How I came to terms with the horrors of my boarding school abuse

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.

iNews

Another pointless tickbox “outstanding” boarding inspection

What is the point of these Ofsted inspections that are mere tickbox exercises for boarding? Where are the social workers assessing why each boarder has been placed in care, away from their families?

The UK is a small country and we no longer have an Empire. There is no longer any need for children to be sent away to loveless institutions (regardless of how comfortable they are).

If a teenager chooses to board at 16+ and it is exclusively their decision, then we at Boarding Concern will support their decision (subject to proper safeguards). But there is absolutely no need in 21st Century Britain to send children and young teenagers away from home, given the disastrous history of British boarding.

Everything else is just pointless PR puff.

“Delight as Wymondham College earns ‘outstanding’ inspection grade”

Eastern Daily Press

Boarding schools and social workers’ hostility?

Maybe social workers are not caught up in the fetish of boarding? Maybe they do not want to send vulnerable children away from foster care and into loveless institutions, riddled with a history of abusing children?

And it has nothing to do with any fantasy of that perennial bogey “leftwing ideology”. Just practical, common sense that children are generally best raised in families than sent away to develop Boarding School Syndrome and or to become “Wounded Leaders“…

The Times (letters) (subscription)

Social workers avoid inflicting boarding school syndrome on disadvantaged children

It seems that social workers can see through the flogging of failed boarding as some sort of salvation for disadvantaged or vulnerable children.

There have been so many of these trendy almost fetishistic projects to give disadvantaged children “a taste of the boarding” in recent years. All have failed.

Boarding School Syndrome does not discriminate across social class. It affects us all. We need good day schools, with children and teenagers raised at home, not in loveless institutions. If families need support, provide it without sending the children away.

In the meantime, let’s blame the social workers for being perceptive…

“A scheme to offer free boarding school places to vulnerable children has failed because social workers thought they ‘wouldn’t fit in’ and refused to make referrals, charities say.

Many assume for ideological reasons that boarding is ‘not right’ for children from certain backgrounds, those leading the project claim.

It would have provided free places at leading private and state boarding schools for those at risk of ‘poor social and emotional outcomes’ because of family difficulties.”

Daily Mail

The Telegraph

A letter to … My parents, who abandoned me to boarding school

I can understand why you did it. In theory. I understand that you wanted to give me the best education money could buy. I don’t blame you for sending me away to an extremely strict boarding school when I was very young. I think you genuinely thought it was best for me – and for my younger brother, who you also sent away, to another boarding school in another part of the country, miles away from me.

Read the full letter in The Guardian

Former boarder and author of Watership Down, Richard Adams, has died aged 96

The author of Watership Down, Richard Adams, has died aged 96, his daughter has said.

The tear-jerking children’s classic about a group of rabbits in search of a new home after the destruction of their warren was first published in 1972.

The tale, first told by Adams on a long car journey with his daughters, turned into a best-seller.

Adams, a civil servant from Newbury in Berkshire, also wrote Shardik, The Plague Dogs and The Girl in a Swing.

Watership Down won the Carnegie Medal for children’s fiction in the year of publication.

Boarding school

He suffered the fate of many middle-class boys of the period when he was sent to boarding school at the age of nine, where, by all accounts, he had a miserable time.

BBC News

Are boarding schools… Really a home from home?

They are keen to distance themselves from the bleak educational gulags of the past, but parents’ confidence in boarding schools has been severely shaken by recent reports of an alleged [sexual] assault at the King’s Hospital school. Do these institutions offer a suitable environment for young people to grow up in?

So asks the Irish Independent in an analysis of boarding.

The broadcaster Ivan Yates once said of his boarding school experience that “terror mixed with homesickness” led him to cry himself to sleep, night after night.

The modern Irish boarding school is keen to present a more humane image than that of the bleak educational gulags suffered by Yates and many of his contemporaries in the late 1960s and early 70s.

The advocates of modern boarding institutions insist that they are ideal places for young people to grow up in. Often situated in fine rambling country houses or castles along tree-lined avenues, boarding schools supposedly offer their students the opportunity to spend all of their time with friends, playing games and taking part in spiffing Harry Potter-style adventures.

In this idealised world, presented in some of the school brochures, living in one of these institutions is like having a five-year sleepover – the only difference being that you are not at home.

Their apologists will tell you that they teach children independence and self-reliance.

The children may be homesick at first, but the parents are reassured that the offspring will get over it.

Most of Ireland’s 29 boarding schools have gone to strenuous lengths to present a more homely atmosphere: the cold, spartan dormitories with row upon row of steel beds have been thoroughly revamped, and the modern-day resident can expect much more than a breakfast of lumpy gruel.

The article goes on to quote Prof Joy Schaverien at length:

To hand over your boy or girl to the care of teachers or other supervisors, who are often complete strangers, for most of their teenage years, requires a remarkable level of trust, according to critics of the boarding-school environment.
Read more: Panti Bliss on his boarding schools experience: ‘Abusers were probably wary of mouthy kids like myself’

“You send a child to boarding school and they are left to the vagaries of whoever happens to be taking care of them, and the group of children they are with,” psychotherapist Joy Schaverien tells Review.

“They might be lucky and have a lovely group of children and kind adults; or they could be exposed to highly disturbed people, and there is nobody there to protect them.”

Schaverien, a therapist based in England, came up with the term ‘Boarding School Syndrome’ to describe a set of lasting psychological problems that are observable in adults who, as children, were sent away from their home to boarding schools.

Symptoms, according to Schaverien, may include problems with anger, depression, anxiety, failure to sustain relationships, and fear of abandonment.

“The child learns not to cry because they don’t get a normal response.
“Usually, when they are at home, a child gets a loving response, but that may not happen, so they learn not to show emotion. In later life that can show up in a lack of empathy.”

Much of the therapist’s work is based on younger children going to boarding school, but she believes it can also have a dire effect when a child is 12 or 13.

“It depends how vulnerable the child is. At puberty, children still need to have loving adults around them and education in emotional relationships.”

Irish Independent

Boarding Concern at the Independent Schools Show 2016

No, we didn’t have a stand but we have been to this year’s event in London.

We went to hear what the boarding industry had to say. We also spoke with parents to hear their thoughts on boarding.

We heard the usual platitudes about “modern” boarding. How boarding has changed from what “we” went through. “Modern” boarders tell us it hasn’t changed, boarding is still boarding. Trauma, separation, abandonment and bereavement of homesickness are still the same. Some things never change. And boarders are not sick of home. It is boarding school that makes them sick. They are schoolsick.

We attended this talk in the Education Theatre. We will post a write-up shortly. But we never did find out who these “experts” are who claim boarding “can strengthen the family unit“…

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Full house at our 2016 Conference

We welcomed 75 attendees to our 2016 Conference in London last Saturday. The fullest we have been. To date…

And this despite there being a separate Boarding School Survivors course for women in London. And another survivors event elsewhere in England.

Professor Joy Schaverien was our keynote speaker, addressing the topic of: The Creation of Boarding School Syndrome: Girls and Boys; How does the trauma differ? See this flyer for more details.

Some images of the day: