Books: About Boarding

Robert Verkaik (2018) Posh Boys: How the English Public Schools Ruin Britain, Oneworld Publications and Amazon

Imagine a world where leaders are able to pass power directly to their children. These children are plucked from their nurseries and sent to beautiful compounds far away from all the other children. They are provided with all the teachers they need, the best facilities, doctors and food. Every day they are told this is because they are the brightest and most important children in the world.

Years later they are presented with the best jobs, the grandest houses and most of the money. Through their networks of friends and family they control the government, the courts, the army, the police and the country’s finances. They claim everyone is equal, that each person has a chance to become a leader. But this isn’t true.

If such a world existed today wouldn’t we say it was unfair, even corrupt?

With Posh Boys Robert Verkaik issues a searing indictment of the public school system and outlines how, through meaningful reform, we can finally make society fairer for all.

Alex Renton (2018) Stiff Upper Lip: Secrets, Crimes and the Schooling of a Ruling Class, Weidenfeld & Nicolson and Amazon

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.

Complicity in child abuse is the bleak secret at the heart of today’s British elite.

Mark Stibbe (2017): Home at Last: Freedom from Boarding School PainMalcolm Down Publishing Ltd and Amazon

Sent away to boarding school on his eighth birthday, Mark Stibbe watched his adoptive parents drive down a gravel road, leaving him standing in front of a huge country house with his trunk and his teddy. That night, already confused and frightened, he was given the first of four beatings in his first two weeks. This trauma of abandonment and abuse was to scar Mark’s life until his fifties, when divorce forced him to deal with he calls his ‘boarded heart’. In this ground-breaking book, Mark argues that there are many thousands of wounded leaders just like him, men and women who suffer throughout their lives with homesick souls. This often leads to them being driven to succeed in their work while failing to engage emotionally at home.

Mark Stibbe has written a passionate and personal account of the ills of the British boarding school habit. He brings a rich terminology – the boarded heart, the orphan heart condition, and so on, to describe the mixture of abandonment, shame and privilege which cripples so many former boarders. Stibbe outlines a Christian path to recovery which will be welcome to those looking for a psycho-spiritual approach. (Nick Duffell, Psychotherapist and author of The Making of Them and Wounded Leaders.)

This is a moving and highly readable account of recovery from the trauma of early boarding. Mark Stibbe uses his own experience as the thread, weaving stories into his narrative, giving insight into what, for many, constitutes a significant form of suffering. Whilst some readers may not relate to the faith base of Mark s resolution, the author is sufficiently aware of the diverse potential readership not to alienate those who do not share his convictions. (Joy Schaverien PhD, Jungian Analyst and author of Boarding School Syndrome.)

Nick Duffell & Thurstine Basset (2016): Trauma, Abandonment and Privilege; A guide to therapeutic work with boarding school survivors, Routledge and Amazon

Trauma, Abandonment and Privilege discusses how former boarders can be amongst the most challenging clients for therapists. Even experienced therapists may unwittingly struggle to skilfully address the needs of this client group. This book looks at the effect on adults of being sent away to board in childhood and the problems associated with boarding. These patterns have only recently been acknowledged by some mental health professionals.

Joy Schaverien (2015) Boarding School Syndrome: The Psychological Trauma of the ‘Privileged’ ChildRoutledge

This book is an analysis of the trauma of the “privileged” child sent to boarding school at a young age.

Innovative and challenging it offers a new understanding of a long-established British and colonial tradition.  Richly illustrated with pictures and the narratives of adult former boarders, it shines a psychological light on this time-honoured practice.  Readable and accessible, it demonstrates how some forms of enduring distress may be traced back to the early losses of home and family.

Nick Duffell (2014) Wounded Leaders: the Psychohistory of British Elitism and the Entitlement Illusion, London: Lone Arrow Press.

In an age when America elected its first black president and the Middle East stirred with popular uprising, Britons were again content to elect the products of their elitist Public Schools.

But, their grooming for power aside, does such an education produce excellence – or expertise in self-deception and duplicity?

The early 21st Century gives us some clues. Tony Blair maintained his façade of inner conviction but lost the nation through blind allegiance to the Establishment. David Cameron let his boyish mask of caring sincerity slip to reveal a bully’s attitude beneath his meritocratic pretence. A bicycle in Downing Street highlighted a deep-seated problem in Britain: a divided society caught in the enduring trance of the Entitlement Illusion.

Jane Barclay (2011) Does Therapy Work? Exeter: Troutbeck Press

“My aim is to demystify the practice of therapy, drawing on my experiences as both therapist and as client.

In Part One, I examine the ‘component parts’ of therapy and how they interact. I go on to consider what might be the source of all struggle and suffering.

