St Vedast Inquiry

Discussion of the children's schools in the UK.
CBetts
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Joined: Wed Dec 15, 2004 12:10 pm

St Vedast Inquiry

Postby CBetts » Tue Jan 11, 2005 4:31 pm

St Vedast Inquiry
Governors' announcement
The Governors of St James Independent Schools wish to confirm they are in the process of establishing an independently-chaired, fact finding, internal inquiry into discipline and sanctions policy and pastoral care at St Vedast and St James between 1975 and 1985.
Former pupils who consider they have grounds for complaint against either School are invited to notify their complaints by e-mail to -
Mrs Christine Betts
Clerk to the St Vedast Inquiry
e-mail address: vedast@vwl.co.uk
Complaints can only be considered if they are specified with sufficient detail. Each complaint should state:
? what was said or done (or not, as the case may be),
? by whom and against whom,
? in whose presence and with what effect, and
? when and where the incident occurred.
? If a complaint about the incident was made straight afterwards then details of that complaint should also be given.
Any incident complained of which falls outside the time period specified by the Inquiry (75-85) will be considered by the Chairman and the complaint will be admitted only if it is thought relevant to wider fact finding aims of the Inquiry.
Documentary evidence in the form of letters, contemporaneous notes or any other evidence that a complainant wishes to bring to the attention of the Inquiry should be identified in the e-mail to the Clerk. The documents themselves need not be sent to the Clerk at that stage.
The Inquiry will consider complaints made by individuals about their own circumstances but will not consider material submitted by or on behalf of campaign groups.
Complaints received by 16 February 2005 will be collated. The nature and volume of complaints will enable the Governors to set a formal timetable for the Inquiry to proceed.

C Betts
Clerk to the St Vedast Inquiry

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adrasteia
Posts: 111
Joined: Fri Apr 09, 2004 9:55 am

Analysis

Postby adrasteia » Sat Jan 15, 2005 1:24 pm

The St. Vedast Inquiry: An Analysis

CBetts wrote:St. Vedast Inquiry

Why is this being called The St. Vedast Inquiry when, as detailed later, it also involves St. James school? It seems to have the effect of comfortably distancing the enquiry from the present day school, when the inquiry is equally involved with accusations of abuse to pupils of St. James school.


CBetts wrote:The Governors of St James Independent Schools wish to confirm they are in the process of establishing an independently-chaired, fact finding, internal inquiry...

and also
CBetts wrote:wider fact finding aims of the Inquiry.

I am slightly confused as to the aims of the enquiry as they seemed to have changed:
Mr. Boddy earlier promised-
David Boddy wrote:The aim of the Inquiry is to discover the facts, to make recommendations, and to supervise implementation of any recommendations.

For some reason the offered level of response to complainants seems to have gone down, so that now the Inquiry seems to be merely finding out the facts for the purpose of ?fact finding?.
Will the facts found be available for perusal by the public? Will the results of the enquiry be published, so as to make it completely transparent?


David Boddy wrote:Wherever there are disputes or differences, the aim must be to resolve them. The steps must be truth first, and then reconciliation. Both steps are necessary, and the aim of this Inquiry and whatever follows is to do both.

There is not one word about reconciliation in the ?St. Vedast Inquiry? announcement. Has the idea been abandoned?


CBetts wrote:?inquiry into discipline and sanctions policy and pastoral care at St Vedast and St James between 1975 and 1985.

The discipline and sanctions policy is not and never has been the issue. The governors can merely phone up Mr. Debenham, or have a chat with him on a group week-end, and he can tell them exactly what the policy was. The issue is that there are many ex-pupils who contend that an acceptable policy was not followed, and that there were in fact serious cases of physical abuse.
I would suggest changing it to ?discipline and sanctions practices?.

CBetts wrote:Any incident complained of which falls outside the time period specified by the Inquiry (75-85) will be considered by the Chairman and the complaint will be admitted only if it is thought relevant to wider fact finding aims of the Inquiry.

