I created this page for people to start their own threads and discussions. You are very welcome to do so, but please do not incriminate anyone and try to avoid anything which might be triggering or distressing to others. Boarding Concern, Boarding Concern and Boarding School Survivors all offer help and support to people who are struggling with the effects of boarding, unfortunately I am not in a position to be able to offer that as I do not have the training or time. Sadly at present I am unable to moderate this page. SF

636 thoughts on “discussion

  1. I boarded at Sherbourne Prep 1966-1970, then Sherborne School, Abbey House,1970-75.
    I’m heartened to read the articles and comments in the Observer and Guardian recently. Tough reading, but at last the subject of boarding too young, and boarding full stop, is being discussed.
    Fascinated and appalled reading all the comments…

    I’d be keen to get in touch with anyone who was at the above schools at the same time as I was.
    Be good to share stories…incidentally the headmaster of Sherborne Prep ended up in court on
    charges of indecency eventually back in the eighties I think. Would like to know what happened, anyone know?

    He always personally oversaw all the boys showering after games, and would change with us at swimming. One sports teacher was fired eventually, he was always hugging and tickling one particular favourite boy in the evening when we were all in our pyjamas. We all knew it was wrong and weren’t surprised when he didn’t reappear the next term.

    • the writer john lecarre was “incarcerated” in several boarding schools, including sherbourne. he has written about his experiences there ; if you google his name with “boarding school” you can read about them.

    • I was at Sherborne Prep 1968 – 1973. Made a dorm prefect at about age 11, and put in charge of a small dorm of younger boys age 7 – 9. It effectively isolated me from my peers – and made me easy prey when Robin Lindsay the head prowled round at night. He would stand at the end of my bed for long minutes in silence – then pounce if I showed any sign of being awake. He’d ‘massage’ my back to help me go to sleep. This involved pulling pyjama top off, and pyjama top down. And I can still remember vividly that he rubbed my back with one hand – while masturbating himself with the other hand. This back rub was a regular feature of my time there. Happened as many as 20 times or more. I can remember three words all beginning with P which I’d never heard before – which I learnt at the Prep: pervert, paedophile .. and panatella. He stank of the last. And was openly talked about as the first two! It was an open secret. I think all the staff knew. And no-one could stop him. I found out recently that he ran the school without governors – he could do what he liked. Solitary power. It’s the key to so much abuse. He was investigated in the 70’s. Then again in the 90’s which resulted in him being declared ‘unfit’ by a Dept of Education tribunal in London. He got away with abuse over three decades before being kicked out of the school in 1998.

      • Thanks for getting in touch Guy – lets keep in touch via email.

        I remember one summer evening it was very hot, and no-one could get to sleep.
        Fred Lyndsay roused everyone out of bed and about 100 of us had a massive pillow fight on the grass tennis court outside for about half an hour or more – everyone really going for it. Some of the older boys seemed to know what was in store and pushed past the occassional prefect trying to prevent this spontaneous night-time pillow fight. I remember it wasn’t dark yet – darkish – really surreal…..afterwards everyone filed back upstairs and we all fell asleep pretty quickly after that.

        Sorry to hear of your ordeals with R Lyndsay, I never knew that he did those things – I always thought at the time that he was more of a voyeur of boys in showers.

      • Hi Guy

        I was at Sherborne Prep 66 and left at end of 71.

        It’s a period in my life which I rarely revisit. The place was creepy and what you said re the dorm brings back awful memories. It’s good to have heard other accounts. The stench of Panatellas, hence his nickname ‘Skunk’.. The sportts teacher was a Mr Lawson i think, On a rugby trip to a london sevens tournament we had to go in Skunks car up the A303.. and suddenly we stopped on the hard shoulder and he reversed back into a sheltered area and told us to get changed into our rugby kit there as he said there would be no time at the tournament. So we all stripped naked and put our shorts on and he sat in the car watching us.. there is so much i could say about all the other things that went on. Why has he got away with this for so long? Trouble is. we are decent people and trusting and back then we were easy prey..


      • Hi Philip, this is a reply to yours below…there isn’t a reply box below your posting. Yes I remember Lindsay was called Skunk. You could always tell when he was prowling around at night as the fog of panatella and BO came as a fore-warning.

        You and I possibly knew each other I guess. You’re a little older than me. I reported what Lindsay used to do to me at night to the police just recently. Not much they can do apparently. He is in the closing stages of dementia and in full nursing care. The police officers who interviewed me said they weren’t in a position to tell me whether others had come forward … but did say there had been a number of recent investigations into the state of his health, which as good as told me that others had indeed come forward.

        He was possibly the most investigated prep school head across the decades. Investigated by the police in the 1970’s which I only found out last month. Also investigated across two years in the 90’s which finally led to his removal from the school. But as you say, he got away light. Now he’d be prosecuted for sure. The adults around at that time were afraid – unsure – unable to alert or report to the police on our behalf, despite the fact that everyone knew he was up to bad stuff. I can remember talking with two staff at the time – one of them was a teacher who was also a father of a friend of mine at the school. I think people did their best to protect us – but were unable to go up against his solitary power. And the fact that he ran the school with a weird system of in effect no governers at all meant no-one was awake at senior level. The police had no-one to go to I think.

        The school is now a different entity and run as a charity. The Lindsay family have no ownership or stake in the school at all. Any prospect of legal claim is extremely unlikely to lead anywhere. And he’s not going to court. He got away with it.

      • Hi Guy

        Thanks for your reply.. I did contact solicitors about this last year but they were not at all helpful. Seems they feast only on high profile fodder as we see regularly in the press.. no doubt eyeing up pots of gold for their practices.. Which is basically what I sensed through the outfit I contacted. Just made my memories all the more awful. I still feel he shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it.. He was outed back in the late 1990’s and i wrote to the court only to be told I was too late to submit any evidence.. I mean how is it too late..?

        Your words just took me back to those days.. and its good to at least share the grim stuff.. Not sure how you contact people like yourself to get more of us to stand up and have our abused rights aired.

        That open air swimming pool was appalling.. ordering us all to stand in a line and at the word of his command ‘kickers off’ we all stripped our wet trunks off.. I used to use my long school photograph as a dartboard .. the centre where he sat in the photo was the target.. and i was doing this at age 11

        Some years ago I sent the photograph rolled up to the PrepSchool archives for their record of how i felt.. and still feel.

        Did he ever get you to his bedroom in Netherton ? I had that misfortune.



      • hi gentlemen, sorry the crappy reply functions on this are not letting me reply to Philip and Ian too, but I wanted to respond to all of your recent discussions. I am really sorry to hear what you have been through and thank you for sharing your stories. If you are wanting to try and find other people with similar experiences at the same schools as you drop me a line via the comments box and I will try and give you any relevant info. best, SF.

      • Hi Guy

        Just reading your recent discussion upload.. So sorry to hear that Lindsay’s grooming became the opportunity of someone else. When he was the subject of investigation in the late 90’s leading to his removal from Sherborne Prep School I read in the Telegraph article about this ‘sated sensualist’ Lindsay that he had a lot of support from high up clergy. Who is to say that he passed on his prey to others later.
        One hears of this sort of thing having gone on now.

        I was told about the Goddard thing last year by a friend and still think its worth following up now my own personal lid is lifted..

        While I was at university in 1978 I was doing a hitch hike tour of Dorset . One sunday morning in late July that year I found myself standing outside the Prep School down the lane from Lyon House overlooking the Lower Paddock cricket field. No one was around so i walked in through the gate and ventured up towards the vegetable gardens behind Netherton House. One of the nice old gardeners appeared and recognised me even though I had left in 1971. We chatted but before i knew it Lindsay appeared and asked how long I had been on the road and did I need a shower. As it was morning he said I had to join him for breakfast then and there in his study. This I did, as I was startled like a rabbit in the headlights.. I ate the breakfast and then he insisted I went for a shower in Netherton. No one else was around as we went into the shower room, which you would remember, he said he would get a towel and be back, I stripped down and had a micro shower in less time than it takes to say the word ‘shower’ and was nearly finished dressing when he re appeared with a large towel… His face was boiling with rage, and I could see he was furious with frustration..and i can’t remember what he was saying as i hastily picked up my rucksack and legged it to the door and fled, litterally, fled down to Acreman Street and away..as fast as I could..
        I ran to find sanctuary in the Abbey and realised i had just escaped a potentially serious assault…

        That was the first time I had been back to the Prep in seven years.. He was horrific in that shower room ..a total nightmare.. in fact I had recurring nightmares after that for months..

        I did go back a couple of years ago and had a cup of tea with the headmaster Mr Tait who was clearly upset with the legacy of Linsday.

        As you say, Guy, that Linsday is not long for this world but I for one would not like to see his funeral as some sort of Collegiate cover up and a Glorious Thanksgiving for his so called commitment to Scholarship and Sport and Latin. He was an evil man

        I remember a Thursday timetable ran thus… Math Maths Latin Maths Lunch Games Music French
        That meant all morning in the same bloody classroom as Lindsay. His favourite brand of cigar.. Henri Winterman Panatella…

        All beyond horrific..

        It would be great to meet up with you sometime..

        From what

        • I think it significant you say Tait was clearly upset about Lindsay’s legacy back in 2013. On the phone in 2011 he claimed there was no information about Lindsay he could offer me and when I sent Nick Folland my email in 2016 he wrote the same (as well as writing that he had informed the police of my email). That tells a different story. They both knew. And claimed not to.

    • Hi, robin passed away this morning! I boarded in the 80’s and had nothing but the up most respect for the eccentric, misunderstood man that he was. We won roslyn park 7’s, what did he do? He took the whole team skiing to Switzerland for a week. That’s the kind misunderstood man he was, not a pervert. Just different. Yes he’d watch us all shower after games but nothing untoward would ever happen, yes he’d pat your back while you were changing, to make sure you’d showered. That was robin a great man and someone I looked up to. Rip Robin Lindsay.

      • Nicholas, I hope you have regard to those on this forum who have different opinions about the late Robin Lindsay. You might, for example, explain why you think he was ‘misunderstood’. What are your views on the claims of those who say they were abused by him? Are they exaggerating? Have you examined the process by which he was relieved of the Prep, and any relevant legal findings, and if so, what are your conclusions? I think, if we are to debate more about this ‘great man’, we should be told.

      • Sorry Nicholas, you’re ‘misunderstood’ characterisation is at best naive. I was also there in the 80s (only for a couple of years) and Skunk’s behaviour with the older boys was bloody notorious. I was warned about him by everyone in my dorm in the first week I was there: a number on the first night. I had no personal experience, but he was a callous and sadistic teacher (I’m sure you remember those lessons where he didn’t speak, just threw things; & of course lots of slippering). I’m incensed to see mention elsewhere in this thread of an investigation in the 70’s! Unbelievable. The thing that makes me so very angry was that I last saw him at a memorial service for one of the music teachers at the ‘big school’. Other teachers treated him like a leper at that, but I’m damn sure that every adult involved in education in that town knew damn well what was going on well before the 90’s investigation. It struck me that the leper treatment was only after he got caught…

        • Replying to paracelsian (February 6 posting).

          Is it just me or is this forum a difficult one to use. I’m never sure where a reply might end up in the sequence..