In Part Two, I offer as demonstration a narrative of my own story as client in therapy, interweaving insights from my perspective as therapist.

All relationships carry risk. In therapy, the client is, by nature, vulnerable. The debate concerning regulation of practitioners heats up. What measures, if any, can safeguard both parties and promote creative and pioneering practice?”

Joy Schaverien (2002) The Dying Patient in Psychotherapy. Desire, Dreams and Individuation. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan

This is an elucidation Love and Death in Psychotherapy.  It gives a powerful sense of the meaning and purpose of Erotic transference in Psychotherapy.  It demonstrates the challenges faced by the therapist who experiences a corresponding erotic counter-transference.

This book was the fore runner to Joy’s new book on Boarding School Syndrome.  It is a depth exploration of the damaging effects of early boarding on a sensitive 8 year old child and the lasting impact of the trauma.

Tracing in detail the therapeutic relationship it describes the emergence of the erotic transference and discusses in how to work with it over time in order to liberate the trapped psyche.  It is both personal and technical and is a must for students and experienced practitioners of psychotherapy confronted with love in the psychotherapeutic setting.

Nick Duffell (2000) The Making of Them: The British Attitude to Children and the Boarding School System, London: Lone Arrow Press and Amazon

Nick’s ground-breaking book, documenting his early work with former boarders and the founding of Boarding School Survivors.

“At the dawn of the 21st century British society is still shaped by a private education system devised to gentrify the Victorian middle classes and produce gentlemen to run the Empire. Yet it is not on the political agenda. It is rarely the subject of public debate, and we remain blind to its psychological implications.

A remarkable book which will be essential reading to anyone interested in the nature and culture of English, their education system, their attitude to children, and the psychological and social effects of sending their privileged sons and daughters away to boarding schools.”


Books: Biography and Autobiography

William Boyd (1985) School Ties, Hamish Hamilton
Speculative memoir of Gordonstoun schooldays from best-selling author and screenwriter William Boyd.  In this non-fiction introduction to his two TV plays about “the vicissitudes” of public schools – Good and Bad at Games (1983) and Dutch Girls (1985).

Penelope Lively (1975) Going Back
This children’s book traces the lives of Jane and her brother Edward growing up on a farm during the Second World War. How the idyll is shattered when Edward is sent to prep school.

Margaret Kennedy (1936) Together and Apart, London, Cassell
A novel tracing the impact of divorce. Includes the boarding school experience of the son and his relationship with his sister as their parents’ marriage breaks up.

Cyril Connolly (1928) Enemies of Promise
Connolly’s three-part autobiographical account. Part 3 – A Georgian Boyhood – analyses his time at Eton College.

Robert Graves (1929) Goodbye to All That, Anchor
Account of Graves’ life as a British Army officer in the First World War. Includes his family history, childhood, schooling at prep schools and his scholarship education at Charterhouse.

Byron Rogers (2006) The Man Who Went Into The West, Aurum Press
Biography of R S Thomas, one of the great post-war British poets. Damaged by her own boarding experiences, his mother found it hard to mother him. Thomas did not board but sent his son to Shrewsbury.

Fraser Harrison (1989) Trivial Disputes
The third volume in an autobiographical trilogy, this is Fraser Harrison’s account of his own childhood, including prep school and his time at Shrewsbury.

Rudyard Kipling (1888) Baa Baa Black Sheep
Kipling’s powerful short story, likely based on his own childhood experience about coming from India at the age of five to a foster family, and then a day school.

Michael Morpugo (2007) The Butterfly Lion, Harper Collins Children’s Books
Award-winning book from former Children’s Laureate, who ran away from his prep school. The book is about the lifelong friendship between a young boy, Bertie, growing up in Africa, and an orphaned white lion cub. Separated when Bertie is sent to boarding school in England, the lion is sold to a circus.

Erich Maria Remarque (1929) All Quiet on the Western Front
Remarque’s classic novel about the horrors of war, which was banned by the German government.  One of our supporters comments: “I first read it when I was 13 at boarding school and it has long been my favourite. It’s only recently I’ve worked out why. It is the point at which he goes home on leave that has me in bits every time. When he lies to his mother about how it is at the front.”

Stephen Fry (1997) Moab is My Washpot, Arrow Books
Fry’s autobiography, including his boarding school days

Roald Dahl (1984) Boy, Penguin, London
Roald Dahl’s autobiography during his time at prep school, and later at Repton. Told very much from young child’s perspective about the horrors and fears he felt being sent away. Covers the period from the 1920s to the beginning of the Second World War.

Andrew Motion (2006) In the Blood: A Memoir of my Childhood, Faber, London
The Poet Laureate’s autobiography of his early years including being sent away to prep school. A sensitive account of the interplay and ambivalence experienced by all his family. A good account of Motion’s relationship with his mother.

