This is the story of generations of parents, Britain’s richest and grandest, who believed that being miserable at school was necessary to make a good and successful citizen. Childish suffering was a price they accepted for the preservation of their class, and their entitlement. The children who were moulded by this misery and abuse went on – as they still do – to run Britain’s public institutions and private companies.
Confronting the truth of his own schooldays and the crimes he witnessed, Alex Renton has revealed a much bigger story. It is of a profound malaise in the British elite, shown up by tolerance of the abuse of its own children that amounts to collusion. This culture and its traditions, and the hypocrisy, cronyism and conspiracy that underpin them, are key to any explanation of the scandals over sexual abuse, violence and cover-up in child care institutions that are now shocking the nation.
As Renton shows, complicity in this is the bleak secret at the heart of today’s British elite.
Due for publication in April 2017 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson/Orion Books and available from Amazon and other sources.
Official files on police investigations of child abuse at Gordonstoun, the boarding school in the Scottish Highlands that educated the Queen’s sons and Prince Philip, appear to have gone missing or been destroyed.
The UK boarding school industry claim that from the 1990s, boarding somehow became “modern”. Facilities were upgraded and children became safer. Or did they?
These reports about alleged abuse against young children at Gordonstoun boarding school in Scotland date from the 1990s:
The Guardian and here
The Times (subscription)
Benjamin Fry, the founder of Khiron House trauma treatment clinics has blogged about prep school sexual abuse.
We salute his courage in speaking out about boarding school abuse.
The sad thing to report is that children are still being being harmed, abused and traumatised at British boarding schools today. And not all of it is sexual.
Who is looking after your children tonight?
John Edward of the Scottish Council of Independent Schools (the BS industry trade association north of the border) tries his hardest to wriggle out of the fact that around 150 of the UK’s independent schools are being investigated for alleged child abuse. Past and current abuse.
Writing in this Sunday’s Observer, trying to justify boarding against Alex Renton’s recent damnation, why don’t you write (as an individual) to the Observer too?
We will be.
We welcome today’s editorial and feature articles in the Observer newspaper supporting our call for an end to early boarding in the UK. This follows Alex Renton’s article in last week’s Observer.
Three letters have been published in today’s newspaper, including one from us:
We welcome Alex Renton’s contribution to the debate about children living in institutions. In the British care system, we aim to place looked-after children in foster families rather than children’s homes. When we know that children need love and attention within a family, why do we deprive boarders of this?
Suggestions that children choose to board implies that these children made an informed decision. This might be true for those over 16; it is not true for those under the “age of consent”. There is a trade-off to going away to boarding school. Shuttered emotional development, clinging to institutional life, compared with growing up normally within their family and community.
Tom Perry has also written a letter about boarding and the mandatory reporting of abuse. We support his campaign requiring boarding schools and other institutions to have a legal requirement to report abuse allegations.
Today’s Observer newspaper has an editorial questioning the practice of sending children away at an early age. The newspaper also has a feature article on our campaign to end early boarding, which we have been running since 2002. Our letter along with Tom’s and another appear on the paper’s letters page.
Share your thoughts with us on our Forum.
The journalist and author Alex Renton has called for an end to boarding schools for young children.
Mr Renton, who attended a boarding school 40 years ago, said children under nine were “just too young” to be without “physical affection” from loved ones.
He told BBC Radio 5 live’s Breakfast: “It’s better to be with the parents… who have known you all your life, than to be handed over to strangers, however how good and kind they are.”
Abuse in Britain’s boarding schools: why I decided to confront my demons
For generations of boys, sexual abuse was part of the everyday cruelty of boarding school. In this painfully honest report, writer Alex Renton confronts the demons of his past at Ashdown House, where some of Britain’s most powerful men were also educated – and reveals the scale of the outrage about to engulf the private education system.