I am not sure how the figures 1975-1985 were arrived at, but I find it hard believe that the alleged incidents of abuse would have suddenly stopped at any fixed point. According to the Guardian article http://education.guardian.co.uk/schools ... 71,00.html
Corporal punishment in Independent schools was banned in 1999, the first point at which it would have been illegal for St. James teachers to apply physical disciplinary sanctions, (St. Vedast had closed by this time), but this is almost 15 years after the given time span of the Inquiry.
Before this time, as an independent school, St. James would have been free to have its own policy concerning discipline and corporal punishment. As is it this policy, or lack of adherence to an acceptable policy, that seems to be the central issue addressed by the inquiry, I would feel very much encouraged if there was assurance given that the time period would be lengthened should complaints indicate that this was necessary.

CBetts wrote:Former pupils who consider they have grounds for complaint against either School are invited to notify their complaints by e-mail to?

Would present pupils complaints be ignored? Would they not come under ?incident complained of which falls outside the time period? bracket?

CBetts wrote:Complaints can only be considered if they are specified with sufficient detail.

Will there be a method of alerting people to the fact their complaints do not contain enough detail, and thus allowing them to elaborate?

CBetts wrote:The Inquiry will consider complaints made by individuals about their own circumstances.

I hope that every effort is being made to contact all the ex-pupils of St. James and let them know that any relevant experiences they may have would be greatly appreciated to help with the ?fact finding? inquiry: There will be many ex-pupils feeling the same as those writing here. They may not have access to the internet, or may not have thought to look up Ses, St. James or St. Vedast. There are many reading this board whose reaction has been to praise their education at St. James.
If this effort is not made, then I cannot believe that the Governors are really interested in finding out the true facts of the case, and it would seem that they are just interested in ?shutting up? those people on this site. If truth really is their aim, then these things will not be an inconvenience or unnecessary expense.

(Note: Ex-pupils with known address are sent the annual editions of the school magazine, 'The Spectrum'. They are also sent the termly newsletter and other fundrasing news. One more letter should not be too much extra work.)

This quote also seems to imply that teachers and staff of the time will not be able to contribute to the collation of complaints. Surely this would be vital evidence concerning the hows and whys, were it to be given? Or will the staff be interviewed concerning the complaints later in the inquiry?

CBetts wrote:Complaints received by 16 February 2005 will be collated. The nature and volume of complaints will enable the Governors to set a formal timetable for the Inquiry to proceed.

Does this mean there will be chances for more complaints to be submitted during the course of the inquiry? What will the formal timetable consist of and why are the Governors setting it, this Inquiry was supposed to be conducted by an independent Chairman. Will the timetable be posted online? Does it require any action/more provision of evidence from complainants?
I would argue that should the given period be the only time allocated for the submission of complaints then it is far too short. If the governors are making the effort to contact ex-pupils, rather than just putting a post on this website, then much more time should be given to allow those ex-pupils to get up to date with the happenings of the inquiry.


I am left with many questions from the ?St. Vedast Inquiry? post. I am not yet satisfied as to the aims and objectives of the inquiry, and have not, as yet, understood its structure.

There is one last question:
If the complaints reveal a connection with the School of Economic Science, will the fact-finding enquiry be extended to cover its influence over the schools at the time? (Note: I am not implying a full inquiry into the SES, just into its influences on St. James and St. Vedast in the time dealt with by the inquiry.)
Again, I feel that if there is a refusal to contemplate this aspect of the complaints, which the postings on this board indicate does exist, there is no real commitment to unearthing the truth of the situation.


- Has anyone else had any thoughts on the 'St. Vedast Inquiry' post? It's been remarkable quiet following its arrival.-

Daffy
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Postby Daffy » Sun Jan 16, 2005 12:02 am

After some initial enthusiasm and an open mind about the inquiry I am now extremely doubtful that this is anything more than the whitewash some contributors to this forum warned about.

My scepticism is due to the following:

* As far as we can tell, the school has contact details for many of us. Yet there has been no attempt to contact former pupils to notify them about the inquiry, other than by posting information on this web site. How does the school even hope to pretend that the inquiry is genuine when it writes to parents to tell them that there is going to be an inquiry, but declines to notify former pupils?

* The latest post from Christine Betts suggests that the inquiry's terms of reference are too limited. I don't think it is appropriate to dissect every word of Ms Betts' posts to determine where the inquiry is heading, but it is the only indication we have of how the inquiry will be conducted and what it is intended to achieve.