Oliver Sacks (2001) Uncle Tungsten: memories of a chemical boyhood, Vintage Books
A horrifying account by Oliver Sacks of being whipped at Bradfield School.

Antony Worrall Thompson (2003) Raw – My Autobiography, Bantam Books
“St Ann’s was a kindergarten for boys up to the age of seven. As the official school starting age was five, I was being given a valuable headstart on the educational front, though I didn’t of course appreciate that at the time. However in terms of emotional damage, no one will ever know how deeply I may have been affected by being sent away to board at the age of three. My overriding memory is of feeling incredibly unwanted. I don’t recall anything specific from those first weeks other than that I looked forward to Sundays, when I could see my mum.”

Michael Heatley (2004) John Peel: A Life in Music, Michael O’Mara Books
“Peel was a shy boy who tended towards obstinate non-conformity, for which he paid in regular thrashings – he recalled that the school authorities ‘practically had to wake me up during the night in order to administer the required number of sound beatings’. Peel estimated the ‘flagellation rate’ in his first term at once every three days, but denied having been scarred by the experiences. ‘ You developed techniques for coping,’ he reflected.”

Harry Thompson (1977) Peter Cook : A Biography,  (1977), Hodder and Stoughton
“I hated the first two years,” he (Peter) explained “because of being bullied. And I was as cowardly as the next man. I didn’t enjoy getting beaten up, and I disliked being away from home – that part was horrid. But it started a sort of defence mechanism in me, trying to make people laugh so that they wouldn’t hit me.”

George Orwell (1952) Such, Such Were the Joys, Penguin Classics
Autobiographical essay, first published in 1952, but written in the 1940s. The author describes his prep school years at St Cyprian’s, in Eastbourne, Sussex.
“Of one thing, however, I do feel fairly sure, and that is that boarding schools are worse than day schools. A child has a better chance with the sanctuary of its home near at hand. And I think the characteristic faults of the English upper and middle classes may be partly due to the practice, general until recently, of sending children away from home as young as nine, eight or even seven.”

Rupert Everett (2007) Red Carpets and Other Banana Skins, Abacus
Actor Rupert Everett’s candid memoir, in which he describes his boarding school experiences – first at prep school and later at Ampleforth, the catholic public boarding school. Left alone at prep school at just seven years old, his recollection of his initial few days are described as “haunting” by our reviewer.

Sheila Hancock (2005) The Two of Us: My Life with John Thaw, Bloomsbury Publishing
Actress Sheila Hancock’s memoir, in which she recounts her relationship with fellow actor John Thaw who, although not a boarder, had been abandoned by his mum as a child, and exhibits the same patterns of behaviour as former boarders.

Our reviewer says that from a spouse point of view, it was interesting and helpful to read how Hancock dealt with the issues and how these patterns manifested until he died.

Books: Boarding History and Sociology

Boarding History

Vyvyen Brendon (2009) Prep School Children: A Class Apart Over Two Centuries, Continuum, London
This book looks at Prep schools, where Brendon examines the lives of over 200 boarders. These children attended schools from the Georgian period through to modern times. A detailed historical account.

John Chandos (1985) Boys Together: English Public Schools 1800-1864, OUP, Oxford
Chandos writes about the dissolution of Public School culture at the beginning of the 1800s.  He shows how Victorian reforms gradually changed the schools over the next half century. Did the schools become better places? Or was brutality absorbed into the traditions of the schools?

Jonathon Gathorne-Hardy (1977) The Public School Phenomenon, Hodder and Stoughton, London
A book that looks at the development of the Public Schools from their ancient origins, through their survival over time.  Includes the introduction of girls’ schools. Very approachable and quite critical of the Public School system.  Helps to understand why the Public Schools came to look and function as they do in the present.

Christine Heward (1988) Making a Man of Him: Parents and their sons’ education at an English Public School 1929-50, Routledge, London
Accounts for how parents and headmasters worked together to shape men to feed the British Empire and middle class roles. Relying on correspondence between parents and the Head, hints at how the educational process sacrificed the individual.

Alisdare Hickson (1996) The Poisoned Bowl: Sex and the Public School, Gerald Duckworth & Co
An anecdotal history of sex in Public Schools, with a foreword by George Melly. Contains reminiscences from over 100 notable contributors, including Alan Ayckbourn, Quentin Crisp, Lindsay Anderson, and generals, academics, religious figures and Members of Parliament. With recollections on events from petting in the boathouse at Lancing to prostitution at Eton. The book charts the ways public schools have attempted to control sexuality. Provides a history of homosexuality in the Public School system and the hysteria that raged for more than a century.