          Anyway, yes I can vouch for the 1970’s investigation. I was surprised when the police told me about this at interview. I thought up until then there had only been the 90’s investigation which led to him being ordered out by Dept of Education. I remember reading in the story that emerged then that the Prep was one of the most investigated schools in the country at that time. The police had been aware of reports of his activitiy across 3 decades. But couldn’t do anything as no-one was willing to make a statement until two brave families and their boys in the 90’s. .

          He ran the school without governors so there was nobody the police could approach to ask for support for any staff member willing to speak out. He was lord of his manor. And at that time, the police couldn’t simply act on hearsay or rumour – they needed a definite statement.

          And yes, awareness of him was widespread throughout the town. I became aware of this after I left. I got to know a local girl and her family and friends – and he was often talked about openly by adults in her company as ‘that pervert’. And I was certainly aware that a number of teachers in the Big School were aware of his reputation. I won’t repeat what he did again as I’ve already written about it here – but it was most definitely sexual abuse, and it spanned nearly two years. It was confusing and disorientating and damaging for a 10year old psyche to fathom. It was criminal and he would be serving serious time in jail today if he were alive. He managed to evade justice.

          • Dear Guy
            I am in touch with lawyers who have just turned down my case against Lindsay for my 3 brothers but I am now asking journalists to expose him as the paedophile he was and I have sent them this blog. I have asked IICSA to investigate Lindsay.

  2. Former senior judge Elizabeth Butler-Sloss is named as the chairman of a wide-ranging review into historical child sex abuse. I hope we can get included in the ‘Institutional’ investigation the Boarding school association members. There must be lots of hidden files about abuse. in their archives.

  3. I was sent to boarding school at age 8. I had to travel 6000 miles to get there. I lived in the Caribbean and my divorced parents decided that I was doing badly in the local school and it would be better to send me to England. I cried for 8 hours on the plane and for weeks at the cold school. Summerlea School in Rustington, Sussex was a dump. We were permitted one bath a week. We had to have strip washes on three other days. We were allowed to change our underpants twice a week. Cold and hostile, it was full of little girls from broken homes. The youngest was little Louise who was just two. Her parents sent her with clothes for a 5 year old. She spent her half terms at the school. Her parents never came for her. We ate food that was unfit for human consumption. We received a sub standard education with all of our best teachers leaving the establishment. And we were all dreadfully unhappy. All of my friends made terrible marriages. I became an alcoholic and a drug addict.To this day I trust no one. I feel like an outsider. I have noticed that voices are speaking up against this most inhumane system. At last, my unhappiness and my years of misery at that awful institution are finally getting some attention. And that my despair was not imaginary.

    • I too went to Summerlea when i was 9 until i was 14, when it closed down. Yes I cried when I first went there but I soon looked forward to seeing all my friends again. I don’t know when you went to Summerlea but it was certainly not like that when I went in the 1980’s. The food was pretty shocking but we changed that by having a sit-in in the principles office.
      There was bullying but this was no different from any other school and the school provided a stable education away from the continuous moving of schools due to my parents work. I was able to make friends and to keep them. Children went to the school for a lot of reasons. I think it unfair to blame the school for your choices. It was your parents decision to put you I the school, not the schools fault. I am sorry if this sounds harsh but it was not the school you are portraying it to be – at least not in the 1980’s.
      The education was fantastic. We had some great teachers and some not so great teachers. The youngest child there was almost 4 and she was from one of the African countries. We used to go and read to the little ones in their dorms and we were there for one another.

      I remember Summerlea with great fondness and was it one of my favourite schools I attended during my schooling years. It was a great loss to have it closed and for us all to have to move on.

      Boarding school is and was not always a negative experience. There were hard times, just in any school. There was bullying, just like every school. Some of my friends went on to have difficult marriages but many have also had very successful marriages. I have been married for 25 years and have been relatively successful. That is the same situation as from any school, whether boarding or not.

      Life is what you make it. Be the victim or make a difference. Don’t blame others for your choices when you are an adult. For some children boarding school is the best option. A life continuously on the road is no life for a child. Parents do the best they can for the circumstances they have.


      • Donna I was at Summerlea from 1968 to 1976. I must ask you to respect my experience. You do not know me and your assumptions are pretty insulting, not to mention your sermon on how to live my life. Walk a mile in my shoes and then perhaps we can have an exchange. In the meantime show some respect. I have to take your word for it that Summerlea was a great experience for you. You must be the only person on this forum who thinks that boarding school was a great adventure.

        • Caroline, I was in your year at Summerlea – I was so envious of you coming from a very exotic Caribbean island. I still have a photo of us in the dorm. Do you remember when we all ‘ran away’ …I hated the place but what I remember were the very lovely girls who stuck together through thick and thin (remember that night we had to ‘write lines’ until everyone had finished).
          Jane x

      • Sorry Caroline, was not a stab at you, more life in general. We all go through rough times and it is how we come out of those that makes us who we are – makes us stronger people. Boarding school was not the most fantastic experience but it was the best for some of those of us that where there. The 1980s were obviously better at the school than the 70’s.

        Seems the forum is a venting page for those who had a bad time. I doubt any one who had an average time would wish to post – as I did.

        Sounds like you have been through a lot. Glad you can find some solace from others who went through same/similar experiences.

      • I too went to Summerlea in the 1980’s and I don’t recall it being that bad. Yes I cried when I was dropped off due to homesickness but once my friends had arrived all was forgotten. I travelled from Africa every term to attend the school and can assure you that Summerlea was much better than any school I had attended in Africa previously and was hugely grateful for the opportunity.

        Each to their own but boarding school taught me self-reliance, ethics and personal responsibility and I think that a few more children could do with going there – maybe some children today would have respect, morals and some discipline and it would also make society less ‘namby pamby’ and feral.

        And Caroline – I personally find it hard to believe with your reasoning as to why you turned to alcohol and drugs. And no, I haven’t walked a mile in your shoes but you haven’t walked in mine either but I didn’t turn to alcohol and drugs and I don’t believe the fact that you went to Summerlea was the sole reason that you did too. Once we leave school and enter the big wide world we are responsible for the paths we choose and the decisions that we make. We all know the difference between right and wrong and some of us choose to ignore the voice in our head or the peer group pressure and do the right thing regardless and others choose the wrong path and spend the rest of their lives blaming everyone else for the error in their choices. This is my belief and I’m entitled to it.

        Life, School and Society was different in the 60’s and 70’s compared to the 80’s and even today. Things that were ‘acceptable’ back then aren’t acceptable today and rightly so but I can safely/happily say that I had some good times at both my boarding schools with my extended family (school friends) and wouldn’t have changed it for the world.

      • hi Donna, thanks so much for getting in touch and sharing your thoughts. I am very happy for you that you found your boarding experience so positive, I am well aware that is the case for many people. However, I would suggest that people who are troubled by their experiences are right to identify themselves as victims, and that the term victim should not be used in a negative way. There is a growing body of evidence that boarding can and often does create lasting damage, and that these childhood traumas cause people problems for the rest of their lives. Moreover, no theory of child development supports raising children away from home, and the rights of the child specified under UN guidelines suggests children should be raised in a family environment. Rather than a forum to ‘vent’ as you suggest, this is a campaign, to give people a voice in their negative experiences and also to protect others from suffering.

    • Hi Caroline. I can sympathise with yiu completely . I was there from 1968 – 1972. I remember little Louise. I thought I was hard done by, starting at the age of 5!
      I have traumatic memories of my 4 years there too. The worst was being shut in the cellar overnight for talking after lights out. I was only in my nighty, there were concrete floors, no lighting and no heating. I spent the night on the steps crying my eyes out.
      I remember the house mistress (although I can’t remember her name). She was extremely cruel and I can still remember her pock-marked face, some 40 odd years later.
      It was a harsh environment and I hated it and after 4 years of pleading with my parents, I moved schools.
      I’m pleased to hear that it improved as in our day, it was like something out of Tom Brown’s School Days; very Dickensian!

      • thank you for sharing your story Debbie, I am devastated by the thought of you boarding from such an early age. I hope you will find information and resources that are of interest and help to you here.

      • Hi Sally, there is no reply facility on your post. It appears to me that you are only looking for negative experiences to push your move to iradicating boarding schools. You ‘put down’ any positive experiences and encourage the negative to promote your cause.
        Maybe not so much in UK but in countries around the world the removal of boarding facilities would mean children did not get an education. For example remote communities in American, Australia and Africa rely on boarding facilities to allow their children to have an education.
        Have you looked at the more modern boarding school experiences or only those experiences of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s? A lot has changed since then.

        Your action appears to be a little bias towards the negative experiences.

      • No it was not Miss Stacey she was a young blonde woman and assistant to the older dragon faced matron who was a cruel and vicious woman. Although I have to say that Miss Stacey started to pick up some of her wicked habits. Her name escapes me.

      • I also remember little Louise. She was 3. Her mother was very sick and her Dad was not able to cope. Those were different times. She was only there for 2 terms…

    • Hi Caroline. I remember you I started at Summerlea in 1972 aged 8. I think this was way too young and can’t imagine sending any of my 4 children to boarding school and miss out on their childhood. I was made to sleep in the Library as a punishment and was so petrified i slept on the stairs. I was also forgotten when punished and made to stand on the front stairs landing. A senior came past and found me crying and sent me back to bed. The only positive thing I took away with me was my independence. My education was certainly no better than if I had gone to a state school. We did have some good teachers but also some bad. I got slapped on the face by frau Moore as she tripped over the back of my chair as I was tilting it.

      • thanks Carin for sharing your experiences , its good to hear from you. I am very interested to note that you feel your education was not better than it would have been in a state school.

        I would also like to reply to Margaret here too as for some reason there is no ‘reply’ option on her post! Thank you for your thoughts Margaret, and I am really pleased that you have taken so many positive things from your boarding experience. However I would take issue with the idea that children nowadays could benefit from more independence and discipline, not that we need a ‘namby pamby’ society as you put it but one which values nurture and compassion.

      • You remember Frau Moore? And her horrible, oversexed little dachshund that used to make love to our legs and that we could not kick off? She was awful. I can well imagine her slapping you. She could not stand any of us. Treated us like dumkopf. Not surprising that we all failed the O level. She would be had up before a disciplinary committee today.

    • I was at Summerlea fom 1968 to 1972 and agree with alot caroline says and remember her too! Poor louise used to be put in a laundry basket and the other girls used to sit on it so she couldnt get out so it wasnt just the staff that were cruel. I also remember being shut in the cellar for talking after lights out or for pillow fights, and also being made to stand on the half landing of the creaky front stairs in the dark with the huge curtains casting scary shadows. I was only 8! The worst experience was when i was ill and my mother was over in the uk. She came to see me on my birthday and the headmistress wouldnt let her. I still remember crying at the dorm window watching her stand at the bus stop. However, despite 2 failed marriages, i have a stable happy relationship now, 2 adult boys who i have brought up on my own and who are successful and happy in their relationships and i am a clinical nurse specialist with a degree achieved at 54 years old. Youre never too old to give up or start again. I wish caroline the very best and am sad to hear her experiences had such a negative impact on her life.

      • thank you for getting in touch Michele, your story about not being allowed to see your mother is very moving, and the kind of thing I hear a lot and which has a very strong effect on me. I am really pleased to hear that you are now enjoying you life so much now.

      • Michele, I admire your courage and I know what you had to overcome to get where you are today. I too was shut in the cellar and forgotten on many occasions. It was a scary experience because part of the punishment was staying down there in the darkness. We were not allowed to turn on the lights. The place was unheated and if we were punished in winter we had to go down there without our dressing gowns. That is just awful the way they turned your mother away. Feels more like a prison than anything else.

        Like you I raised my children on my own. Like you I got my degrees in my fifties. I just received my degree in journalism and I am pursuing a second degree in psychology. And I am doing this in the French language. I did start again. I did not send my children to boarding school. I remember looking at them when they were 8 and saying to myself that I was sent away at that age. They were still so little.

      • After being slapped by Frau Moore I refused to take German anymore and was taught Latin instead by Miss Warner at Lunch time!!! All I learnt was how to count to 10. Ha! Also punished for wetting the bed and made to move out of the cottage and into a single room next to the bathroom upstairs. Very scary for me. I think for a week. The best thing about boarding school was my friends of whom lots are now on fb. A dream come true to reconnect. My sister Dee was the only one (3years my senior) who also went Summerlea could relate. Now I have all my school friends to reminisce with and see what wonderful people they have become. As I live in Australia it especially great for me. Very interesting to read all these experiences and how it has affected us. You sound like a very strong woman Caroline.

      • I was telling my husband about being locked in the cellar…he didn’t believe anyone would be so cruel! But despite the terrible times there were some good times – do you remember playing Spit on the landing…then having to polish the library floor when we got caught!

    • hello caroline,

      I was at summerlea from 1979 to 1983 and this certainly was not my experience, I missed my parents badly but have very fond memories of my time there it taught me to appreciate people from different cultures and walks of life and although I was not keen on the teachers or the house mistresses no one was ever mean to me. The friends I made were kind and although like any school there was some bullying I found the older girls helpful when I needed them; we bathed all the time, our clothes were always clean as were our dorms, obviously coming half way round the world you would find it cold and maybe hostile as it is not a family that you are joining but a group of girls from very different backgrounds. I do not come from a broken home and none of my friends did they came from busy travelling families and army families which I was from my parents came as often as possible and I was invitd to many others homes. I am happily married with one son and no emotional problems.

      im sorry if this was your expeience, but I do not feel you can blame the school for your issues later in life, obviously this place did not suit you but we have to take responsibility for our own lives and try to live positively forget the past if it was not good to you but don’t blame a school which I feel you are misrepresenting here. best wishes in the future

  4. Caroline, what you went through was truly horrific. The thought of that two year old haunts me.
    I’ve found talking to a therapist experienced in working with ex-boarders of immense help.

    If we all come forward to tell our stories, this inhumane practice may stop – it really is an ignorant mutilation of the soul from a past colonial era, perpetuated again through sheer ignorance right up to the present day.

    A blight on 20th century education. It’s got to stop.

    • beautifully put, thank you Ian, “an ignorant mutilation of the soul from past colonial era “indeed!

  5. I was sent away to a prep school 250 miles from home aged eight. The school was family run and the regime was probably kinder than most.
    I was dreadfully homesick having been taught by a governess prior to school so had little experience of mixing with other children.
    Interestingly, the school now has very few boarders, and the intake is mainly local.
    I have struggled to form stable relationships ever since and tend to keep emotionally distant.
    My poor wife tried so hard to heal the wounds, and after 20 years left me with taking the two younger boys with her.
    I do not blame her as i must have been very difficult to live with.
    I have had many periods of depression, finding it very hard to cope by myself.
    I do not know if others share the misery of the unfathomable chasm that this leaves you with?
    A sense of acute loneliness.
    Nothing matches the sadnesss of Caroline’s story, but as a a sensitive soul I am finding life increasingly difficult to bear.

    • thank you so much for sharing your story Charles, and I am so sorry you are having such a difficult time. The feelings you write of will be very familiar to many I am sure. You make a very important point and contribution, your school was comparatively quite nice, that is something we are very keen to get across: even when nothing particularly awful or dramatic happens, boarding still damages people massively. You had to leave home when you were eight, and that is horrible.
      It is great that you have found us here, and I would also recommend you have a look at Boarding Concern too via the links page, where there is lots of information about specialist support for the sorts of issues you mention.
      Do consider ‘joining us’ at boarding school action if you haven’t already, we are working out ways of trying to convey that boarding is still harmful in the face of all the arguments that ‘its different now they have carpets and teddy bears’ stories like yours show that the basic problem is still the same.

      • Thank you Sally,
        It is reassuring that there are so many fellow sufferers.
        Is there a group in Shropshire that I could join? I prefer face to face!
        So much seems to be based in the South East or London.
        kind regards,

    • for some reason I cannot ‘reply’ to your ‘reply’ hopefully you can sill see this though. I can only think of some people in Bristol but that is probably still a bit far away, I will make some enquiries and get back to you.

    • Hi Charles,

      As a fellow ex-boarder (from 7yrs to 16yrs) I can say, that with the right help, talking through these issues can slowly allow the mind to change. If you can, find a therapist/counsellor who has experience in the issues ex-boarders have to deal with. Take heart! There are a lot of us out there who feel like you, and help is at hand.

      • Many thanks .
        I am receiving psychodynamic counselling. I t seems to be getting to the root of the problem

  6. What is interesting about British boarding school abuse is that is consistent across the boarding schools. In my boarding school Seaford College in Sussex the experience was horrific. Anyone who I tell what I experienced cannot believe it!

    And this too is interesting, it’s similar to a cult environment, the creation of a fiction, a fiction so embedded in people’s minds that they cannot believe anything as dreadful as being regularly homosexually raped by a teacher can be true.

    Further my Seaford College experience also included being placed in classes less than my capability, being blocked in many aspects of participation and generally not allowed to excel. I got a grade A in my first GCSE only to suffer for it, won cups in sports only to be told I was just lucky and the examples go on… I was told I was a complete failure as a human being and ignored by my career adviser. Not allowed to study computers or economics which I wanted to study.

    Only on leaving Seaford College to be accepted by a prestigious school and achieving a professional career. Seaford College on request to provide a reference for entry to that school refused, saying that they did not feel I should be allowed to go into that profession!

    What is clear to me is that these schools are gate keepers to British society, class system, religious idealism and perpetuating lineage. Those students with breeding were advanced and given title and the rest of us weeded out and killed off. These schools are eugenics gatekeepers for British society, designed and coordinated to keep back those who have managed to struggle upwards and destroy “in the bud” any challenges to the power pyramid. The abuse of children in these schools is not going away it will only be covered further.

    • thank you for your fascinating insights, I am sure a lot of people would agree with you about the “gate-keepers of British Society”, an interesting way of looking at things. SF

      • Yes gatekeepers is a good word to describe these schools. I think rather like the training of a military marine they look to break down the human emotionally, spiritually and mentally, in order to re build them in their own image.

        Events like Rurik Jutting, who was at Winchester College and recently murdered two Indonesian prostitutes don’t surprise me…these things seem to be an extension of the environment, behavior of students and mentality that I witnessed. One ex student (Galbraith) was shot to death by his wife…she claimed she was mentally and physically tortured.

        Seaford now have 24/7 CCTV on the students. I can’t imagine the damage of growing up feeling that you are being watched all the time causes …how horrible to have to deal with that additional punitive recourse in what is already a punitive environment; where there is never, ever any time to be yourself! These people are nuts! Nuts like a Hitler youth camp must have been like!

    • Fufu, I remember every Sunday at the prep school I attended, there would be a lord of the flies / s and m ritual going on in the woods. I never took part, but what was pretty much, older boys chasing younger ones, hanging them up on trees and beating them. once i went to have a look and saw a boy being hung by his feet, like some prisoner of war in a japanese camp

  7. Interesting reading – yes they are “gate-keepers”, but as is the English way, it’s disguised and softened and rationalised under the guise of “excellence”, “fullfilling potential” and all the usual educational meaningless marketing speak. The whole private school system is an essential componant in maintaining one of the most (the most perhaps ) unequal societies in Europe.
    They’re a blight on English society. They at least should have their charitable status removed- they sure ain’t Oxfam or Save The Children…

  8. I’m looking back from my mid-fifties at a life in which I have formed no intimate relationships, found no home, nor been able to employ myself in any consistently fulfilling pursuit. I wish I could feel healthily sad about that. At the moment, I simply feel shattered, anxious, depressed. I have no memories of my adulthood that are of any particularly strong emotional consequence. I have been with a therapist for three years. In that time, I have been skeptical, rational (ring a bell?) and am slowly coming to the conclusion that the boarding school experience has had a large part to play in this condition. I suffered no great abuse at my schools, but I am just beginning to understand how similar my condition is to that of those people who have suffered much more obvious forms of physical and emotional neglect in childhood.

    • Thank you for your very moving comment Robin. I am so sorry you are having such a difficult time at the moment, and that your boarding experience has had such a horrible effect on your emotional life as an adult. You make a very good point about suffering ‘no great abuse’ , it is something we here so often, and we hope to raise awareness that the simple emotional neglect of being raised in an institution is an act of abuse in itself. please consider joining us, you can write to me via the contact form on the ‘about page’ or Sam the membership secretary at the email address shown. I can also recommend contacting the watchdog organisation Boarding Concern, who have lots experience of supporting people through the issues you describe.
      The good news is that there is a very good recovery rate for these things, and from personal experience I know that flat, depressed periods often come before periods of positive change, I hope that becoming aware of these issues can lead to good things for you, best, SF

    • Hi Robin,

      All of what you say is eerily familiar. I completely identify with your story. You have to first congratulate yourself though for the big step in seeking counselling/psychtherapy and contacting this and other boarding school forums. Make sure your therapist is fully experienced in the syndromes that ex-boarders have – it will really help. Get hold of a copy of “The Making Of Them” by Nick Duffell – I found it very helpful in understanding what the mind of a young boarder has to do to cope with the experience. I have also found that any work that increases genuine contact and rapport with other people to be v positive – tai chi, ballroom dancing, (any dance/movement/expression), Qi Gong, jogging/running groups – the important element for me is that it involves contact, laughter and friendship and some form of physicality/exercise. It all helps to move things along and provide an alternative, happier experience that is open to change.

      It will get better and better – keep going mate…


      • Sally, Ian, thankyou for your very kind, and almost scarily rapid replies .. :).

        I’ve a way to go before I can *feel* confident of what did, or, more likely, didn’t, happen. Kind of like trying to grieve something you never had.

        And Ian, I’m sure you’re right, we are more likely to dance our way out of these places than think our way out of them. Thanks for understanding that.

  9. Hello,

    I am from the University of Leeds and am currently studying a module on TV documentary production. I am currently in the process of putting together a documentary proposal about whether boarding schools are good for us.

    As it stands the documentary is not being made, it is just a proposal that needs to be submitted, so in that sense everything discussed will be confidential.

    I have spoke to Sally and was wondering if anyone would be willing to speak to me, just in a short phone interview, about your time at boarding school as a child and how it has played a part in your adult life.

    I look forward to hearing back from you.


    Kate Steward

  10. I boarded from 8 to 18 in the 1970s at Heronwater Prep and Shrewsbury School. I was not bullied or abused, and at the time would have told you I was perfectly happy living at school. But the long-term consequences of those 10 years have been brutal, particularly in the areas of intimacy and self-confidence, and have left me with a secret, lurking feeling of failure in almost all areas of my life.

