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.
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.
Boarding schools are ‘orphanages for the privileged’ which all too often create people driven to succeed at work but who fail to engage emotionally at home.
That’s the view expressed by Mark Stibbe in his new book, Home at Last.
Mark says that, for many people, the journey from private boarding school education to political, civic and military leadership is a troubled one.
“Children sent away at an early age are forced to adapt far too early to the rigours and challenges of life away from their family,” he argues, “and people who have risen to leadership have often suffered the trauma of abandonment and, in some cases, abuse.”
It’s a subject that can test even the happiest of marriages: that of whether, and when, to send the children to boarding school. Last week Mike Tindall revealed he had no plans to follow Royal tradition and send his daughter, Mia, to board – despite the fact that Mia’s mother, Zara Phillips, and a long line of Royals before her, including Prince Philip and Prince Charles, attended the elite Gordonstoun school in Scotland.
“I know many people who say boarding was the making of them…but I don’t really want her to be distanced from us,” said the former England rugby captain, who attended Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in Wakefield as a day student. “Personally, I’d rather she attend a school that’s nearby, where we’ll always be on hand if she needs us. Anything else goes against my instincts.”
He is not the first to call into question the long-term emotional legacy of being sent away to school too soon.
[Prof Joy Schaverien quoted…]
The Yorkshire Post’s investigation reported:
“Other areas where standards were not met include minimum standards for boarding schools. The notice said this included ensuring medication is safely and properly stored; that boarders can contact members of their family in private and that boarders can personalise an area of the accommodation if they wish.”
UK boarding schools pretend that they are communities when they still bear all the hallmarks of restrictive total institutions.
This investigation confirms what we regularly hear from parents and care staff in boarding schools. They still apply abusive, restrictive sanctions to pupils in arbitrary and inappropriate ways. So much for “modern” boarding here in the UK. Nothing has changed.
The Daily Mail has also picked up the story, reporting on the cavalier attitude and denials of some schools to their failings.
There are many questions for the government to answer about problems over plans for Durand academy’s West Sussex boarding school outpost…
…but a social care inspection in June judged its boarding provision to require improvement on all counts. Findings included poor safeguarding documentation, lack of compliance with the school’s own health and safety policy, lack of appropriate fire safety, children not being routinely able to contact parents in private, risk assessments not being consistently adhered to, and insufficient oversight of policies and procedures by the leadership team.
Robin Fletcher, national director of the Boarding Schools’ Association (BSA), the UK boarding school industry trade body, claims that boarding only harmed children in the past.
In a planned address to an regional boarding school group, Fletcher will claim that the arrival of central heating, carpets and duvets has somehow transformed UK boarding.
We wait to see how Fletcher will address the growing body of evidence that shows that boarding is harmful, especially to younger children sent away to boarding school. In an article trailing his address, the TES quotes the work of Professor Joy Schaverien in identifying Boarding School Syndrome. Professor Schaverien’s evidence of harm comes from her psychotherapeutic work with former boarders. (She is not one.)
Marcus Brigstocke has said that it’s “incredibly dangerous” that so many British politicians were sent away to boarding school at a young age because their experience is so different from the way other children grow up in society.
The comedian and Radio 4 regular, who was sent to a Devon boarding school at the age of seven, said at the Cheltenham Literature Festival that it “dramatically changes your relationship with yourself, your ability to form meaningful relationships“.
“That’s why I think it’s incredibly dangerous when a large number of the Cabinet are boarding school-educated.”
Fortunately, Nick has rightly roasted this idiotic pretence. Something we at Boarding Concern know to be so untrue. Living in an cold, loveless boarding institution is no substitute for living at home, with your family, friends, pets, etc and within your community.