helping out with my grandchildren here in north carolina. i am a retired family therapist who went, unwillingly but briefly, to boarding school at the age of sixteen. even so, it took me years to sort myself out. my fundamental issue was discovering that my parents could do anything they wanted to me – and with no warning/preparation at all. i can only imagine what damage was done to you at age six. there are only two sides to the boarding school debate as there is between creationism vs. evolution. most sympathetically, mary

  5. p.s. in the meantime, hugh, please read “the making of them” by nick duffell. this spells your/my argument out. there are support groups as well as therapists that specialize in helping boarding school victims become boarding school survivors. i hope you will search for and find one. mary

  6. Hmm …. an interesting site. I’m not sure whether this post will be thought off topic, but here goes ….

    First, let me say that I am posting under my pen name of Gareth Greenwood for reasons that will, I hope become clear. Second, I did not attend a boarding school but a non-boarding public school in London (St. Dunstan’s College 1964-1971).

    I loved the school academically, was always if not at, then very close to the top of my year. That in itself caused problems because I was on an ILEA scholarship, and not much liked by fellow pupils whose parents paid for their education. Prep school types tend to be hacked off when at age 11, they encounter bright working-class kids who are there on merit and can beat the hide out of them intellectually. I felt very alone from the beginning.

    Collecting every prize I could to age 13, I then entered the science stream in the third form. That’s when things started to get nasty. It wasn’t other pupils but a new headmaster that was the problem, namely the abysmal Richard Pedley of Black Papers notoriety.

    You don’t survive in a boys public school if you are a shrinking violet. I wasn’t and often told prefects to piss off. This set Pedley against me and, despite my being the best linguist in the school (acknowledged even in the third form by the Modern Languages department), Pedley instituted a new rule to restrict the relevant academic prize to pupils who were actually in the languages stream. So, despite beating the rest of them hollow I never got the prize. Pedley knew how to make enemies.

    This was a catastrophic mistake. Bullies should never pick on people who aren’t afraid of them. Not only had I no fear of him, but through Labour Party and family connections, I actually knew far more about him than he could possibly have imagined. Of all pupils in the school, I was the worst possible choice of victim.

    Petty harrasments abounded thereafter until I reached the sixth form. By that time Pedley had made enemies of many of us – enough, indeed to form a communist cell. For two years that cell carried out guerilla-style espionage and sabotage against Pedley. Its greatest achievement was to stage a demonstration inside the Great Hall on Speech Day 1970.

    Big deal, you might think – except that, AFAI am aware, Pedley was and remains the only UK public school headmaster to have had such a spectacle staged at the one event during the school year when it could embarrass him in front of pupils, staff, governors and parents. It even made the front page of Peace News the following week.

    Pedley immediately and correctly suspected my involvement. But all I had done was to steal unnumbered tickets which were given to sympathisers from other schools who actually kicked off at the opportune moment. As I had planned, staff later told Pedley that he could be certain of two things: Firstly, I was undoubtedly behind it and secondly, I was perfectly capable of ensuring that he could never prove it. This very soon got around the London public schools grapevine and made Pedley a laughing stock among fellow headmasters. His reputation never recovered. It made him take to the bottle and he died less than two years later, regarded as one of the worst heads the school had had.

    Early in the 1970-1971 school year, Pedley retaliated by trying to get the ILEA to terminate my scholarship. He was unaware that we could intercept his letters. I knew what he was up to within days of his action. It was easily parried. ILEA chair Ashley Bramall was contacted on my mother’s behalf by family friend Frederick Elwyn Jones, who had been Attorney General in Harold Wilson’s first government. Jones advised Bramall that ILEA should ask Pedley for copies of my school reports. Academically they were so good that Pedley never dared to send them – as interception of his correspondence grimly confirmed.

    I say all this not to blow a personal trumpet. To all those who have been damaged by public schools, I say that none of it was your fault. The kinds of abuses that the Pedleys of this world got up to were by no means uncommon. It was purely by chance that some of us, at that particular time, in that particular school were able to punch so far above our weight that we consigned a vicious bastard to a premature grave.

    And yet these things have their costs. Running a spying operation stresses trained spies. Doing it when you are just 16 is even more stressful. Add to that undiagnosed autism and gender dysphoria and you are near the tipping point of mental breakdown. Little over a year after the Speech Day disruption I was in a psychiatric hospital from which I was discharged a few months before Pedley’s demise.

    I have had chronic mental health problems ever since. I can’t blame a public school for these troubles. It did not cause them – but it did trigger them at the worst possible time – the cusp of adolescence and adulthood. That alone has left lasting mental scars.