    I can still, at the age of 51, induce a knot in my stomach by remembering the feeling of awakening in a dormitory room with 10 or 11 other boys, a bare light bulb hanging from the ceiling, and realizing that I was not in the safe realm of my dreams. Those were some of the most joltingly lonely moments of my entire life.

    Reading Nick Duffel’s “The Making of Them” was such a huge relief – allowing me to see that I was not a freak or losing my mind. But, at an age when I thought I would feel more settled, I am alarmed to discover that I have resolved almost nothing of the legacy of my boarding school days.

    I would never dream of sending my children away, and nor would my brothers.

  11. I really would like to be in touch with anyone who feels lost in life and frustrated in their inability to have forged a path, and who spent a long time in a boarding school. We are all different, and personally, my home life (when I went back home in the holidays) was also turbulent (parents). While I don’t want to blame it on the past, what brings me to write, is coming down with acute depression and anxiety, This has been there for much of my life, but at times surfaced more than others.

    I always felt it was situational, because when unemployed, I felt particularly unfocused and a sense of helplessness. I have struggled to find a career with large periods of feeling adrift, but with an underlying anger and frustration. I took a series of dead end jobs while my peers were getting ahead, their foot in the door, and able to climb some ladder. A few years ago I left London to live in small town, I’d never been to. It was a measure of desperation, because I was struggling to pay my rent. Dreams of prep school come back to haunt me, as feelings of isolation and the inability to feel grounded seemed to be paralleled in my not entirely voluntary move.

    I realise these were there at boarding school, where some people seemed to thrive while others were more obviously affected. Like Robert above, the abuse I received wasn’t extreme. Personally I never entered into any of the sado /masochistic stuff that went on, never got off on the idea of having power over others, even though I’d had to be on the receiving end of it from teachers and other pupils (put in positions of authority). I I was an emotional person in an environment in which I couldn’t articulate it. A lot of this has to do with the way certain children were brought up, and reinforced in a boarding school situation: being unable to be heard; I remember by the age of 17, after 8 years of it, I was so unhappy that I was crying down the phone to my parents, but still felt I could not be direct about my needs.

    The scary thing is I feel all this has come back, or maybe I’m just recognising it. I’m currently signed off of work, and trying to muster up the objectivity to realise I don’t need them, even though there is still the fear of the ‘horror’, the ‘void’ and the feelings of failure.

    I hope that doesn’t sound too self pitying. On the brighter side, I am really good at helping others.

  12. btw, does anyone have ideas about how or why some people have a lack of confidence and a high degree of self doubt plaguing them from boarding school years? Some would obviously say that it’s not just about the school, because not everyone felt like that.

    But in my mind, the less introspective a person, the more likely they were to fit in with the system and be encouraged. At my school (incidentally I was there on a grant, and always had the least pocket money!) there were always the same people being picked for things, head of this, leader of that. And a lot of the time these people were the more obviously ‘public school – like’, prefect material, kind t also boorish and usually in the Rugby first team.

    When I was 14 I had to move to the senior school and was in this half way house place within the main school. They had in each dormitory, a 17 year old, who would have been picked as the most high flying of the year, to be in charge of a room full of 14 year olds.

    One night one of them came back drunk and turned over my bed for laughs. I contacted him a few years ago and asked for an apology. To his credit he did, but was very keen to patronise me by letting me know he was working in Dubai in oil and he’d buy me a drink if i was ever in the area!

    • Dear caulfieldinmidlife…

      Your ‘inability to have forged a path’ does sound similar to mine: a permanent sense of homelessness?

      Each of us has had our own cocktail of circumstances that brings us to where we are. I find it difficult to know how much to ascribe to the boarding school experience, but have no doubt it’s a major component.

      People meeting me for the first time don’t seem to detect a lack of self-confidence; they indicate, if anything, they find me energetic, articulate, even, dare I say, charming. I am ‘great with strangers’. The curious thing, though, is that, from the inside, that confidence doesn’t feel as if it belongs to *me*! It doesn’t seem to connect with my emotions.. Those compliments leave me feeling empty.

      There are any number of ways, I know, to disrupt the healthy progress of a child to warm-blooded, loving, secure independence. Out there, there are poverty, illness, neglect, and downright abuse. What marks out boarding is that it is regarded as a privilege. Those of us who suffer its consequences, if they are anything like me, also carry the belief that we are letting that privilege down, and have no idea where to find help for what we were ‘given’, so generously.

      • Tanks so much for your interesting comments gentlemen. I think that’s a really important point about privilege, or perceived privilege.I think a lot of ex-boarders don’t feel they can complain because they might not have known some kind of obvious material suffering, and also they have had it pummelled into them from a young age how lucky they are. I want to show people who went to boarding school that there is a lot of sympathy out there for them from people who aren’t from that background, because people like me feel that one of the worst things we can imagine for children is not having parents around. No amount of small class sizes, fancy equipment and skiing trips makes up for that.

        its really interesting what both Robin and Cauldfieldinmidlife have said about different kinds of confidence and self-doubt. I am no expert in these things but it seems to me that this conflict between what you feel (that you are having a rubbish time) and what you are told (that you are having a great time and are very lucky) can undermine your confidence in knowing who you are and what you want, and that can spread to all parts of your life. But as I say, am no expert, that’s just what I think. SF.

  13. I am no expert either, but I am now a pediatric nurse, so I’m a talented amateur!

    In nursing school some years ago I was introduced to Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development. It blew my mind. All of a sudden a lot of what I was feeling, and a lot of my behaviour, and especially my feelings of deep social discomfort and lack of self confidence (even though I seem so charming and accomplished to others), made sense.

    Erikson postulated eight distinct stages of development. As children and adults progress through these stages they either succeed in meeting the particular needs of each stage and move on or fail and suffer predictable consequences. I won’t go into all of them, but will point out that the 4th stage covering ages 5 to 12 is typified as “Industry (or Competency) vs Inferiority” and is primarily concerned with developing feelings of competence and self-confidence.

    “It is at this stage that the child’s peer group will gain greater significance and will become a major source of the child’s self esteem. The child now feels the need to win approval by demonstrating specific competencies that are valued by society, and begin to develop a sense of pride in their accomplishments.

    If children are encouraged and reinforced for their initiative, they begin to feel industrious and feel confident in their ability to achieve goals. If this initiative is not encouraged, if it is restricted by parents or teacher, then the child begins to feel inferior, doubting his own abilities and therefore may not reach his or her potential.

    If the child cannot develop the specific skill they feel society is demanding (e.g. being athletic) then they may develop a sense of inferiority.” (http://www.simplypsychology.org/Erik-Erikson.html)

    The next stage is Identity vs. Role Confusion (ages 12 – 18). Good luck with that in boarding school.

    Erikson’s stages are not gospel, and are a bit vague in places, but they do help to explain all kinds of stuff when you apply them to your boarding school experience (plus I use them to help me with kids in hospital).

    By the way Caulfield, you are not self-pitying (or at least no more so than I am!) but trying to deal with a burden placed on you as a child and carried all your life with little or no recognition. You are brave to reach out, because I’ve found the only thing worse than revealing your pain is to have it either dismissed or to receive no response at all.

    And the guy in Dubai is a scum-sucking bastard.

  14. There are many comments above which I identify with. Especially the one about boarding schools being the ‘gatekeepers’ of British Society. I never realised that until recently after being in touch with Boarding Concern and thinking more deeply about my own experience. I had for years done the “I should be grateful for my education” thing, in spite of the fact I did not actually get any education. I was at boarding school from the age of 10 from 1957 – 1964 with many girls from a higher social class from my own. When I started senior school I had never heard of ‘debutantes’ or ‘coming out’ (i.e. young ladies in those days emerging from their cocoon into high society and husband-hunting at ‘coming out’ balls). I sat through endless conversations about ‘coming out ‘ without daring to ask what people were talking about. Today of course ‘coming out’ means something completely different ! I was bullied by my housemistress and continually in detentions. I subsequently refused to do any work and left school with a few ‘O’ levels having completely under-achieved. The school had thus successfully managed to prevent any achievement by someone from the usurping middle classes whose family had struggled to get there – as Fufu above has described – “nipped in the bud”. I say this with sympathy also for the girls who were from upper class backgrounds, their fate being equally to be regarded as the future wives of the ruling class and not expected to achieve great academic heights.

    I also feel strongly that “permanent sense of homelessness”, mentioned by Robin above. In spite of now having good family relationships – husband thankfully from a working class background (he also suffered at a an inner city comprehensive and left at the age of 14 after truanting for 2 years – but being a resourceful kind of bloke he spent his time truanting in the local library – and now has a university degree). I have spent much of my life ,and still do, travelling. It’s not that I don’t enjoy travel – I’ve learnt a lot – but I am forever in between places. Internally, I do not have roots.

    Does anyone know the book ‘Deschooling Society’ by Ivan Illich ? Perhaps a little out of date now – published in 1971 – and read by 1960s radicals like me. But that book is about the distinction between schooling and education – schools do not ‘educate’ people. All schools, whether State or private, are there to preserve the status quo, are designed to maintain the class system and consumer society. Whether day or boarding, private schools maintain class and elitism. Teachers today are harangued and stressed out by performance targets, while ‘public’ (private) schools continue to boast about their amazing sports fields and adventure leisure activities – all as time-tabled in as the rest of their prison regime, and just as competitive.

    If you have been denied an education, never had the chance to go to school as in many parts of the world today, it is the one thing you really want, the one thing you aspire towards. But it is ‘education’, and not ‘school’ which you need.

    Its time for change !

  15. Hi Sally,

    I personally do think that society has become namby pamby. We’re encouraged to ‘talk about our feelings’ and how certain things made us feel etc. Everything has to have a label on it and there always seems to be a group out there that has something to say about anything. We are encouraged not to think for ourselves anymore e.g warnings on tea and coffee cups advising that the contents are going to be hot!!! We have single mothers out there seemingly wanting a badge of honour because they are bringing up a child on their own – what about women during the war whose husbands were (sadly) killed and had to bring up the children on their own, they just got on with it. You have kids having kids who have no respect for anybody much less their parents who struggle to control them. And when those discipline lacking children are naughty at school the parents go in and have go at the teacher instead of standing alongside the teacher in agreement. We were taught manners and respect at boarding school because our teachers were our ‘parents’ and you did what you were told. I didn’t miss out on any nurture or compassion just because I was at boarding school – I got it on school holidays and in fact it made me appreciate my parents even more so.

    In life there will be people ‘for’ one thing and against another thing but it doesn’t make it wrong because some of the people were against it. I like Marmite but there are people out there who don’t like Marmite – who’s right or wrong in that instance – does that mean we should abolish Marmite?

    I believe boarding schools provide a stable educational environment for children with travelling parents. I do appreciate that some people didn’t enjoy their time at boarding school and it’s not for everyone but the same could be said of any other school in any country – do we start a petition to get them all closed down too?!?

    • We need to encourage people to talk about their feelings – all of us – you included….I strongly distrust anyone who tries to diss ‘talking about feelings’ – we’re not living in the 1870s!!

