John Scottus School in Ireland - illegal corporal punishment

Discussion of the SES, particularly in the UK.
ConcernedMum
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John Scottus School in Ireland - illegal corporal punishment

Postby ConcernedMum » Thu Mar 22, 2007 4:18 pm

Hello
I've introduced myself on the "welcome" post. I've been on a journey of discovery about John Scottus school http://www.johnscottus.ie - the SES or as they are known in Ireland, the School of Philosophy and Economics, school in Dublin, Ireland. When I looked into it I thought it seemed a nice little school and as some sort of spiritual practice is really important to me, I thought it would be a gentle and wholesome place for my child to be educated. At the time, a friend told me that her sister had looked into it but that she had heard something about the use of corporal punishment associated with the school. As corporal punishment is illegal in all schools since 1982 and as it seemed so opposite to how the school portrays itself - respect for the spiritual in each child, disputes to be resolved through dialogue, I thought she must have been mistaken.

From day one I have had major concerns about the school and the education available to the pupils but in the way that you do, I let it on the back burner until, the Principal, Mary Telford, who was teaching the very youngest boys on a temporary basis while their usual teacher was finishing his training, slapped two of the boys. These boys are 5 years old and they were messing with paper and not doing what they were told (fairly normal 5 year old behaviour) - its not like they were physically attacking another child and her excuse is that she was feeling frustrated. She clearly regrets it and i'm not without sympathy for her predicament - just the concern for the children involved doesn't seem to be central. Since then, I have heard that Dr Michael Telford used to administer corporal punishment. As the school was set up in 1986, with initially only young children, and corporal punishment is illegal since 1982 in all schools in this country i find this truly shocking. Even now the school talks about developing love in the children - if anyone thinks they can teach love through violence do they realise how mistaken they are? My spirituality is mainly informed by the teachings of the buddha and jesus and I don't remember ever hearing that its ok to be violent towards children.

Violence against children is not practised in the school anymore as far as i am aware (in Ireland the exemption for teachers being prosecuted for assault was lifted in 1997) but as the school is associated with Nicholas Debenham, Chair of the Education Renaissance Trust (John Scottus is mentioned as one of its associate schools) and he was advocating violence against children as late as 1998, I feel the violence and control may not be expressed physically anymore but has to be expressed in some other way - until it bubbles up in the odd moment of frustration (slapping children) or through lack of control in other ways. Since i've been involved with the school, the principal has admitted her loss of control and i witnessed another teacher lose control of herself when she couldn't manage her feelings. I've heard of another instance of cruelty but I don't want to mention it here as I don't have the parents permission.

I know there is no such thing as a perfect school but I'm also concerned about supervision of the children, my child was seriously assaulted by another child while these 5 years olds were unsupervised, and the competence of the school to educate children. I've heard some of the classes seem to be educationally behind and in meetings with the parents they seem to be looking for guidance from the parents too often and don't appear to me to be competent or professional.

I'm posting here to see if anyone who was a student there has any feelings about it and also as I feel prospective parents should be aware of the history of the school and the history of the organisation running the school in other schools they've run.

Thanks for the opportunity to discuss this - some of the other parents dont' seem to be too bothered by this (and they may have good reason - its not for me to judge why) but it really bothers me and thankfully my child sees right through it and will be moving school as soon as possible.
xx
Concerned Mum
Last edited by ConcernedMum on Sun Jul 27, 2008 11:48 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Temporarily Duped » Fri Mar 23, 2007 6:18 am

Welcome Concerned Mum

You are not alone.
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Re: John Scottus School in Ireland - illegal corporal punish

Postby ET » Fri Mar 23, 2007 8:19 pm

Hi Concerned Mum and welcome to the board - it's good to see that after a long period of very little happening on here people like you are still finding this site and getting some support and help from it.