    I’m proud that I fought back and I know that what I did to a foul headmaster was remembered for decades after I left.

    Wars, however, have only losers.

    • thank you thank you thank you, to the person behind the name gareth greenwood. my experience was not the same as yours, but similar enough to give me a good belly-laugh and a really good night’s sleep as a result of your wonderful post, your wonderful achievement, your wonderful strike on behalf of “us all”.
      again, thank you,
      valerie harte (probably no one’s name, certainly not mine!

    • I hate to burst your bubble, but I was at St Dunstans in 1976 – 1986 and never heard a word about any
      “great demonstration”.

      St Dunstans was a very good school. At least when I left I had the English and Maths skills to cope with uni, which is a lot more than most modern 1st year uni students.

      They did “ask my elder brother to leave” but then he deserved it.

      It was not perfect but much better than the alternatives and in my time there was never any issues with scholarship students being discriminated against. There was normal disputes between kids, some fights, but never real discrimination

      Yes Brian Dance (HM) was a tool of astronomical proportions, but that was made up for by the raft of good teachers you interacted with every day.

      I feel lucky to have had a chance at such a good education as it’s seen me pass officer entrance exams for the NZ Army then move into management roles in civilian life. It fostered a love of reading that is still with me and one of my main interests. None of that would have been possible without the grounding I got at St Dunstans.

      Your post to me sounds like you didn’t make much effort to fit in with the system at the school then wondered why you were ostracised. A precious mix of look how clever I was and poor me the victim. I can’t speak about the villainous Mr Pedley as I never met him but I can attest to the fact that St Dunstans has been turning out good young men (and now women) far many years.

      Sorry it didn’t work out for you

  7. I, too spent seven years, from 1980 to 1987, at St. Dunstan’s College. Like Gareth Greenwood, I am writing under a false name.

    During my time there, homosexuality was rife. This was hardly surprising, as there were around 900 teenage & pre- teen boys there, but, with the regime in force- attending school from Monday to Saturday , and up to 3 hours homework every night- boys had little time to meet girls and form relationships.

    A number of masters were also homosexual; Ken Knight, Martin Preston, Nick Pallot, Ken Douie & Barry Mead definitely were, Robin Austin, Frank Stanton, Peter Baldwin & Mike Busk were generally believed to be, and some boys also suspected that Trevor Charlton & Keith Bamford were, although I, personally, did not.

    I was sexually assaulted, several times, while at St. Dunstan’s and I saw other boys being sexually assaulted, as well. Unfortunately, from what I have read, this is part of public school life. Boys are effectively imprisoned, in order to teach them to work and to obey. While this may enable them to secure high- powered jobs, the down side of this, of course, is that they cannot form normal relationships, so they form relationships with each other. When one hears of ‘gay sex scandals’, and child abuse scandals, among prominent figures in public life (not that I believe that all of them are true), the majority of the alleged participants have been educated at a public school.

    Most, if not all, of the masters, at St. Dunstan’s had been educated at public schools, and no doubt those who were homosexual had been introduced to same- sex relationships there. There were a number of unpleasant incidents, involving masters. Ken Knight left suddenly, for ‘personal reasons’; it later transpired that he had made sexual advances to no less than three boys. Peter Baldwin also left suddenly; I never learned the reason, but I do know that he had an unhealthy interest in a boy, whom I shall not name. I remember him tickling this boy, under the armpits, during a swimming lesson. Ken Douie died suddenly; I later learned that he had committed suicide, after Nick Pallot ended their relationship. I was also told, by an older boy, although I cannot corroborate it, that Nick Pallot invited him, and one or more other boys, to his house, where they were given wine to drink.

    When I was 15, I fell in love with a young lady, but she laughed at me, because, quite reasonably, she wanted a boyfriend who would spend time with her, and do things, together, with her, rather than someone whose whole life was taken up with schoolwork. After 5 years of St. Dunstan’s. I could no longer relate to ‘ordinary’ people (no disrespect intended), so I trotted out the line that I would make a better husband, as I would have a better job, than most people. She thought I was crazy. Shortly after this, though, I began to realise that I was being kept isolated from the outside world, so as to turn me into a robot, who would work all the hours he was told, make a lot of money, but miss out on life. The reason for all the homosexuality, at St. Dunstan’s, also became clear, to me, and I wanted out. I lost all interest, in schoolwork, with the result that the masters diagnosed laziness, and decided that detention was the cure.

    Not surprisingly, I got out as soon as I was old enough.

    • Sounds like someone has an axe to grind 🤔

      Sorry I will not stand by and see the names of some good people dragged through the mud when they aren’t in a position to defend themselves……..