      • What an odd thing to say …. “I strongly distrust anyone who tries to diss ‘talking about feelings’” …. so you distrust me (a complete stranger) because you think that I’m ‘dissing’ people who choose to talk about their feelings, however if I had a problem that I was happy to share with a group or on a 1 to 1 basis with someone you would trust me (again a complete stranger) more?!

        If something is bothering me or I’m worried about something then I speak to my husband or does that not count – I can talk to him about anything and everything and I do.

        Talking about our feelings is an Americanism as is Halloween, Leader’s debates and suing people!

  16. Namby pamby is a catch-all phrase, to me, that is used as a stick to beat at aspects of society that people aren’t comfortable with. It’s usually associated with a harsh right-wing mindset that has no empathy whatsoever with people who are having different experiences and are having to cope with different problems in their lives. Margeret, I’ve been reading your comments with interest, and I get the gist of what you’re saying but I simply disagree with you. Society is broadly becoming more humanitarian and compassionate over the decades and centuries. Things that happened in the middle ages are simply not accepted now. Things that happened in Victorian times aren’t acceptable any more. Some people in society will rightly question the status quo regarding the ethics and morality of certain aspects of contemporary society – and there definately needs to be a debate about the emotional damage incurred on small children sent away to board. It’s long overdue.

  17. I agree with you Ian re: the debate about the (possible) emotional damage on small children boarding but surely the debate needs to be with the parents that sent these children away as young as they did and not with the school that accepted them. The school after all is a business and provides a service that allows parents to put their children there in the first place. What would’ve become of those children if that service hadn’t been available? Also, I am empathetic towards most people and their problems but I’m afraid I have gotten to the stage where I am fed up with listening to how hard done by certain members of society feel (for the record I’m not referring to anybody on this thread at all) and I do believe that society becoming more humanitarian and compassionate is part of the reason that we have the problems we have today as people appear to be milking the system – yes compassion and being more human is a good thing but I personally think/feel that we have gone OTT with it all.

    I also worry about people seed planting – “are you having problems in your life, it’s probably because you went to boarding school”. If a person went to boarding school for all of their life then they would’ve have spent 11 years there, what about what happened in their lives between 16 – 40+ (I’m assuming that most of us on here are over 40) could that not be attributed to some of the decisions that they have made or the way they feel today. I just find it hard to believe that boarding school is a 100% contributing factor to people’s problematic lives. Life is busier and more hectic than it’s ever been so surely that should take some/most of the blame as to why people are struggling or worrying today?!?!?

      • thanks for your interesting comments Margaret, I don’t think anyone would suggest that boarding school is 100% responsible for their problems but the more time I spend getting to know ex-boarders the effects can be pretty big, and I believe its important that people are made aware of this so that they can get the right kind of support. I hear the argument about parental choice a lot but I am afraid parents do not have the right to do something which is harmful to their children. Young children have a need to be cuddled and touched and this cannot be met in an institutional environment, therefore early boarding inherently involves a degree of neglect. Parents should be made aware of this. You are right that these schools are businesses, very profitable ones, but to make money out of something which has been shown to be harmful to children is, I believe, immoral.

        Donna I am sorry there does not seem to be a ‘reply’ option on all the comments and thank you for replying anyway. I do not put down people’s positive experiences, I try to always acknowledge that I am happy for people who have enjoyed boarding, I apologise if you felt this was not the case. That said, my aim is of course to raise awareness of the negative side of boarding, because even if children have a nice time, there is no way of being sure that they are going to when they are sent to these institutions, and I believe the risk is too big to take. With regards to modern boarding, while I appreciate that material conditions and pastoral care has improved greatly over recent years, the central principle is still the same: small children need their parents and they need cuddles. Therefore raising them in institutions is wrong.

  18. Margaret, the schools have a responsibility not to accept children under a certain age. Little Louise went to Summerlea at 2. Her parents sent her with clothing to fit a five year old because they never came for her. She spent all her weekends at school and all her half terms. She was always the first to come back after the holidays. And the school just collected the fees and said nothing. There is a collective responsibility for this kind of action. I supposed you can talk of a business when it comes to selling shoes or furniture but not when it comes to children’s lives.

    And you need to watch what to write. ‘100 percent contributing factor’ is incoherent. 100 percent is a total sum whereas a contributing factor is a lesser percentage of the problem.

    You need to be precise and think very clearly about what you are writing. These are highly charged and emotional discussions and a lot of us, yourself included, are finally talking about difficult matters that still have the power to hurt us.

      • sally I think your looking for horror stories rather than being impartial boarding school is not for everyone but it helped me become a strong individual able to look after myself in all manner of ways my parents sent me because I wanted to go, they also took me out because I wanted to leave as I missed them too much but I loved the girls and the education was advanced as when I joined main stream school I was well above the rest. not all stories are good but that can be said for any school and day girls as well as boarders.

    • Little Louise went at 2 year old in the 1960/70’s. Does that still happen today? Unlikely – maybe in India but not in the UK.
      Schools are still a business whether they are private or government run. They provide a service. You do not know why Louise’s parents did not collect her. It is only speculation and not really anyone’s business but hers and her parents. It should not be part of your argument, as her life is not yours to ponder on. It is ultimately the parents responsibility to decide where their children go and when. The school provided the service. This was an individual child – it was not as though there were many children in this situation. My husband went to boarding school in India when he was 4 – he is a responsible, hardworking individual who does not blame boarding school for his failures in life and I assure you an English Boarding school is nothing compared to an Indian one.

      Talking about the ‘100 percent contributing factor’ is petty as it is a term used to express an idea. I am sure there are several examples of misuse of terms in this forum.

      This forum in itself drags up difficult matters – is that not the reason for it? To allow people to ‘discuss’ their feelings/experiences towards an event in their lives (boarding school). The positive experiences have been pushed aside and the negative ones rejoiced over.

      Sadly, too many people seems to dwell on the cup half empty and not rejoice in the cup half full.

  19. That explains a lot then. Thank you for stating you did not go to boarding school. You can certainly relate to those who did attend boarding schools then.

    • From extensive study and investigation of the matter I know that a lot of boarders have repressed rage which they channel at other people. But as a non-boarder I am perhaps less sensitive to bullying. I respectfully ask you to respect the experiences of people who use this website and think we should just agree to disagree. best wishes, sally

    • Donna, Sally speaks on behalf of a wider group of people who you’ll be reassured to know, have boarding school experience on their CVs. Critiquing boarding school’s publicly is fraught with personal, historical and ideological threads as is evidenced in this discussion. Challenging this as a boarder sees you come under fire for being unappreciative of the privilege – the rich kid whinging stereotype – that often stifles debate. That’s not to say its not possible and regardless, Sally does a great job representing the movement.

      I went to boarding school in the 90s and can say that I had a good time (caveat…). I am therefore genuinely shocked to read some of the accounts here of some of the specific practices that went on in these schools – the horror of the cellar.

      There is common ground though in so far as we were all removed from our parents and, despite some attempts, the schools cannot (often for legal reasons) replicate the care that parents can offer. Granted some homes need escaping from but surely we should give the vast majority of boarding parents the benefit of the doubt. This separation, perhaps within the first hours or days, is where a fast adaptation of the child’s behaviour needs to be made feeling for the first time that they are/we were on our own. Remember how slow time went as a child. Independence? Yes, through necessity and with consequences to the individual the effects of which are only now being scrutinised through campaign work like this and the excellent work by Boarding Concern and other related organisations.

      • Well said! – however much one enjoyed/hated it, the damage was done silently without awareness from the child or parents simply by removal of the child from the family into an environment where they had to fend for themselves and were entirely alone. This is of course extremely stressful. Whether the boarding school is spartan, or has curtains and teddy bears, is utterly irrelevant – the damage is in the removal from the family environment. My parents were fairly middleclass/hard up. Dad was a mid-ranking Naval officer. We weren’t rich, so there was a lot of financial sacrifice in sending me away. Some boys were obviously from moneyed backgrounds (solicitors sons, bankers sons,) but most seemed to me to be pretty middle class. Some of my class mates seemed to be obsessed with rank and class, so I got a bit of teasing about the state of our slightly older, tatty car. This was at Sherbourne back in the seventies.

  20. I sympathise with Louise and any other child that was sent away to boarding school at such a young age I really do but I don’t (1) see how the school can be totally to blame and (2) what goes through a parent’s mind in doing so when a child is barely out of nappies if at all. It was her parents that approached the school for whatever reason and it was not the other way around so as I see it the parents are to blame and if Summerlea had refused to accept Louise then another school would’ve accepted her because they ARE a business – they are accepting money for a (bad or good) service that they are providing.

    Like I said in a previous post – things were different in those days to the way they are today and I just don’t understand this mentality of holding onto things that have hurt us in the past. Surely the best thing would be to try and forget about the awful things (within reason) and not them blight you for a big chunk of ones life.

    I also know that this is a highly emotive subject and I am thinking about what I am writing so as not to offend – but thanks for your patronising words anyway.

    Everybody is entitled to their opinions and points of view and just because they don’t match with yours does not make them wrong or not worth listening to!!!

    • Margaret, I think now that a critical voice is being aired a lot of people are coming to realisations that it wasn’t all it was meant to be for them. More of a process of understanding rather than a holding onto the past. Tough one to balance and not an easy task as there’s a well documented double-bind that plays out – my parents love me or care for me in giving me this expensive education v’s my parents love me or care for me why do they send me away.

      The schools are a business but a business that looks after children. They themselves have safeguards to protect against the different KNOWN forms of abuse (to what level of effectiveness is separate debate) surely if the evidence says that removing children from their parents aged X (to be determined) is neglectful or, in other terms, has a high level of risk (albeit consequence is typically subtle and delayed) it should be regulated. Ideally this would be self regulation but at last count they would be 11068 x £10123 (under 13 exclusively and average fees, ISA figures) or £112,041,364 out of pocket so the cynic in me says that’s quite unlikely.

  21. My parents did not pay for my boarding school education. My father was a British civil servant in the overseas colonies and the government paid the school. So it was not a question of sacrifice. They just wanted me out of sight. My father was busy chasing young women while my mother was in a second marriage with an alcoholic who beat her, yet she refused to leave him.

    And I suppose there would have been some consolation in the nearly 10 years that I spent at Summerlea if the education I received had been up to scratch. However, two years before I sat my O levels, the math teacher left, the biology teacher left. We had no history or geography programme. The teachers were never replaced.

    I pleaded with my mother to take me out of Summerlea and put me in another school. I brought prospectus home to show her where a lot of my friends were going because the standards at Summerlea were lousy. I was the best student in the school at the time. I was chosen by my peers and my teachers as the one who go far.

    My mother did nothing at all. My father continued to chase women. So O levels roll around and we had English lit, English language, Religious Knowledge, French and German. Two thirds of the subjects were missing because we did not have the teachers. A level colleges then refused to take me because I did not have sufficient qualifications and frankly my parents did not push enough to get a place to take me.

    I learned to drink liquor in my mother’s house and at Summerlea because there was always alcohol circulating among the seniors.

    As a teenager I basically said ‘to hell with it’. Here I am producing these great grades and warning everyone that Summerlea was falling apart academically, and none of it mattered to anyone. Not a man moved.

    I look at my children today and I realise that despite all the difficulties I have known in raising them, they have never known that kind of neglect and indifference.