J R Honey (1977) Tom Brown’s Universe: the Development of the Victorian Public School, Millington, London
Details how Victorian chaos and dissolution of the Public Schools transformed them into the structure of the schools as we know today. The book explains Old Boy networks, the prefect system, the cult of games, religion and sexual relations in the context of boarding.

Royston Lambert (1968) The Hothouse Society. An Exploration of Boarding-School Life through the Boys’ and Girls’ own Writings. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson

Donald Leinster-Mackay (1984) The Rise of the British Prep School. The Falmer Press

John Rae (1981) The Public School Revolution: Britain’s Independent Schools 1964-1979, Faber, London
Looks at the adjustments the Public Schools made during the social revolution of the 60s and 70s.

M Roper & John Tosh (Eds) (1991) Manful Assertions Chapter 8; Mummy, Matron and the Maids: Feminine presence and absence in male institutions 1934-63 Pp 168-190, Routledge, London
An essay that explores Public Schools originally being masculine institutions that completely excluded women. Questions the effects on male socialisation.

Andrew Tolson (1977) The Limits of Masculinity, Tavistock, London
A book written during the 70s that questions masculine socialisation. It looks at the role that boarding school plays in making men emotionally estranged from themselves.

Geoffrey Walford (1986) Life in Public Schools, Methuen, London
A study that looks at the organisation and conduct of life in boys and girls schools during the early 1980s.



Irving Goffman (1961) Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and other Inmates, Penguin, London
A original book about the stages an individual goes through to become absorbed into an institution. It is about how a person slowly loses their identity and takes on the identity of the institution and is subject to its rules and regulations. Frightening reading, when you see the implications for those who went to boarding school.

John Wakeford (1969) The Cloistered Elite: A Sociological Analysis of the English Public Boarding School, MacMillan, London.
This excellent book takes Goffman’s theories of total institutions and applies them to a study conducted in boarding schools. It examines how children are systematically stripped of their individual identities and expected to conform to the regime of the school where they live and work seven days a week. It looks at how subcultures emerge from these arrangements and the consequences for the individual.

Books: Girls and Boarding

Nikki Simpson (Editor) (2018) Finding Our Way Home: Women’s Accounts of Being Sent to Boarding School, Routledge and Amazon

Finding Our Way Home: Women’s Accounts of Being Sent to Boarding School shares the personal stories of sixteen women, all of whom were sent away to board at an early age. Their accounts delve into the depths of long suppressed emotions and feelings, and the lifelong impact that the early separation from their families has had.

Much has been written about the impact of ‘boarding school syndrome’ on male boarders, but less so about the female experience. This book is the first to explore the experience from a purely female perspective, and offers an intriguing insight into the world of boarding schools and the upbringing of girls born in the mid-to late 20th century.

Finding Our Way Home is a book for everyone who ever attended boarding school, as well as psychotherapists and counsellors working with boarding school survivors.

Ysenda Maxtone Graham (2017) Terms & Conditions: Life in Girls’ Boarding-Schools, 1939–1979, Abacus, London

‘When I asked a group of girls who had been at Hatherop Castle in the 1960s whether the school had had a lab in those days they gave me a blank look. “A laboratory?” I expanded, hoping to jog their memories. “Oh that kind of lab!” one of them said. “I thought you meant a Labrador.”’

As we discover from Ysenda Maxtone Graham’s quietly hilarious history of life in British girls’ boarding-schools between 1939 and 1979, this was a not untypical reaction. Today it’s hard to grasp the casual carelessness and even hostility with which the middle and upper classes once approached the schooling of their daughters. Education, far from being regarded as something that would set a girl up for life, was seen as a handicap which could render her too unattractive for marriage, and with some notable exceptions such as Cheltenham, schools went along with the idea. While their brothers at Eton and Harrow were writing Latin verse and doing quadratic equations, girls were being allowed to give up any subject they found too difficult and were instead learning how to lay the table for lunch.

Fathers tended to choose schools for arbitrary and often frankly frivolous reasons. Hatherop, for example, was popular with some because of its proximity to Cheltenham Racecourse. One girl’s parents chose Heathfield ‘because none of the girls had spots’. Not surprising perhaps that many of them left school without a single O-level.

Harsh matrons, freezing dormitories and appalling food predominated, but at some schools you could take your pony with you and occasionally these eccentric establishments – closed now or reformed – imbued in their pupils a lifetime love of the arts and a real thirst for self-education. In Terms & Conditions Ysenda speaks to members of a lost tribe – the Boarding-school Women, grandmothers now and the backbone of the nation, who look back on their experiences with a mixture of horror and humour.

Carole Inman (2015) Only Now Do I Know, Poems of a 5 year old boarder.
Carole tells her personal story of feeling abandoned, excluded and worthless, which she recognised and confronted in 2011, aged 64. This is a story of hope and transformation, of finding a way out of that darkness and into a lighter, brighter way of living in the present.

Drusilla Mojeska (1994) The Orchard, The Women’s Press Ltd
Born in England, the author lived in Papua New Guinea before arriving in Australia in 1971, going on to become one of its most acclaimed writers.

Antonia White (1933) Frost in May, Virago Press
This novel about convent life follows nine-year-old Nanda Grey at the Convent of the Five Wounds, a catholic boarding school, where she clashes with the closed, authoritarian regime.

Angela Lambert (1990) No Talking After Lights, Black Swan
Set within a girls’ boarding school in the 1920s, this novel tells the story of new girl Constance King as she arrives at Raeburn boarding school. Lambert (1940-2007), a British journalist, author and art critic, went to boarding school herself. This left her with the memory of being “dumped by unfeeling parents”. Her experiences inspired this novel.

Nuala O’Faolain (1996) Are You Somebody? The Accidental Memoir of a Dublin Woman
Memoir of the Irish journalist, TV producer and columnist. Includes being packed off at the age of 14 to a boarding school in County Monaghan run by the St Louis nuns.

Laura Knight (1936) Oil Paint and Grease Paint
Autobiography of the English Impressionist painter Dame Laura Knight (1877-1970), the first woman to be elected to the Royal Academy in 1936 and the official war artist at the Nuremberg Trials.

Peter Høeg (1996) The Woman and The Ape, Vintage

Elizabeth Taylor (1961) In A Summer Season, Virago Press
Popular novelist and short story writer, who portrayed middle and upper middle class English life.

Charlotte Brontë (1847) Jane Eyre
The classic novel includes five chapters about orphan Jane Eyre’s wretched time at Lowood, a charity school.

Charlotte Brontë (1853) Villette
Draws on her own deeply unhappy experiences as a governess in Brussels. Charlotte Brontë’s last and most autobiographical novel follows Lucy Snowe, as she sets sail from England to find employment in a girls’ boarding school in the small town of Villette.



Professor Joy Schaverien spoke on the topic of: “The Creation of Boarding School Syndrome: Girls and Boys, how does the trauma differ?”

In the November 2016 edition of Therapy Today, Joy examines the less often explored impact on women of being sent away to boarding school at an early age.

PDF download (140kb, 4 pages)


Dr Felicity de Zulueta, Emeritus Consultant Psychiatrist in Psychotherapy, spoke about early attachment and trauma. PDF download (548KB, 8 pages)


Darrel Hunneybell and Keith Pickstock’s opening and closing summaries from our Road to Recovery session. Darrel Hunneybell’s introduction to the work of the Boarding Recovery network of counsellors and psychotherapists. PDF download (114KB, 2 pages)
Keith Pickstock’s conference summary from the Roads to Recovery session. PDF download (42KB, 2 pages)


Nicola Miller addressed issues arising for women who attended boarding schools. PDF download (34KB, 3 pages)
Darrel Hunnybell addressed issues for men who attended boarding schools. PDF download (114KB, 6 pages)
Nick Duffell spoke about sexuality and boarding culture. PDF download (100KB, 6 pages)


Nick Duffell’s address to our 2008 Conference. PDF download (65KB, 4 pages)


Surviving the Privilege of Boarding School
A report from psychotherapist and Boarding School Survivors founder Nick Duffell. PDF download (97KB, 5 pages)

Courses and Workshops

Boarding Concern doesn’t run any courses or workshops. We do host conferences and speak at other events.

For details of regular Boarding School Survivors workshops, please contact Boarding School Survivors.

We will list other relevant workshops and conferences (usually under Our News/Events) that people and organisations share with us.

Drama: Feature films and plays

if…. (1968)

Lindsay Anderson’s classic film about rebellion.  Spelling out the cruel, archaic system of boarding education. At a time when freedom and individuality were at the core of youth’s hearts.

David Wood co-starred as one of the three rebel schoolboys. His character, Johnny, along with Mick (Malcolm McDowell) and Wallace (Richard Warwick), led the revolution against authority, which was regarded by many as a metaphor for the social and political situation in the UK. This book contains David’s memories of taking part in the film, the personalities involved, the day to day challenges, excitements and fun, and the reception given to the film, including winning the Palme d’Or at Cannes.

Tom Brown’s Schooldays (various)

These films (based on Thomas Hughes’ novel) portray boarding schools when they were at their height. Many of the outrageous human rights transgressions persisted well into the 20th century.

Another Country (1981) & (1984)

A play followed by a film based on the early lives of the Cambridge spy network during their time at public school, which led to their intolerance of the system and establishment in later life.

Flirting (1991)

Flirting is a 1991 Australian coming of age comedy drama film written and directed by John Duigan.

Films: Animation

Tony Gammidge, a former boarder, works part-time in the University of Brighton Arts Department.

He originally trained as an Art Therapist and has recently been involved in a project where he put together a short film about his boarding school experience and how this has impacted on his life.

Tony says:
“I made an animation film, which links my experiences of prep school with later life choices. It is an early/draft version made quite quickly but important for me. It was sparked by a number of things including Joy’s Schaverien’s book Boarding School Syndrome, as well Nick Duffell’s The Making of Them amongst other things. I made it for an auto-ethnography group I am part of in Brighton and Sussex University.

Films: Documentaries

ITV: Exposure: Boarding Schools: The Secret Shame (2018)

Exposure investigates the boarding schools that appear to disregard children’s safety and sexual abuse for the sake of their reputations.

Boarding School Survivors (2017)

This film explores the question: “Is there a hidden wellbeing crisis in boarding schools?” Understanding that what happens inside boarding schools affects the whole of the UK as a country, because many of our leaders and politicians are being educated in these institutions.

BBC: A Very English Education (2013)

The British public school is an institution renowned the world over. In 1979, the BBC made a documentary series about life inside Radley College, one of the UK’s most privileged and traditional boys’ boarding schools. In 2013, BBC director Hannah Berryman caught up with some of the boys who featured in the series to find out how their lives panned out after they left Radley.

As boys, they had left home to board at prep school at around eight years old, then moved on to Radley to acquire what the school head calls ‘the right habits for life’. But did their lives turn out to be as successful as their parents had hoped – and what kind of men did they become? The film explores the pain and the pleasure of growing up, as well as the unique advantages and difficulties of a quintessentially English education.

Telegraph review | Guardian review

Channel 4: Leaving Home at 8 (2010)

Cutting Edge examines how children and parents deal with the emotional highs and lows of leaving home to go to boarding school. Reviews by the Daily Mail, The Telegraph and the Independent.

Channel 4: Chosen (2008)

BAFTA award winning documentary. Chosen is testament to the power of a compelling story, simply told. It deals with a subject often whispered but rarely spoken about – the sexual abuse of schoolboys by teachers in Britain’s private schools.

Tom, Mark and Alastair all went to the very best school money could buy. At eight years of age they were sent as boarders to a prep school in the countryside outside London that prepared boys for Eton, Harrow, Oxford, Cambridge and life. What their parents didn’t suspect, was that several of the teachers on the staff were career paedophiles, who would ruthlessly use the position of power and influence they held in the lives of the children in their charge to sexually exploit them in the most extreme and degrading way.

For thirty years the boys, and the men they became, stayed silent, nursing the dark secret of the abuse they suffered. In this film they break that silence with spellbinding articulacy, and breath-taking honesty. Looking back over the decades, they analyse the consummate skill with which their abusers groomed them – separating them from their parents’ affections, and ensuring that they had no choice but to become complicit in the terrible acts they were led to believe they had to commit. (Synopsis courtesy of BritDoc.)

Read more about the background and later developments on the production company’s website. (Includes news reports relating to boarding school abuse cases.) Read a personal review of the film by Margaret Laughton (PDF, 58KB, 2 pages).

BBC: Britain’s Youngest Boarders (2010)

Documentary following boys as young as seven or eight when they leave home for the first time and start boarding school in England. This film tells the story of three boys – Luke, Louis and Dominic – during their first term at Sunningdale, a small family-run prep school in Berkshire that educates 100 boys, the vast majority of whom go on to top public schools like Eton or Harrow.

Luke is joining his older brother James at Sunningdale. All the boys at the school can only benefit from the small class sizes of ten, but the school’s system called ‘fortnightly orders’ – which places pupils from top to bottom in each class – shows just how academically superior young Luke really is.

Dominic has travelled half way around the world to join Sunningdale. He lives in Shanghai but he will go to school in the UK. He says his mum will find being apart for the ten-week term harder than he will. Dominic’s dream is to attend an English public school and after his interview for Harrow, he hopes to be one of the lucky ones to be offered a place.

Louis starts boarding school after leaving his state school in north London. Tearful and homesick, he struggles at first. Getting into the football team and being made captain goes someway to helping Louis feel better, but is it enough to convince him to stay at Sunningdale until the end of term?

From the daily chapel services, to the headmaster’s weekly dormitory check, and the boys’ very first night in dormitories, we get to understand the magical world of boarding school life from the boy’s point of view. (Synopsis courtesy of the BBC.)

BBC: Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story (2010)

Sarah Townsend‘s film of the actor and comedian and his rise to fame. The documentary sees Eddie discuss his boarding school experiences and reveal the impact these schools had on him.

