Someone needs to add Boarding School Syndrome into the mix…

At an event last week called “The Dark Side of Business,” held at the Corinthia Hotel in London, neuroscientist Tara Swart spoke about why psychopathic traits were so common in high-powered people.

She said many signs of psychopathy were also synonymous with those of strong leadership, such as callousness, impulsivity, aggression, and showing little emotion.

With more men in CEO positions than women, Swart says, boardrooms are severely lacking female characteristics such as empathy, intuition, and creativity. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, and Swart acknowledged that some women were bad at empathy and some men were good at it — but as a general rule, she said, these tend to be female traits.


Some of Swart’s male clients were sent off to boarding school at a young age and had horrible experiences of bullying, institutionalised violence, and humiliation. But women experience these things too.

Business Insider asked whether the ways men and women coped with these feelings of shame and rejection had an impact on more men ending up with psychopathic traits.

[But no mention of Boarding School Syndrome?]

Business Insider

C4 News: Boarding schools debated

Julie Robinson, general secretary of the Independent Schools Council, and psychotherapist Professor Joy Schaverien, author of Boarding School Syndrome.

“Schools are real happy places these days…” says ISC spin doctor. Why no one spinning from the Boarding Schools Association? Running scared? Again?

For the truth about “happy boarders”, visit the TV Documentaries section here under Resources and watch Leaving Home at 8

Channel 4 News

UK government commissioning research to help schools identify which mental health approaches worked best.

We wonder if this “research” will examine Boarding School Syndrome or the Strategic Survival Personality?

Both of these issues are well established, with Nick Duffell identifying the latter back in the 1990s and Professor Joy Schaverien identifying the former more recently. And the mental health issues of boarders and former boarders so often raised in the media?

Don’t hold your breath!

BBC News


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)

Boarding School Survivors offers a Post-Graduate Diploma in Specialist Psychotherapy with former boarders this year

Boarding School Survivors runs another The Un-making of Them, their
Post-Graduate Diploma in Specialist Psychotherapy with former boarders, starting 20 May 2017.

You can find full details about the dates, costs and venue on their website at Boarding School Survivors. They ask for a deposit of £200 to reserve a place.

Please email Lyn Jones, their Administrator, so she can hold you a place pending acceptance.

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

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:

How my husband’s ‘boarding school syndrome’ affected our marriage

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…]

Daily Telegraph

Being sent to boarding school at 8 screws boys up for life – just ask my husband

Homeland star, magnetic Henry VIII and Old Etonian Damian Lewis says he wouldn’t send his own children to boarding school aged eight because it is “a very violent experience for the young”.

Lewis has a son and daughter with actress Helen McCrory, but he doesn’t want to subject them to the trauma of living apart from their parents.

“I went at eight and I think that’s very hard. It’s just, boom! And you deal with it,” he says. “There’s a sudden lack of intimacy with a parent, and your ability to get through that defines you emotionally for the rest of your life.”

I live with a man who was packed off at the age of eight, and the thought of that small boy clutching the two items his prep school allowed him to bring – a pot of jam and The Observer Book of Birds of Prey – can still bring tears to my eyes.

Himself insists that the experience did him no harm, in fact, he positively enjoyed it. He has come to accept that I think the fact he thinks being parted from his mother at the age of eight was fine is irrefutable proof of how terminally screwed up he is.

I’ve noticed that men sent off to school at eight tend to repress their feelings very successfully until their own sons reach that age. (Damian Lewis’s son, Gulliver, has just got there.) It then becomes horribly clear how unformed and vulnerable that little boy is.

For one businessman I know, the idea that his parents left him voluntarily in the company of strangers, when he could barely tie his own shoelaces, was enough to trigger a nervous breakdown.

Others will say that it was simply the done thing and Mummy was in fits (of tears) when it was time to say goodbye.  For some reason, the upper classes deemed this abandonment to be “character building”.

If by forming a character they mean teaching a child to wall up all his feelings inside the fortress of himself, and never let down the drawbridge, then it was undoubtedly a huge success.

These days, most people rightly regard it as little better than child abuse with Boarding School Syndrome (BSS) recognised as a medical condition. I’m so glad that dads like Damian Lewis no longer feel obliged to inflict that tradition on their sons.

I think of a mother I know who handed her chorister son to a famous school. On his ninth birthday, the dead-eyed woman announced, “I’ve lost him. I know I’ve utterly lost him.”

The only prep school for an eight year old is to be found in his parents’ arms.

The Daily Telegraph