    And at the time I thought that everyone had the same types of experiences as me and that what I went through was normal. It was only much later that I woke up and said. Hey wait a minute there is a real problem here. It took me a while but I fixed the problem myself.

    • Caroline, I’m sorry to hear about your experience of being unwelcome at home, my generalisation of the double bind is just that, a generalisation and doesn’t represent the full range of experience. I apologise if you felt excluded. To not have somewhere to gain some solace at either end must have been very hard and I take my hat of to you for your resolve to better parent your children and to speak out about your experiences.

      Margaret, I do think there is a general cultural shift within which the individual has the opportunity to voice themselves in a way that is given more credence than in the recent past. Naturally, there will be exploitation of this shift (consciously or unconsciously) but I do think this is a minority element and crucially here, the shift is an essential opportunity to challenge the machinations of these institutions that are afforded a level of anonymity or are unquestioned in a way that I believe needs correcting. This is not to discount the schools altogether but to reimagine a way in which they schools could be used to better ends. Hearing people’s stories is an essential part of this process.

  22. Margaret, you wrote “I just don’t understand this mentality of holding onto things that have hurt us in the past. Surely the best thing would be to try and forget about the awful things (within reason) and not them blight you for a big chunk of ones life.” (sic)

    I believe that your statements display an understanding of human psychology which is, at best, rudimentary, and that you grossly underestimate the power of the subconscious mind and of early childhood development.

    We boarding school survivors do not choose to be the victims of our childhood as your posts imply. I would hazard a guess that there is not one ex-boarder on this list who is voluntarily holding onto memories of things that hurt him/her. Our scars are buried deep under layers of conditioning and social convention. The problem is that they are there nonetheless, affecting our lives, just as a cancer continues to grow whether or not you try to forget it. And, the cancer will blight your life unless you do something about it.

    I would suggest that the difference between “those days” and these “namby pamby” days is that, instead of politely trying to deny the insults to our younger psyches with the aid of drugs, alcohol, spousal abuse, or suicide, we have chosen to try to do something about not only the personal psychological damage but also the system that caused it. And, I would suggest that this latter course is quite the opposite of namby pamby. Figuring out and then admitting publicly that your privileged, expensive education might actually have done you some lasting damage takes courage. It exposes you to ridicule and shaming. Taking steps to prevent that damage being done to future generations takes greater courage. It flies in the face of what we were all taught from day one in boarding school. Remember the little new boy/girl who couldn’t stop crying and making everyone uncomfortable? Was s/he cuddled and comforted? Of course not – there was nobody there who could do that. S/he was told to “stop being such a wet,” and maybe sent to bed to recover his/her composure in isolation. It has taken me 30 years and 5,000 miles distance to excise what was buried in my subconscious mind during ten years of boarding, and I am damn sure that I am not about to politely shut up.

    And by the way, while we are at it, lets put away the silly straw man argument that boarding school is 100% responsible for everything wrong with our lives. Nobody here believes that, so you can stop trying to prove that it is not true and start engaging with the real issues instead.

    And as for the implication by “Donna” that Sally can not represent the interests of ex-boarders because she did not go to BS herself I would refer her to the example of Mr William Wilberforce (who was neither African nor a slave). Sally has proved herself very capable of understanding the issues and even publicly debating them.

  23. Margaret, you wrote: “we have single mothers out there seemingly wanting a badge of honour because they are bringing up children on their own”. I have worked for many years in SureStart children’s centres as a counsellor specialising in post-natal depression and running parenting skills groups. I have yet to come across one of these single mothers you mention who is seeking a reward for their status as a single parent. I just know women who seek support and advice, whether single parents or in a relationship, and who want to do the best for their children. During and after the second world war, which you also mention, single parents often felt deeply ashamed and alone in society. Being a single parent at that time was not acceptable and women were made to feel that they their lives were disgraceful or pitiful, even if women had lost their husbands during the war this did not give them any special status, and many did not successfully “just get on with it”. Today we have a better understanding and live in a society which is hopefully moving towards more care and compassion and an understanding of human relationships which will strengthen rather than weaken society. Please do not turn the clock back.

    • Hi Val,

      You only have to look on Facebook’s various group pages (for starters) to see what I’m talking about. Most comments start off with or have somewhere in the reply ‘I’m a single mother and …….. etc’ and these responses have no relevance to the topic being discussed.

  24. Ian,

    I am not here disprove or prove anything, I was merely questioning a comment made by Caroline (whose comment actually lead me to post in the forum in the first place):-

    “I was sent to boarding school at age 8. I had to travel 6000 miles to get there. I lived in the Caribbean and my divorced parents decided that I was doing badly in the local school and it would be better to send me to England. I cried for 8 hours on the plane and for weeks at the cold school. Summerlea School in Rustington, Sussex was a dump. We were permitted one bath a week. We had to have strip washes on three other days. We were allowed to change our underpants twice a week. Cold and hostile, it was full of little girls from broken homes. We ate food that was unfit for human consumption. We received a sub standard education with all of our best teachers leaving the establishment. And we were all dreadfully unhappy. All of my friends made terrible marriages. I became an alcoholic and a drug addict. To this day I trust no one. I feel like an outsider.”

    (1) I found her original post misleading because as I read it (and possibly other people did too) the above implied that the reason Caroline had turned to alcohol and drugs was because she went to boarding school (Summerlea in particular).

    In a further post from Caroline where she talks about her home life she says “My father was busy chasing young women while my mother was in a second marriage with an alcoholic who beat her, yet she refused to leave him” and further on “I learned to drink liquor in my mother’s house and at Summerlea because there was always alcohol circulating among the seniors”.

    (2) To the un-trained eye it would appear that there were other mitigating factors in Caroline’s life that contributed to the paths that she took and not just solely the fact that she went to a boarding school as (intentionally or unintentionally) implied at the beginning.

    (3) I am not a psychiatrist/psychologist and have never claimed to be but I am a human being that has lived on planet Earth for a few years now.

    I am also not here to make light of anything that people have suffered during and since leaving boarding school (be it boarding school causing, genetic causing or life causing), I’m just trying to put things in perspective is all.

    My comment about Society being ‘namby pamby’ was aimed at society as a whole – it almost seems to me that people feel ‘lost’ unless they fit in to some pre-conceived ‘box’ and have a label attached to us. We are told how we should feel, how we should think, what we should eat, how we should react etc and we’re not happy if somebody has the audacity to speak out against our beliefs – I am as guilty of this as everyone else is. We follow like sheep.

    There are thousands of people in the world that have suffered a hell of a lot more than many of us have and yet through no choice of their own they have to ‘get on with it’ and they do – they have nobody to talk to about how they feel or medication to take they just go on with their daily lives and put their pain and suffering to one side in order to continue with life. In other words pain and suffering can be put aside and not hung onto like ‘we’ love to in more developed countries.

    “We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.”

    • Margaret, its good to have an alternative voice but I would reiterate the fact this is a very raw subject for many people on here so making direct statements rather than asking questions needs to be done with real caution.

      A couple of points you state don’t add up for me. Firstly, you talk of being told how to feel (or not), how to act, how to eat – is this not boarding schools you speak of? Secondly, yes, people are suffering a lot elsewhere in the world but I would suggest that is a very convenient dismissal of the possible effects of boarding. We all have an appreciation of being privileged and so to compare this to extremes of experience elsewhere is so easily going to prevent any critical thought.

      The crux of the matter is the effects of being sent away from home at a young age – many differing experiences at the schools also play into this heavily too. I think the majority of boarding institutions are not nefariously colluding to institutionalise a significant minority of our population but its what they’re doing.

  25. Russell,

    I believe I WAS asking a question hence my:

    “I am not here disprove or prove anything, I was merely questioning a comment made by Caroline (whose comment actually lead me to post in the forum in the first place)”

    Being told how to feel, how to act, how to eat happens at boarding school, schools, institutions, work, forums, life – it is everywhere. Even in your post you are telling me how I should be speaking/questioning etc so as not to offend. We accept being told what to do and how we should think in our working lives everyday but you don’t see people calling for work places to be shut down – what’s the difference? Is it because we voluntarily attend our workplaces (or any other place that we’re told what to do) and we didn’t voluntarily attend boarding school.

    People on this forum are calling for the abolishment of boarding schools (and yes I am fully aware that that is the mission of this forum and probably other groups and forums out there) but I personally think that that is dramatic. As I said in a previous post – it’s the parents that approach these schools and not the other way around so why aren’t people questioning the choices that their parents made?

    Finally, I wasn’t being dismissive of the possible side effects of boarding, I was merely responding to Andy’s comment when he questioned me about my comment below:

    My Comment: “I just don’t understand this mentality of holding onto things that have hurt us in the past. Surely the best thing would be to try and forget about the awful things (within reason) and not them blight you for a big chunk of ones life.”

    Andy’s Comment: “We boarding school survivors do not choose to be the victims of our childhood as your posts imply. I would hazard a guess that there is not one ex-boarder on this list who is voluntarily holding onto memories of things that hurt him/her.”

    and pointing out that people around the world have had worse happen to them and haven’t had the luxury of being able to speak to someone or take medication afforded to them and they have ‘let it go’ not because they wanted to but because they had to.

    Who are we to question a person’s choices – if a parent chooses to send their child to a boarding school what business is it of ours?

    • Margaret, your comment ‘to the untrained eye…’ stood out. Making suggestions based on personal accounts. Sure, you’re also raising questions which I welcome.

      Yes we all have to make concessions in order to for a given society to function but do you not accept or recognise how boarding schools have to by their very nature (looking after multiple children) needed to establish particularly strict boundaries in order for them to be run ‘successfully’ – set meal times, set prep times, set bed times, set behaviour – everything timetabled. More akin to military than civilian life (with the possible exception of advertising…).

      The schools do approach parents. They have fairs where they have stalls. They hold these abroad too as the schools are still in high demand there. Notwithstanding, it’s not abolition that is called for as I mention elsewhere, it’s a recognition (by both parent and school) that this formation can be very damaging to the individual but also to wider society given the high proportion of our ruling elite that have this formation. Also, it is society’s business by association – permitting early boarding to continue.

      For my own part boarding wasn’t the only thing that led to a crisis point (other mitigating factors) but it did lay some pretty huge foundations for me reacting (or not as the case may be) to later events.

      • Edit: It is abolition that is sought. Abolition of the current system by which these schools are run.

  26. Miss Warner, Carine that is a name that I have not heard for forty years! And what about her sidekick Mrs. Huiscut? I am in touch with Susan Jago, Rose Kelly and Caroline Jenkins. I know that Rose sees Jacqui French quite a bit. Any of those names ring a bell? I remember a Dee, Deirdre, in the senior year. Liked to wear her school uniform short and had a rebellious nature which was a necessary survival instinct.

    • Caroline, my sister would love to find Caroline Jenkins. Are you in contact with her? My sister even went to Africa to visit her years ago. She has never forgotten her. I know all the names you mention. Dee has met up with Jackie French a few times. Deirdre Cook was very kind to me at school. Mrs Hiscott was a cow. My favourites were Miss Millard (Millie) and Mrs Colthurst. Remember Mr Brooks who used to feel up the girls? Creep! I was rebellious at school. Thank god I became a day girl at 12 -16.