ConcernedMum wrote: I've heard some of the classes seem to be educationally behind and in meetings with the parents they seem to be looking for guidance from the parents too often and don't appear to me to be competent or professional.


As far as what you wrote above is concerned, I can only write from my experiences as a pupil in the girl's school in London in the eighties, but I certainly found that when I finally moved to a "normal" school there were serious gaps in my education. My literary and musical education was excellent in some aspects (Shakespeare, Mozart and other classical music) but seriously deficient in others. I almost didn't get a place at my new school because my Maths was so bad I only got 2% on the entry test for my age level!

It was widely rumoured around the school at the time (and I also heard it at home) that a large proportion of the teachers in the girl's school at least were not qualified to teach in the subjects they taught - our geography teacher was apparently qualified to teach history! As far as I am aware, all the teachers at that time were SES members, so it stands to reason that their pool of qualified teachers must have been small.

I can't talk about the modern schools, for all I know they may have improved, but I'm sceptical. The whole inquiry fiasco and travesty has not strengthened my faith in the schools or what the SES says publicly. We know they have lied to us on countless occasions in the last few years, so it's impossible to believe them when they assure us that the schools have changed.

I wish you and your son all the luck in the world in getting away from this poisonous organisation.
Pupil at St James Girl's School from 1979-1989, from age 4-14. Parents ex-members of SES.

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Postby a different guest » Sat Mar 24, 2007 2:37 am

As to qualifications of the teachers - I can say that they are below par here in Australia. Yes they are qualified, but with a "Graduate Diploma" in teaching - which is a 1 year course that you can if you have an undergraduate degree.

While there is nothing wrong with that per se - the issue is that ALL the teachers (bar 1 I think) are grad dips - which is unheard of in primary level education as it is NOT good practice.

Teachers with 'grad dip' qualifications are mostly found in high schools teaching in the subject area of their initial undergraduate degree. However also in high schools will be many fully 4 year trained teachers who can help their colleagues. A 4 year trained teacher is qualified to teach from early childhood up to senior (Year 12).

A large primary school may have one or 2 'grad dip' qualified teachers - but that's it. For a primary school to virtually have ONLY grad dip qualified teachers is a real worry.

Move your child, and talk to other concerned parents. As to those parents who don't look worried - they are probably in the SES. Do the mums wear longish skirts?
Relatives with long-term involvement in the SES / SOP/ SoEP

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bonsai
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Postby bonsai » Sat Mar 24, 2007 6:20 pm

Hi Concerned Mum,

From my experience as a pupil of the St James Boys School for my entire education I can say that the teaching qualifications of the teachers at St James were always secondary to their membership of the SES.

Bonsai

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Re: John Scottus School in Ireland - illegal corporal punish

Postby Goblinboy » Sun Mar 25, 2007 11:40 pm

ConcernedMum wrote:...the Principal, Mary Telford, who was teaching the very youngest boys on a temporary basis while their usual teacher was finishing his training, slapped two of the boys. These boys are 5 years old and they were messing with paper and not doing what they were told (fairly normal 5 year old behaviour)


Concerned Mum,

You have every right to be worried. Hard to believe an experienced teacher couldn't command sufficient self control (despite years of SES practice - not a little ironic). A huge issue for the SES schools is that they draw teachers from an extremely limited talent pool, confined by SES membership. It's a major limitation.

I suspect there will be a few local people very interested in your story.

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Postby ConcernedMum » Tue Mar 27, 2007 7:32 pm

I just want to say thanks for your replies. Now that the decision is made I feel its also important to mention that my child has also been the recipient of care and kindness in the school aswell. I still have the doubts and misgivings but there's no comparison to the experiences of some people here so maybe some lessons have been learnt and efforts are there to try and change. I hope thats the case.
CM

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Re: John Scottus School in Ireland - illegal corporal punish

Postby Abel Holzing » Wed Mar 28, 2007 2:25 am

Goblinboy wrote:A huge issue for the SES schools is that they draw teachers from an extremely limited talent pool, confined by SES membership. It's a major limitation.