ITV: Ampleforth: My Teacher is a Monk (2003)

TV documentary about Ampleforth College, a school in Yorkshire run by Benedictine monks, looking at how they deal with discipline, drinking, sex and the arrival of the first female pupils in its 200-year-history.

BBC: The Making of Them (1994)

Colin Luke’s documentary film for the BBC TV Forty Minutes series. Features Nick Duffell of Boarding School Survivors talking about surviving boarding school and his work with boarding school survivors (former boarders).

BBC: Rugby School, Changing Places (1988)


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  • Modernising our website
  • Funding our work


PDF, 9.10MB, 28 pages
  • Tracking the decline in modern boarding
  • How we make a difference: feedback from enquirers
  • Boarding School Survivors (BSS) changes
  • Are we winning? Boarding School Syndrome awareness grows
  • With sadness comes joy: going through a BSS Workshop
  • Falling in love again – with music
  • A glimpse through the mist: what is therapy?
  • Happy Christmas: Hoarding and childhood loss
  • Antipodean Reflections
  • Recent boarders speak out
  • Where racism thrived…
  • A Boarder’s Wife: on being married to a former boarder
  • Dear Papa: a letter to a father
  • Living beside rather than with
  • Chin up!
  • See you in three weeks
  • How a boarding school dealt with current abuse
  • Our Desert Island Discs choices and a puzzle



PDF, 1.23MB, 26 pages
  • The Sound of Silence: Boarding School Syndrome revealed
  • “I don’t want to go back to school!”: growing up on an institution
  • Boarding School Syndrome hits the press: Joy Schaverien PhD outlines her work
  • The edge of sunshine:
  • Jane’s letter [missing page?]
  • Homesickness
  • Meeting the resistance to the problem of boarding: Nick Duffell
  • The experience of non-being
  • Christianity, Psychotherapy and Spirituality“: conference report
  • One man’s story of telling his story
  • Colin Luke on the making of The Making of Them (1994)
  • An unexpected finding: the private self
  • [missing page?]
  • Boarding recovery from a biological perspective
  • Time to go back



PDF, 1.15MB, 24 pages
  • Conference 2009
  • Forever autumn: a poem
  • Leaving Home at 8: a TV documentary review
  • A new phase
  • It was our experience
  • Our growing website
  • The lost years
  • The Training
  • Cussedness and non-compliance
  • Boarding with a difference: a black African former boarder tells her story
  • Boarding school, my siblings and me
  • A lasting impression
  • Choking on a silver spoon: the psychology of the landed aristocracy
  • Child minding: the search for a child



PDF, 958KB, 16 pages
  • The boarding industry struggles on…
  • Boarding School Survivors20th birthday
  • Impressions of boarding schools from a non-boarder
  • A spoilt boy
  • James Robertson: our pioneering predecessor
  • Land, Identity, School
  • Uncrushable
  • A House reunion
  • The one that got away
  • Chosen: BAFTA award winning TV documentary
  • Complete: a poem


PDF, KB,  pages
  • What’s the purpose of boarding schools?
  • John Peel: a boarding school victim?
  • Systemic church abuse
  • Fear of intimacy and relationships



PDF, 3.45MB, 8 pages
  • On the perimeter
  • Homesickness does not build character
  • Suicidal tendencies?
  • Getting things in proportion
  • Public school and the platonic idea



PDF, 446KB, 8 pages
  • Quiet achievements
  • Saving public Ryan
  • Modern but still mad
  • Have trunk will travel
  • Broadcasting to the world

Boarding School Survivors Newsletters



PDF, 3.0MB, 6 pages
  • Finding our way home: giving birth to today’s Boarding Concern
  • A memory of school
  • China vase: a poem
  • A modern boarding story
  • Boarding schools face inquisition of child abuse

Papers and Articles

Bob Arnold & Thurstine Basset
Stiff Upper Lip?, published in Openmind, January/February 2005, 131:16-17. Describes the experience of two people who attend a Boarding School Survivor workshop. PDF download (491KB, 2 pages).

Jane Barclay
(2011) The Trauma of Boarding at School, published in Self & Society, Vol 38, No 3. PDF download (110KB, 6 pages).
(2007) I Can’t Get No-o…Satisfaction, published in Self & Society, Vol 34, no 5.
(2003) To Smack or Not To Smack, published in Self & Society, Vol 30, no 6.
(2002) Class, Prejudice and Privilege, published in Self & Society, Vol 30, no 4.