      • Carin Caroline Jenkins goes by the name of Caroline Cattermole on Facebook. I never knew where Felicity Millard ended up. She said that she wanted to study pediatrics and go back to Australia to look after children. She knew what was happening at Summerlea was totally out of order and she tried to do what she could to help us. She gave me an enduring interest in Greek civilization. And Mrs Colthurst was the last of the competent teachers to stick it out with us. A really fine English teacher. Indeed Mrs Hiscutt was a pain but she used to invite us over to tea at her house where we promptly ate everything in sight. Mr Brooks should have been banned from teaching. He was an incompetent idiot but I do not remember him feeling up the girls. But he was definitely a creep who never did anything for our education. And all of this was the fault of that ghastly headmistress, Mrs Cooper aka corpsy. What a cruel liar she was.

      • Carin Miss Felicity Millard came from Adelaide or Perth, not New Zealand. That would be incredible if you managed to locate her. Remember how much confidence she restored to Catherine Haynes, that neurotic girl who was scared of everything?

  27. Margaret
    What is the purpose of your one woman crusade to whip us wimps into shape? Using condescending and belittling vocabulary, you are trying to convince us that we should man up.

    So what about you Margaret? What is your story? While you are giving us a lot of theory, we have heard little about you and your experience.

    All you do is attack. Attack is the best form of defense. What are you on the defensive for?

    I try to imagine you at school. Those who used the kind of language that you do to put down others were either the school bully, the teacher’s pet, the bossy boots, the sneak or the outcast.

    Who were you Margaret? I really want to hear your experience. The rest of us have been very open. But not you. You dance around vague statements, statistics that don’t add up and dangerous generalizations. But we hear nothing about you.

    Why do put words like namby pamby in quotation marks? Who are you quoting? Yourself or did someone else use that word on you?

    Come on Margaret, man up like the rest of us, show us something other than this strident, take no nonsense female that you like to portray.

    You are on this blog for a reason. You have come here to find something for yourself. And it has nothing to do with teaching us a lesson.

    So give it to us Margaret, inquiring minds wanna know.

  28. Margaret, one last question….why did Hell on Earth for Little Girls aka Summerlea close down? And why were you so upset? What did you lose?

  29. I’m sorry to disappoint you Caroline but I was never (here we go with the labels) the school bully, the teacher’s pet, the bossy boots, the sneak or the outcast – I was just a shy pupil at a school. I also in my first post, mentioned about my time at Summerlea but clearly you haven’t read it as the above would’ve come a lot sooner I suspect!

    I will answer your comments one by one.

    I do have stories, plenty of them and have deliberately chosen not to share them for a number of reasons:

    (1) They had/have nothing to do with me going to Summerlea School so are irrelevant.
    (2) They are none of anyone’s business except who I choose to share them with.
    (3) I’m not looking for sympathy or a virtual hug from strangers.
    (4) Whatever crumb I may’ve laid would instantly have been attributed to the fact that I went to boarding school.

    You accuse me of attacking and assume that I am on the defence about something – I am merely seeking answers to some of the things that I have read on this page and it has developed from there. I also thought we were having a debate and I apologise for not coming into the room in my ‘Woe is me’ outfit.

    I used quotation marks around the term namby pamby because (a) I wanted to (b) I could (c) it’s a term that society frequently uses and so was quoting society I hope that’s ok?!?! And no, nobody has ever used the term to describe me or ever called me it.

    I have manned up hence my no nonsense approach to some things – I have chosen not dwell on sad times or wallow in my own self pity because in the end you just end up sad, bitter and angry at the world.

    The reason I am on this blog is because a former Summerlea pupil posted it on Facebook with the following heading “Summerlea mentioned here. Don’t remember it being quite that bad…….probs not that far off through” and being the nosey cow that I am I ventured in – there’s nothing more sinister than that I’m afraid.

    I do have to ask though as we love to have a label for things – which one were you, the school bully, the teacher’s pet, the bossy boots, the sneak or the outcast because if I was to assume (like you have incorrectly done with me) I would say, judging by the tone of your message to me, that you were the school bully.

    Finally, I have no idea why Summerlea closed down but it was probably not for the reason that you hoped it would be – I would hazard a guess at money troubles. Also I didn’t lose anything and I wasn’t upset, the school merged with another school and all my friends at Summerlea were at the new school – happy days.

  30. For Margaret
    That’s it my girl, lash out, get upset, get vexed, get it off your chest. A little rage venting will do you good. You seem a little repressed.

    • Margaret : In fact you are a ball of pent up, frustrated anger, lashing out at people who refuse to stay in their corner and not talk about their problems. How repressive of you. Loosen up girl.

  31. Not at all, but once again thank you for your incorrect assumptions – I have plenty of friends and family that actually know me well enough that would also disagree with you!

    What I find hard to understand is why a person would quite happily air their dirty laundry on the internet to random strangers – it’s almost narcissistic because you know once you’ve posted your sob story there’ll be people out there telling you that you’re doing well etc or apologising for what you went through – were the apologisers the perpetrators of the crimes that have left you scarred, no – so what’s the point of them apologising and what is it exactly that you’re hoping to gain by posting your life story on the internet?

    People across the world choose to deal with their problems in different ways, just because they choose not to discuss it with random people on the internet doesn’t make them repressed, just because they don’t feel the need to remind themselves of the struggles they’ve endured doesn’t make them wrong and you right. You’re a mother for crying out loud and instead of wallowing in your own self pity, rejoice that you’ve come out the other side and have something to show for it! Some people just don’t seem to be happy unless they’re unhappy.

    Incidentally, you didn’t answer my question about whether or not you were a school bully.

    • Hi Margaret, regardless of what you say you are attacking people, and your comments are grossly insensitive to anyone who has had any kind of difficulty with mental health. This page offers a place for people to share their stories it is an honour for me to be able from so many intelligent, thoughtful and insightful people. While I welcome different views, and your comments are very illustrative of the sort of issues I come up with in my work all the time, I think its time we called it a day and agreed to disagree. Thanks.

    • Margaret, I can’t help but imagine you in your green wellies gathering wood for the fire as you walk (no namby pamby Volvo for you) six miles to the watering hole (people in the 3rd world have no plumbing, so why should you?).

      And all the while you mutter to yourself: “I had to get up in the morning at ten o’clock at night half an hour before I went to bed, drink a cup of sulphuric acid, work twenty-nine hours a day down mill, and pay mill owner for permission to come to work, and when we got home, our Dad and our mother would kill us and dance about on our graves singing Hallelujah. And you try and tell the young people of today that… they won’t believe you.”

      Now please toddle off back to the unrelentingly happy place from which you came and tell the girls all about the dark miserable underworld you have discovered here. Ooooh, quel frisson!

  32. Margaret Large, you are a fraud. You hide behind a pseudonym in order to dole out your lessons in morality and to tell people how to live their lives.

    I went on that Summerlea Facebook site of yours’ and there is no such person as Margaret Large. Stand behind your words and reveal your true identity like all of us here have done. Assuming a false identity means that you lack the courage of your convictions.

    Everything you write under a false identity is totally irrelevant and not worth debating. I really thought you had some substance but there is nothing there, just an imposter.

  33. I am really loathed to do this but feel that I must. So for the school bully and name caller out there this is my story (my heart is beating out of my chest):

    At the age of 6 I called round for a friend, her father answered the door and told me that she was in her bedroom and so I headed there. She wasn’t there – her father threw me onto her bed and pulled my pants down and tried to get his penis between my thighs, I screamed and he let me go. I never went back again and certainly never told anyone.

    The guy that lived in the flat above us would cook food for my mother because he fancied her but she wasn’t interested. I would have to collect the food from him and return the empty dishes – whenever I went up there he would get his penis out and show me how far he had got ‘it’ in to another youngster the night before – he would have it marked with nail varnish.

    A few years after this my mother died of Cancer – my aunt who lived in South Africa didn’t want to take us on because of the colour our skin as this all occurred during apartheid and so we went to boarding school.

    At the age of 12, the country that we lived in was being taken over by a military coup and whilst walking down the road with friends (like you do) some militia guys were walking towards us and because we happened to laugh at the wrong time they assumed we were laughing at them and made us kneel down in the middle of the road, placed the barrels of their AK47s on our foreheads and basically made us beg for our lives.

    15 years ago I was in a physically and mentally abusive relationship – outside our front door he was the nicest guy on earth and everybody loved him but behind our closed door he was a nasty bastard. I was constantly covered in bruises which were hidden because he never did anything above the neck. He kept telling me that nobody would believe my stories on the rare occasions that we actually went out together (I wasn’t allowed out on my own) and so I never told anyone. On one occasion he had spent the weekend away at a festival drinking and taking drugs and when he got back on the Monday morning (when he coming down) I the cheek to mouth off at him and he threw a computer at my head. I called my sister to cancel our shopping trip that day and told her what had happened, she came round straight away and was shocked at what she saw and kicked him out – he was in tears at this point probably because he’d been found out. On another occasion he told me that I could never leave him and that the only way he would let me go would be if I fancied somebody else and so I told him that I did. He grabbed a bread knife and held to my throat and told me that if I ever left him he knew where my sister and her kids lived and that he would kill them all and that he would ‘do his bird (prison time) because it was a piece of piss’ and that he wasn’t scared.

    He eventually left me (hooray) after 4 and a half years for somebody that was alcohol and drug dependent – they spent a few volatile months together off their faces, had an argument where he smacked her over the head with an ashtray and he ended up being sentenced to 5 and half years in prison (she was lucky enough to have a Police Officer for a father) – released after 10 months on appeal!!!

    During the above I suffered with severe depression, had been on 8 different anti-depressants because I was suffering with side effects, took sleeping tablets in order to get some rest, had weekly appointments with a Psychiatrist, fortnightly appointments with a Community Psychiatric Nurse and then eventually had weekly appointments with Psychologist for CBT.

    I am now out the other side and am happy with what I have achieved and all that I have in life now.

    I am a genuine former Summerlea pupil, still stand by what I have said and chose a pseudonym because I figured that eventually I would’ve been goaded into telling my story and really don’t want my former and current school friends to know who I am/what happened to me (although 1 person does know who Margaret Large really is).

    • Margaret or whatever your real name is…..your story is a horror story and I really hope that you received professional help to get you over this and to understand that you are indeed the victim in this situation and that you have nothing to be ashamed of. You should not be scared to reveal your true identity, there is no shame in what happened to you. It is just awful and the ones who should be ashamed, and even in jail, are those who did nothing to protect you. Sexual abuse of children is a crime.

      However, with all the nastiness you have written about everyone else and with you hiding behind a false identity, I still do not know if we are getting the true story from you which is a pity because you obviously need support from people like us who have come clean about our experiences without shame, even though we continue to struggle.

      • Caroline, thanks for the info on Caroline Jenkins. My sister will get in touch. Mrs Hiscott did invite us for tea aswell so good on her! Milly spent xmas with us one year after I became a day girl as she would have spent it alone at school otherwisse. She was an amazing woman whom we all adored and a good teacher aswell. As I live in Australia I wonder if she is in New Zealand. We all gave her presents when she left. Bars of soap and powder (all the boarders had to give). I will never forget her kindness. She used to cuddle us which meant so much in such a cold hard place.