I vaguely remember it being stated here that the majority of teachers at the London day schools nowadays are non-SES-members. Are you saying that the Irish day school still stipulates that teachers need to be SES members?

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Postby Goblinboy » Wed Mar 28, 2007 6:27 am

Good morning Abel,

No, I'm generalising from the Australian schools, which is (AFAIK) completely staffed by School of Philosophy / SES people. Generalising is always risky, but suspect I'm correct about the selection criteria for the majority of the schools.

To quote the front page of the Erasmus School website "It is governed and staffed by members of the School of Philosophy, Melbourne." http://www.erasmus.vic.edu.au/. At least they're being a little more transparent than previously.

Cheers,

G

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Postby bonsai » Wed Mar 28, 2007 9:09 am

ConcernedMum wrote:Now that the decision is made I feel its also important to mention that my child has also been the recipient of care and kindness in the school aswell.


Hi CM. I am in no doubt the that majority of the members of the SES and the teachers in the associated schools are good, generally honest and well intentioned human beings who are genuinely trying to make a difference and who genuinely care about those who are in their charge. I certainly recognise a lot of these qualities in the teachers who taught me in London and even recognise it in some of the teachers who have been talked about a lot on this site. The main problem would seem to be one of misguidance and an irrational devotion to their philosophy. It seems obvious to those of us on the outside that the mistakes that have been made are where the teachers have a priority inbalance that allows them to ignore their natural human instincts in favour of something else. This is often the philosophy itself, the guidance or instruction of someone they believe to be more senior in the organisation, or the simple egotistical belief that they or the school are better.

The biggest problem that I can see is that there is no mechanism to keep the teachers in check. There is no obvious mechanism for complaints or grievances to be dealt with responsibly or independently. I believe that the SES (including the associated childrens schools) close ranks when threatened. The inquiry that has taken place is totally unprecendented in the history of the school but has been brought about an enormous amount of pressure. Since then the impetus for change and remedial action seems to have stalled since and there is little evidence that the findings of the inquiry report have been taken onboard.

Abel Holzing wrote:I vaguely remember it being stated here that the majority of teachers at the London day schools nowadays are non-SES-members.


I understand that there are teachers at St James now that are not SES members. I don't believe this to be a paradigm shift by the govenors but more a practical step to ensure that they can keep the schools staffed. I do not believe that St James is anywhere near the point where they could appoint a non SES headmaster as would seem clear from the appointment of David Boddy as head of senior boys, who has no teaching qualifications to his name. I expect that St James will still continue to hire a lesser qualified SES teacher before even looking for teachers without SES membership.

Bonsai

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Postby ConcernedMum » Wed Mar 28, 2007 11:49 am

Thanks Bonsai - you are saying exactly what I was trying to get across. My sense is that no matter what priorities I, or the general education system has for my child, that in John Scottus there will always be an undercurrent of an agenda that I do not know about and that I will not be informed about - and that that agenda may work counter to the best interests of my child. Now in truth that is probably true of many institutional settings - but the difference here is the level of transparency and openness about the other agenda - and how aware the teachers and people concerned are themselves of their ulterior agenda. A good example for me is that corporal punishment was practised at a time when it was against the law in this country. Alarm bells go off for me to hear that a school was happy to operate outside the law of the country it is operating in. I don't wish to personally insult anyone - but the group works as a group so individual niceness isn't really the issue.

As for the teachers, there is nothing on the website saying they have to be practising in the School of Philosophy - but anecdotally I have been told that this is definitely preferred but not always the case (maybe 1/2 teachers out of the whole junior school aren't?). i am told that the female teachers must wear skirts!! so if that sheds any light on it?