Thurstine Basset
(2018) Reflections of a Survivor, Self & Society, Vol.46 No. 1 Spring 2018. This article is a personal reflection on being able to tell a story through writing a book about surviving boarding school. It pays tribute to ‘Self and Society’ in its role of publishing innovative work. The author makes a plea for ‘home sickness’ to be renamed as ‘school sickness’ and for boarding issues to be incorporated into the training of therapists and counsellors. PDF download

(2006) Emotional Courage – 50 years on – The impact of a boarding school experience, published in The Independent Practitioner, Winter 2006:10-13
The author prepares to revisit his prep school 50 years after he first boarded and reflects on its impact on his life. PDF download

Nick Duffell
(2005) Surviving the Privilege of Boarding School: A report from the UK. PDF download (97KB, 5 pages)
(2000) Gender Difference and Boarding School, published in Self & Society.
(1996) The best days of your life, published in Human Potential.
(1995) Boarding school survivors, published in Self & Society.

Marcus Gottlieb
(2005) Working With Gay Boarding School Survivors, published in Self & Society 33/3: 16-23
A psychotherapist reflects on running workshops for those gay men who struggled to come to terms with their boarding school experience. Examines the negative impact boarding had on their lives.

Susanna Hoare
Boarding School, the Happiest Days of Your Life?, published in the Autumn 2014 edition of Self & Society. PDF download (87KB, 2 pages).

David Mair
(2005) The Best Years of Your Life?, published in Therapy Today 16/7: 7-9
An exploration of the psychological damage of being sent away to board at a young age. (See October and November 2005 editions of Therapy Today for responses to the article).

George Monbiot
(2012) The British boarding school remains a bastion of cruelty, published in The Guardian.
(1998) Acceptable Cruelty, published in The Guardian and now on his website.

Jane Palmer
(2006) Boarding School: A Place of Privilege or Sanctioned Persecution?, published in Self & Society 33/5: 27-36. An exploration of the emotional and psychological effects of boarding.

Simon Partridge
(2016) Boarding School Syndrome: The Psychological Trauma of the ‘Privileged’ Child by Joy Schaverien, reviewed by Simon Partridge. Published in Attachment in December 2016. PDF download (473KB, 6 pages).

(2013) Boarding School Syndrome: Disguised Attachment-deficit and Dissociation Reinforced by Institutional Neglect and Abuse. Published in Attachment in July 2013. PDF download (77KB, 12 pages).

(2011) British Upper-Class Complex Trauma Syndrome: The Case of Charles Rycroft, Psychoanalyst and Psychotherapist, published in Attachment in July 2011 about Charles Rycroft (1914-1998). Explores the troubled man behind the upper-class exterior. Looks to Rycroft’s early familial and boarding school environment to help explain his lack of fulfilment – despite his therapeutic and literary achievements. PDF download (69KB, 10 pages)

(2007) Trauma at the Threshold: An Eight-Year-Old Goes to Boarding School. Published in Attachment, Vol 1, No.3, November 2007. Personal experience and reflections on a workshop for boarding school survivors. PDF download (49KB, 3 pages).

Anne Power
(2007) Discussion of Trauma at the Threshold: The Impact of Boarding School on Attachment in Young Children, published in Attachment, Vol 1, No3, November 2007, 310-312. A discussion of Simon Partridge’s 2007 article above with examing issues of attachment in young children.

Scott Poynting & Mike Donaldson
(2005) Snakes and Leaders. Hegemonic Masculinity in Ruling Class Boys’ Boarding Schools, published in Men and Masculinities 7/4:325-346. Sage Journals.

Joy Schaverien
(2016) Exiled: the girls’ school boarders, published in Therapy Today, Vol 27, Issue 9, November 2016, 20-23. PDF download. (4 pages, 140KB) Examines the less often explored impact on women of being sent away to boarding school at an early age.

(2011) Boarding school syndrome: broken attachments a hidden trauma in British Journal of Psychotherapy. 2011; 27(2)

(2004) Boarding school: the trauma of the ‘privileged’ child, published in Journal of Analytical Psychology 49: 683-705. Discussion of working therapeutically with former boarders. Wiley Online.

Mary Stack
(2008) The Making of her: My boarding School experience, published in Attachment Vol. 2, Number 3. pp. 321-327.


Coming soon!

Therapy & Counselling

Boarding School Survivors run weekend workshops in London for male and female adult former boarders. They can also provide you with details of therapists specially trained in boarding issues.

Boarding Recovery is a growing network of therapists who have undertaken specialist training to work with boarding issues.

The Counselling Directory can provide you with details of therapists near you.

The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) maintain a list of therapists.

The UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) maintain a list of therapists.

Legal Services

If you have been the victim of a crime, including sexual abuse at boarding school, Victim Support can help you decide your next steps.

If you would like help with both your criminal and civil legal options, the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers (ACAL) can help.