Boarding schools have long been considered ‘psychopath factories’ in which abuse and humiliation are a fixture of daily life. Yet it is from these very institutions that many of our rulers have been selected.
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The Globe & Mail (Toronto)
In our Resources section, under Papers and Articles, we present Simon’s review of Joy’s book.
Until the age of 10 I had a happy childhood, and was a confident, adventurous young boy. My father was a squadron leader in the Royal Air Force, so we moved around a lot, from Buckinghamshire, where I was born, to Scotland and Germany.
Then my parents made the tough decision to send me to boarding school in Nottinghamshire. I felt like my foundations had been ripped away, and struggled to adapt without the love and support of my family, who had remained in Germany. I lost my confidence and was an easy target for bullies.
By the age of 13, I was a complete mess. I’d moved to another boarding school and had become aware that I was attracted to men rather than women. I felt so weak for having sexual thoughts about men, and confused.
One evening, age 18 and in my final year of school, I tried to slit my wrists.
Britain’s education system has long been in the firing line of vociferous TV presenter Kirstie Allsopp, whose distressing childhood experience turned her against boarding schools.
But now, for the first time, the host of Channel 4’s hit series Location, Location, Location has launched a personal attack on her own parents, the esteemed Lord and Lady Hindlip, claiming they neglected her needs by shipping her away aged just eight.
‘The truth is I would have much preferred to have stayed at home than be sent away, but that’s what my parents wanted,’ she says.
My childhood as I had known it changed forever when I was sent to a girls’ boarding school in the seventies. My parents were in the process of splitting up, and my mother had gone abroad to look after my terminally ill granny – neither subject was discussed with me..
A few months before I left for my new life, aged just 11, I lost my teddy bear at an airport. The small bear had been my constant companion, and as my parents said goodbye there was nothing to cling to. The first night away, I sobbed in the small, unfamiliar bed. It was like falling off a cliff into the unknown with no one to catch me at the bottom.
The school was a former stately home situated in 25 acres of parkland that also contained a Saxon church and Italian gardens. The Jacobean-like exterior was huge and imposing. When we drove up the grand drive at the beginning of the autumn term, it was the first time I had actually seen the school.
I remember the heavy sense of impending doom as my parents said goodbye. I would see them on just two Saturday nights and for one short half term over the next three months. We communicated by letter, which we were obliged to write on a Sunday – the rumour being that the housemistress read and censored them all. It was a brutal way to live, supervised by embittered middle-aged women who didn’t appear to like children.
Kate Morris writing in The Guardian
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…]
This paper in Science magazine poses that moral and ethical dilemma.
As we correctly predicted, the UK boarding school industry has taken issue with the BBC’s portrayal of “modern boarding” during an episode of the Eastenders programme.
In an report in the Telegraph, the Boarding Schools Association complain about the storyline, maybe forgetting that what the BBC produced was a fictional drama?
Unlike the real side of “modern boarding” with ongoing child abuse and the development of Boarding School Syndrome within their “under fire” institutions… Maybe that is what the boarding school industry should be concentrating on, rather than on a work of fiction that doesn’t include a certain “wizard”?
Nick Duffell’s article in The Guardian as generated some letters in response.
Prof Andrew Samuels notes that “as the therapeutic conversation evolves, the client’s instilled gratitude for the boarding opportunity shifts into memories of abandonment and fear. There is often a range of psychosomatic symptoms and sexual dysfunctions, as well as severe intimacy issues.”
Leo Winkley shows that the boarding school industry continue to completely miss the point about institutionalising children. The industry blames former boarders and makes the nonsense claim that children today “choose” to board.
The age limits for many activities in the UK is set at 16 for a reason. Children below this age are not deemed competent by the state to understand to what they are consenting. And for certain activities such as drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco, the age is set at 18. Again for a reason. Nowhere does the law say you can “choose” to attend a boarding school from ages 8, 11 or 13. Maybe at 16+ and then only if the young person chooses to and not to please their parents, etc.
It’s time to end the nonsense about children choosing to board.