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Postby bonsai » Wed Mar 28, 2007 1:34 pm

ConcernedMum wrote:My sense is that no matter what priorities I, or the general education system has for my child, that in John Scottus there will always be an undercurrent of an agenda that I do not know about and that I will not be informed about - and that that agenda may work counter to the best interests of my child.


There is an arrogance about the SES where they believe that the philosophy can do no harm. Personally I am unable to think of anything that can not cause a degree of harm to others when used inappropriately.

I don't know what it is like in the Irish school but certainly the ulterior motives of St James in London may be considered quite sinister. At the time I was there the message that kids were bombarded with constantly is that liberation can most easily be found by following the path of the SES and that achieving liberation (or self realisation to use their parlance) is the most important thing and certainly more important than your academic education. I don't know how this has changed since I went to school but certainly the pressure to join the SES proper through the foundation groups when kids turn 16 seems to be reduced.

ConcernedMum wrote:Now in truth that is probably true of many institutional settings - but the difference here is the level of transparency and openness about the other agenda - and how aware the teachers and people concerned are themselves of their ulterior agenda.


snip

ConcernedMum wrote:As for the teachers, there is nothing on the website saying they have to be practising in the School of Philosophy


From my investigations and research into organisations of a cultic nature it would seem that lack of transparency about the actual agenda is a common feature. This lack of transparency is best described in the SES as "you have to try it to understand it" which I believe you noted in your introduction message CM.

Without a doubt if the schools declared openly that their teachers were active members of the SES (SOP or whatever they choose to call themselves) and that their education system is based on core principles derived from the philosophy studied there then yes this may put off a few prospective parents. But better they be put off from the start than discover the deception later and carry the resentment that goes with being misled.

If, however, the schools believe that in being open about their agenda will mean that the families and pupils who will benefit from it will be turned off before trying it then they just have not worked out how to get the message across or they are totally misguided by what parents and families want. Either way it is a fault of theirs and doesn't change the fact that they should be open about their motives and agenda.

There is something in the SES philosophy that may be give them their own permission to be deceptive and that is the idea that they believe that humans know the truth but have forgotten it and are inclined to more base things. I think there may be a genuine belief in the SES that outsiders are incapable of understanding their agenda however I personally don't believe this gives them the right to mislead people.

The main thing though that I can not abide about the SES's philosophy is the inherent hypocrisy. Because they think that people who aren't involved in it can't understand it, they have this superior and patronising manner when talking to or about outsiders. This is so divisive in that it puts them above those who are not in organisation but is totally anti their core advaita (not dual) belief that there is a unifying consciousness in all things.

Bonsai

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Postby ConcernedMum » Sun Apr 01, 2007 2:08 am

Just to clarify when I wrote 1/2 teachers in the school who aren't practising members I meant one to two rather than half. Apparently in the last number of years, at a meeting of parents, concerned about the teachers being fully qualified, the principal stated that given the ethos of the school, priority was given to School of Philosophy members rather than qualifications.

One thing I didn't mention before because it might have identified my child and me, was that after my child was subjected to a horrific and humiliating experience from another young child, while unsupervised, (for the sake of my child's privacy I can't say what it was but it was really traumatic at age 4 and a half -I've edited this bit because interestingly, when i was talking about his new school to my child, he brought up this incident in JScottus again so it has obviously still been on his mind. However he did say quite clearly that it was the other child who told him not to tell his mum. However he also said that the teacher knew it had happened yet he pretended to me that he didn't know about it - its all a bit strange - I don't know!!! Anyway its over now.

At the time when i reported it to the teacher i did have concerns about his level of empathy about what had happened but put it down to his inexperience of dealing with young children. I know its a danger to allow a later perception colour all memories but when events fit a regular pattern established in SES schools all over the world where children and teenagers have been told not to tell their parents things, it is very hard not to.