      I went to St Dunstans 1976-1986 and was taught by Peter Baldwin, Ken Knight, Nick Pallot, Ken Douie, Barry Mead and Mike Busk.

      I even went away on skiing holidays with Peter Baldwin and he and his wife were friendly with my parents. He also taught me PE for 4yrs and rugby for 2. And to this day I’ve nothing but respect, admiration and friendship for the guy. I spent plenty of time alone with him and never felt uncomfortable.

      I had private tuition at Ken Knights house leading up to sitting the St Dunstans entrance exam. Hit was always f**king cold but there was never any hint of impropriety. I then went to P3 – his class. He was a hard man and set high standards, but needed that.

      Ken Douie was gay. For years he lived with his boyfriend Chris Carter another former SD teacher. I believe Chris died in the late seventies, leaving Ken heart broken. I remember the change in him when it happened and he was never his old jovial self again. I remember feeling sorry for him. He lasted another few years but eventually killed himself, I believe from a broken heart. He was a kind, compassionate man who went out of his way to help me when he saw I was I difficulty. I few kind words from him would lift my spirits.

      I was taught maths by Mike Busk. Didn’t like the guy as he had a high opinion of himself but he was competent and got me though my maths ‘o’ level. Was he gay – yes probably. Did we ever see any inappropriate behaviour from him. Absolutely not

      Nick Pallot taught me English and coached me rugby. Fiery temper, but with fierce determination. Lateral thinker and good guy once you got to know him. Was he gay? I honestly don’t know. Don’t really care – he was a good guy and never made any advances to any of us.

      Barry Mead was just a nice guy. Softly spoken and very patient. He helped my brother at school tremendously. I just liked Barry Mead

      My point is it doesn’t matter weather they were gay or not. Just because someone is gay does not make them a child molester. Just because a gay guy works at a boys school DOES NOT mean he grooming little boys. Would you say the same of a woman working at a boys school?

      If you were sexually assaulted why didn’t you tell your parents, or the school, or someone. Was it perhaps that you got a gym shoe or ruler across your backside for doing something wrong? And that’s sexual assault? Despite the fact that’s what happened schools in the early 80s. Ken Knight broke a 1m ruler over my hand when I was 9. Was it harsh. Yes. Did I deserve it? Probably not. Am I still pissed about it? No I always liked Ken Knight

      To me this post is resentment driven. You obviously blame St Dunstans for all the difficalties of your teenage years. Schools fault for you loosing a girlfriend – really? More like she just wasn’t that into you and didn’t want to hurt your feelings. Deliberately isolating you from normal people? I call BS on that. That was your issue not the schools.

      And a program to turn you into a homosexual robot? See that’s were your credibility heads a little south

      I think you need to accept a little more self responsibility. It’s always easier to blame others for our own failings.

      This is a bitter and twisted post from a bitter and twisted little snow flake. I hope you can rise above your misguided vitriol and get on with your life

  8. I was also a student at St Dunstan’s, from the early to late 70s. The only master who was openly gay was Preston. He would often talk about his sexuality in Divinity classes which, generally, comprised little more than sex education. There was never any questionable behaviour though and he seemed likeable enough, unusual for the SDC common room. I think it’s quite possible. even probable, that some of the other teachers mentioned were gay. When Pallot was 2A form master he would always invite us to visit his home during the holidays, which some did, but I heard of nothing untoward happening.

    The only impropriety I witnessed was from the French master, the aptly named Horne (can’t recall his first name). There was one boy in the first year he took a particular liking to, and would often approach him during lessons and apply ‘make up’ to his face in the form of different coloured chalk, all done in a leering manner. He would also bring his guitar into the classroom at the end of each term, and make every pupil sit on his lap whilst he put his guitar in front of us to play it. Today he would probably end up in court.

    I too was a scholarship boy but this was never an issue. I was far from alone though as a large proportion of those in the lower school A, then middle school Alpha, streams, had scholarships.
    The headmaster, Dance, was indeed a self important twat. The masters were invariably highly educated, but teaching standards ranged from the excellent, such as Shergold and the talented but volatile Pallot, to the very poor, such as Reese, uber chalk and talk old school and gifted only in his ability to send pupils to sleep. After three years of his nonsense most of the class knew so little Latin that we had to resort to leaning the translations of the set books parrot fashion for O level.

    My time at SDC was however a very happy one, in spite of the pompous and self important culture of the school, which I rebelled against from the fourth form onwards. I could not have wished for a better bunch of fellow students, and I have never felt so at home with those around me, either at primary school before or later in adult life.

    PS – I also heard nothing about this ‘great demonstration’.

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