Inside Ireland’s boarding school for seven-year-olds
Film shines light on trials and joys of pupils and teachers at unique Headfort school
One painful moment from my childhood remains so sharply defined in my memory that it has the power to make me cry — even now.
I am a boy, aged just eight, sitting at a window in my boarding school, scanning the drive, waiting for my father to turn up and take me on an afternoon outing.
Minutes tick by. The arranged time for our meeting passes. I wait, still hopeful, expectant, excited.
Mark Stibbe, a former vicar who lives in North Yorkshire, is among those to claim to have been abused by youth worker John Smyth, who ran Christian holiday camps. As other victims waive their right to anonymity, here he tells his story in full.
She was born into great privilege, was a close family friend of Prince Charles and for a while lived a wild party lifestyle fuelled by drug abuse – not characteristics guaranteed to earn the admiration of the British public.
But Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, who has died at the age of 45, was also blessed with an intelligent, self-deprecating wit and a lively sense of fun, qualities that made her, for a time, one of the most popular minor celebrities of the late 1990s and 2000s – even if no one could quite remember what she was famous for.
In recent years, having kicked a reported £400-a-day cocaine habit after several bouts in therapy, Palmer-Tomkinson had largely sought to retreat from the public eye, vowing that she had left the party lifestyle behind for good. “I’m not the person I was,” she said last year. “I’ve gone completely the other way. I’m a very quiet person now, and I like being that person.”
After the publication of photographs of her looking frail, attracting insinuations that she had relapsed, the socialite revealed late last year that she had been suffering from a non-malignant brain tumour. Contrary to most people’s assumptions, she insisted, she had not taken drugs for a decade. But despite declaring herself more content, she had never quite found peace, she said, and continued to struggle with anxiety and self doubt.
Socialite Tara Palmer-Tomkinson has been found dead aged 45.
The star, who rose to fame in the 1990s as a hard-partying “It girl”, received treatment in 2016 for a non-malignant brain tumour.
The Met Police confirmed a woman in her 40s was found dead at Palmer-Tomkinson’s flat in Bramham Gardens, South Kensington, at 13:40 GMT.
Prince Charles, a close friend of the star’s family, led tributes and said he was “deeply saddened” by her death.
Another attempt at propping up failed boarding in the UK? Do we really need to inflict Boarding School Syndrome on already vulnerable children?
“A multi-million pound project that aimed to “break the cycle” of unfulfilled potential for vulnerable children by sending them to boarding school has been abandoned because of an unwillingness among local authorities to take part.
The government-backed scheme would have provided free places at independent and state boarding schools to an initial cohort of 150 11-year-olds considered to be at risk of “poor social and emotional outcomes” owing to family difficulties.”
Pity that this does not (yet) refer to the UK but rather to a school in Ireland.
A headmistress is accused of presiding over a 20-year reign of terror at the Royal School for the Blind as pupils reveal how she abused them because they were vulnerable.
Margaret McLenan, the former primary school’s headteacher who has since died, is alleged to have physically and emotionally abused boarders, some of whom were just five years old.
It wasn’t all St Trinian’s japes and jam roly-poly – a new book shows that life in Britain’s girls’ boarding schools could be cruel beyond belief.
Craig Brown (a man) reviews:
Terms And Conditions: Life In Girls’ Boarding Schools, 1939-1979
Ysenda Maxtone Graham, Slightly Foxed Editions, £16
I saw it in schools; now football is the focus. The pain is the same. Alex Renton
Allegations of sex crimes against young footballers continue to emerge. For two years, the author has heard harrowing accounts from hundreds of victims of sex abuse in [boarding] schools and finds many disquieting parallels
Breaking the silence is immensely powerful and it is good medicine. But speaking up is hard. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children has data that suggests one out of three people abused as a child has not disclosed the abuse and that the average victim who does waits nearly eight years to do so. Many of the men coming forward now, encouraged by the testimony of ex-footballer Andy Woodward, had never spoken before of the events when they were children.
In the past couple of years I have read or heard the accounts of more than 700 men and women sexually and emotionally abused as children in boarding schools, state-run and private. They came to me after I wrote in the Observer of the abuse at my own, Ashdown House. The stories are the grimmest reading, but what is heartening is that for so many people the simple act of speaking up is hugely helpful.