Thankfully I have got a place for my child in a school elsewhere and I look forward to him returning to the carefree, caring, happy little boy he was and losing the aggressive and anxious edge he has developed since attending John Scottus school. Friends have also commented on the slight edge in him - which was never in him prior to going to the little boot camp. I would love that anyone visiting www.johnscottus.ie would also know about this site so they could have a fuller picture of the ethos of the schools run by the School of Philosophy and Economics / School of Economics.
Last edited by ConcernedMum on Mon Apr 02, 2007 9:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby ConcernedMum » Sun Apr 01, 2007 10:12 am

Without a doubt if the schools declared openly that their teachers were active members of the SES (SOP or whatever they choose to call themselves) and that their education system is based on core principles derived from the philosophy studied there then yes this may put off a few prospective parents. But better they be put off from the start than discover the deception later and carry the resentment that goes with being misled.


a p.s from me. Its fair to say that John Scottus are absolutely open that their ethos is derived from the School of Practical Philosophy / SES etc, ideas and are open (subsequent to joining the school) about the beliefs of the teachers. Irish legislation allows schools to discriminate on the basis of religious belief in the employment of teachers in order to preserve the ethos of the school - though whether the SES would be regarded as a religious belief, I don't know. The particular education history in Ireland means that most state funded schools have a particular religious ethos (mainly catholic)- which is why we parents who are looking for something else have little choice and why John Scottus then becomes an attractive option.

I checked out the Philosphy school ideas beforehand and they seemed reasonably ok to me. And indeed most of ideas predate the existence of the SES and have their validity/non-validity is independent of the SES. My concern is that the synthesis of those ideas is within an organisation whose practices are not so transparent. And clearly they sure aren't open about the beliefs about women beforehand!!

I was probably a bit naive because my background has been buddhism where non-violence is a first principle so i didn't realise that eastern ideas about love can be twisted into something so so dark (i was quite aware of how western christian ideas can go down that road! . But as soon as I heard about violence against children (physical and emotional) in the schools and that this pattern has been replicated around the world including Ireland - well they don't put that in the brochure.[/quote]

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Postby bonsai » Mon Apr 02, 2007 10:02 am

ConcernedMum wrote:Its fair to say that John Scottus are absolutely open that their ethos is derived from the School of Practical Philosophy / SES etc, ideas and are open (subsequent to joining the school) about the beliefs of the teachers.

snip
ConcernedMum wrote:The particular education history in Ireland means that most state funded schools have a particular religious ethos (mainly catholic)- which is why we parents who are looking for something else have little choice and why John Scottus then becomes an attractive option.


It is incredibly distressing to me that this philosophy can be open and seem attractive just by being different to the mainstream belief system of the country. The more and more that I hear about things like this it become apparent that if you base an education system on some spiritual befief system, be it catholic or SES or anything else, and that system is arrogant and intolerant to the beliefs of the individual then you are creating an evironment where abuse can take place.

My mother had a Catholic convent school education and I think that my education at St James bear striking resemblences to hers. The failings of such an education system do not just reside in the ideology of the belief system but arise out of the existence of the belief system in the education environment and the zeal with which the teachers try and impose the belief system on the minds of children. The one thing that is so obviously missing from these education systems is the teaching of tolerance.

ConcernedMum wrote:I checked out the Philosphy school ideas beforehand and they seemed reasonably ok to me. And indeed most of ideas predate the existence of the SES and have their validity/non-validity is independent of the SES. My concern is that the synthesis of those ideas is within an organisation whose practices are not so transparent. And clearly they sure aren't open about the beliefs about women beforehand!!

I was probably a bit naive because my background has been buddhism where non-violence is a first principle so i didn't realise that eastern ideas about love can be twisted into something so so dark


The sad thing about the SES is that whilst it is based on Advaita, a separate branch of Hinduism, they would claim not to be Hindu. They have bastardised the philosophy quite a bit and meshed in all sorts of ideas from other sources.

As soon as people allow their own reason and discrimination to be bypassed by a belief system then they are open to being manipulated.

Bonsai


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