  34. Hey Margaret, your story is heart breaking. So many of us went to boarding school and we never told our stories about why we were there.
    There were so many of you from the African countries, it now makes me wonder how many more of my friends went through similar experiences and boarding school was their safety net. I know it was mine but for very different reasons.
    I admire you for facing up to this group and to expressing yourself the way you have.
    You must have become a very strong person to have worked through all you have been through and still be the person you are today.
    My glass is raised to a truely admirable person. I truely hope you were a friend of mine in those days of boarding school as it would have been a true privilege to have been part of your life and you mine.🍷

    • Margaret,
      Your story is a great one not least for you having got through it and not let the fuckers get you down but also because, I believe it illustrates perhaps the singular failing in the argument against boarding – the safety net or no better alternative. I can now better understand why you take difference when I couldn’t before. The tradition of boarding within my family started in similar circumstances two generantions ago where by all accounts the school was the sole constant in my grandfather’s life. No wonder that he would go on to advocate for them. I do think that his and your stories are quite exceptional with the general question being why send your kids away if you don’t have too. I would hazard a guess that for the majority of boarders the horror in their lives is in the being sent away and not understanding why. Glad you did seek support – it takes courage to ask for help and tenacity to see it through.

      • Victoria you appear to be channeling Margaret Large……I don’t want to repeat what I have already said on this forum in my discussions with Mrs. Large. From what I understand from Mrs.Large’s comments by the time you got to Summerlea, it had changed hands. Do not doubt the truth of what I wrote. You were not there with me and you are not competent to tell me how to feel.

  35. Margaret, just to clarify my last comment, the greatness is only in you getting through it as you have done. All other aspects are dreadful to a level I can’t relate. Thanks for telling it.

  36. The above conversation reinforces my feeling that it would be helpful for the campaign to make a clear distinction between abuse and neglect: i.e. The bad things that did happen, and the good things that did not. Both can be devastating. I believe the consequences of neglect, while often less acute than those of abuse, can still be insidious and pervasive: those who suffer from them can go through years or decades of, for example, failed or non-existent relationships, bewildered, without knowing why they have been so ‘unlucky’… especially given their ‘privileged’ start in life. Some, mauybe, never know what they are missing.. but those who eventually do figure it out have every right to be upset about it, for other people’s sake, if not their own. This suffering is avoidable. It should be stopped, wherever possible.

  37. Thank you for sharing these stories…

    Somehow I feel there is more to be told and more to be said.

    Please do consider setting up a forum. It wouldn’t be so hard to do 🙂

  38. Thanks,

    I hadn’t noticed that…..pretty sure there wasn’t a forum on boardingconcern.org.uk last time I looked, but very glad there is one now. thanks again


    • I never saw that before either. Always been a bit disappointed about it, so I’m happy to know its there now.

      Sent from my iPhone


  39. Hi all. I didn’t go to Sherborne but was abused whilst at boarding school in Shropshire. Would it be OK with you guys if I give you more details on this thread.

  40. hi there Robin, thanks for getting in touch and I am sorry to hear what you have been through. As Guy says please share more but please don’t write anything that might cause legal problems or be triggering for other people. Unfortunately I am not able to work on the campaign at the moment and so I cannot moderate the discussion, but I don’t want to take it down as I know that people feel they need a forum. If anyone is interested in getting involved with the website or the campaign they should consider getting in touch with Sam the new director on boardingschoolaction(at)mail.com.

  41. Hi Guy / Sallypcfraser Thanks for your replies. I’d like to give to some idea of what happened and why I’m talking about it now. I was sent to boarding school in Shropshire at the age of thirteen. At the age of nine I started having Grand Mal epilepsy seizures. Even at that age I couldn’t understand why I was being sent away from home. Suffering from epilepsy made me a prime target for bullies, both physical and mental. This made me a bit of a loner and I didn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the boys. A new teacher joined the school to teach music. I was in the church choir. When I found myself on my own with this new teacher the abuse started. I won’t go into too many details at the moment. I didn’t say anything to anyone for probably thirty years or so. Then eventually I told my mother, father and sister one family occasion. Since telling them what happened I’ve repeatedly asked my mother why I was sent away. She always said it’s because my doctor said I needed the stability of a boarding school to help deal with my epilepsy so they were just taking his advice. I don’t believe that to this day. I haven’t said or done anything else about the abuse until now because I’ve never had any proof of dates or anything else confirming what did happen. My father died earlier in the year and I am one of the appointed executors of his estate. I was going through all his paper work which included many documents going back to the 1960’s & 1970’s. This is were I found a letter from the boarding school addressed to him. It’s dated December 1968. Again I won’t mention names or anything like this but here are some of the sentences or clauses included in the letter. Referring to the abuser – ‘unfortunately, he has allowed his enthusiasm to get the better of his discretion’, – ‘has placed himself in a distinctly compromising situation’ – ‘This has led to a definite complaint from one parent’ – * ‘He and I had agreed not to mention this in advance because obviously publicity in a matter of this kind is undesirable’ * ‘I need hardly say that I hope you will not discuss this letter with your son’. The letter is hand signed by the then headmaster. Do any of you believe a letter like this is enough evidence to get my case investigated by the authorities?

    • i am sure this will be quite enough. it is always bitterly disappointing when we discover our parents’ collusion with our abusers. i see that a few resources have been suggested to you; there are also “boarding school anonymous” ( support group) and “boarding school recovery” (professional help.)
      i hope you will continue to post here as well even though sally is no longer moderating the discussion. i hope a new moderator can be found; there are cookoos in the nest here trying to invalidate the stories of abuse as opposed to simply saying that they had a different experience at boarding school.

  42. Hi Thanks again for your comments. ~Where would be the best place to star? Police, solicitors or support group. Thanks again

    • Hello Robin, sorry to hear of these experiences. I suggest taking the letters and your story to the police. Ask your local police to put you in touch with the Safeguarding Liaison Officer – or google search for this. All forces have a Safeguarding department dealing with inquiries and interviews in this. My experience of the police was good – they take these stories seriously these days. You can take someone with you for support to the interview.

      And yes, in answer to your question – the letter + your story is worthy of attention by the police. And they will hopefully have had, or will have in future – other similar complaints about this school and this music teacher. In fact, even without the letter, your story is worthy of investigation by the authorities. So don’t worry on that score.

      If you want further advice – feel free to message me.

  43. robin, i wish i could answer your question but i am an american boarding school victim. i hope guy or someone here who has achieved a rough approximation of justice will answer you. personally, i would find an experienced lawyer, but only one who has achieved demonstrable results in similar cases.

  44. What adds to my frustration, disappointment and many other nouns I could add is that I was first sent there in 1967, the letter is dated 1968 so obviously a year after I started there, but I didn’t leave ’till 1971, three years after my parents had been advised or warned of what was going on. Even though the teacher was dismissed i would have thought this would have been enough to take me away from that environment. Needless to say this is still affecting me now, otherwise I wouldn’t be on here chatting about it.

  45. robin, i am hoping for a few other opinions here but since i am a retired family therapist with experience treating recovering adults, here goes. i think that seeing an experienced therapist while you are involved in the legal process will be of the highest value. if humanly possible, don’t skimp on the therapy. attorneys in the states take these cases on a contingency basis. i hope this is the case in england. you should be able to find a great one, yours is a slam dunk with the letters. the author of the “bible” in this field, ” the making of them” , is a therapist. so start with the book to see what you think of him. if memory serves me, his name is nick duffel, the book is easily found on amazon. if he is someone you can’t actually go to, i imagine that he can make a good referral. i hope you get the excellent representation/advoacy and therapy that you deserve. the purpose of therapy is to release the grip of the past on the present. the most important healing factor is the quality of the relationship with the therapist. mary

    p.s. i take slight exception to your use of the word “chatting”. this is actually a serious conversation. my personal knowledge of england and my english friends has led to enlightenment about the stiff upper lip/ habit of understatement, use of words like winging (sp?) as winston churchill so famously commented, england and and america are divided only by our common language!

    • Mary, you’re right about this being being a serious conversation. What could be more serious than discussing the long term effects on a child who felt unloved, abused and cut off from family love.
      Chatting is something we do if we go out for a casual meal with friends. I’ll keep you information as to how things progress from here.

  46. Robin, your story reminds me that something similar happened at Sherborne. Lindsay the head was first investigated in the 1970’s. I think parents were aware there was an issue – but they turned a blind eye and didn’t sit up and take notice despite the warning signs. I think this was due to two things: the school had a record of good academic results – feeding us into posh schools in the S West! And of course, the cultural inabliity at that time to recognise abuse for what it was. All of it was swept under the carpet in families, schools, churchs, everywhere. So it may be easy to say this – but if you can, don’t knock your parents too hard. They were following the cultural norm at that time, and perhaps thought that by asking you too much about these things when you were young – would be cause of further damage and distress. I suspect that many parents of boarders in these decades kind of ‘knew’ somewhere what was going on – but didn’t want to know. It was all unspoken and taboo. How many of us had fathers who’d gone to the same schools? This has been going on for many decades. I know that there are survivors reporting about church abuse from the 40’s and 50’s.

    What matters – is what you do now, how you get help and support. You’re not on your own in this journey. it may feel like it at times. But please know – you’re not alone. There are thousands of us. As I say, if you feel strong enough go to the police, and take a friend or confidant with you. Take notes of everything. Keep a diary of how things unfold, dates of interviews with police, etc. And then when you’re ready find an abuse solicitor if you want to go down the legal route. At the very least – the school should be paying for regular therapy and a specialist legal team will help you hold the school to account if that’s possible still. I warn you – be prepared for the long haul with the legal route. It’s not over quickly. Took me 18 months, and that’s relatively quick.

    • Thanks Guy. You’re absolutely right about it being a taboo subject and our parents probably not wanting to believe it. They may have been worried about their status if it came out that they’d sent their son to a school where child abuse was known to be happening. My father went to a day grammer school so i think was unlikely to have been subjected to abuse. My mother went to boarding school and hated every minute of it. That’s something else I’ll never understand. Why send a child who would be a perfect target for bullying and abuse to the type of institution that she hated for all the years she was in one. i’ve taken note of your comments about keeping records of dates etc and getting the appropriate support through the legal process if I decide to go down that route. As for the time scale. I wouldn’t mind if it take two to three years so long as either someone or the school (or both) accept responsibility for their abuse and attempts to cover up their failings.

      • If your abuser, or the head who wrote the letter, are still alive – the legal route is much easier. There’s someone for the police to question and gather evidence from. And it’s easier for others to come forward with similar experiences of same school.

        Can I also suggest youi send your story to the IICSA, the Goddard Inquiry
        You can send them the full story and they will treat it with respect and confidence. Don’t expect a quick reply from the inquiry.

        • The head master will be dead by now but there’s a slim chance the abuser is still around. He’d be in his seventies now but i suppose there’s a chance. It’ll be interesting to see what the initial response from the police will be.

          • robin, if you want to risk a personal email to me with the name of your school and the name of your music teacher, i have a gift for uncovering the background of these perverts. emo1943@gmail.com

          • Mary, I’m in the UK. Will this make any difference. If you’re still happy to give it a go I’ll send you a scanned copy of the letter which may help you. Thanks Robin

          • let’s see what i can find out for you from here. i have excellent research skills and contacts. mary

          • and in the meantime, i hope you will be following guy’s very well informed suggestions. mary

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