The fact that it is only an inquiry into events between 1975 and 1985 is a glaring concern. While the first of these two dates is the year St James opened, the second is entirely arbitrary. I was at St James in and after 1985 and there was certainly no change in policy or practice at that time - abuses continued well after that date. The invitation to consider incidents outside that timeframe if they are "thought relevant to wider fact finding aims of the Inquiry" is not particularly comforting.

The limiting of the scope of the inquiry to "discipline and sanctions policy and pastoral care" is also of concern. It would appear to exclude matters of grave concern such as:

- the heavy influence of the SES and its doctrine on the schools, including forced participation in meditation and so-called 'philosophy' classes;
- the failure of the school to follow adopt more modern teaching methods or use properly trained teachers, consigning many students to the academic dustbin;
- the refusal of the school to teach subjects that other schools regarded as obligatory, such as modern languages, computer science, geography or even biology;
- sexism and other forms of stereotyping preached by the schools, in particular the girls' schools.

* The manner in which the inquiry is going to be conducted, and the forms of evidence it will consider, appear to be legalistic and exclusionary. The inquiry is to focus on 'incidents' rather than policies or general practice at the schools. It seems designed to ensure the inquiry concludes that incidents were isolated and not widespread.

Particularly in the early days (the 70s) corporal punishment by teachers was inflicted all the time, on a daily basis. Do I have to list every instance when Barrington Barber used a metre rule on children's bottoms? Do I have to report every instance when Will Rasmussen smacked my bare legs repeatedly with his hands? Do I have to document every time teachers whose identities I can't even remember now marked a plimsole with red chalk and whacked my bottom repeatedly? These happened up to 30 years ago and I certainly don't have "letters, contemporaneous notes or other evidence" of this, nor can I give a list of specific instances. All I can report is a memory of a childhood scarred by a decade of fear and despair.

The focus on specific incidents also suggests, without saying so explicitly, that the inquiry will be concerned with illegalities rather than whether behaviour or policies were appropriate in children's education. I would be appalled - but not surprised - if the inquiry concludes that corporal punishment was lawful, the parents knew about and accepted it, and therefore there was nothing to complain about. As I said in a previous post on this subject, "whether it was lawful at the time, or whether parents approved of corporal punishment ... is entirely irrelevant to the victims of such abuse. While much of what went on would probably not have passed either of the above tests anyway, they do not serve the inquiry's stated purposes of truth and reconciliation. I frankly don't care that beating children as young as five with a cane was lawful in the 70s and 80s. I don't care that an adult punching a child with his bare fists was acting 'in loco parentis'. In my eyes it was brutal, vicious behaviour that should never have happened."

So, where does this leave us? Should we boycott the inquiry on the ground that its terms of reference are too limited? I'm not sure. I don't want to play into the hands of St James and the SES by refusing to take part, but equally I don't want to play into their hands by participating in a sham. It's a difficult call.

I'd be interested to hear what other people think, and I'll be contacting the main organisers of the ex-pupils' campaign to find out. I suggest other people who have not yet participated in any way do the same.

wilfred
Posts: 13
Joined: Fri Dec 10, 2004 10:42 pm

St James comes clean on its Web site

Postby wilfred » Sun Jan 16, 2005 11:26 am

You might be interested in this. I have just noticed this morning that St James now seems to have altered its web site to be pretty clear about its links to the SES. Before Christmas there was no mention of the SES on the site, and , wow, now it is there, under the history section. Where it should always have been. I am sure it is too much to believe that Margaret Thatchers spin doctor, Boddy, is suddenly having a change of heart about the transparency of the school?. My guess is that he and his lawyers are getting ready for trouble. I have heard on the grapevine that at least 10 boys have recently been withdrawn at short notice from the school. I am sure there will be more. Wilf

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adrasteia
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Postby adrasteia » Sun Jan 16, 2005 4:28 pm

Hmmm, I'm not sure how new that is.
There has always been a link from the homepage for all the schools, reads like this:

http://www.stjamesschools.co.uk/v2/about.htm wrote:St James schools were founded in 1975. The founder, Leon MacLaren, is better known as the inspiration behind the School of Economic Science, a charitable trust teaching philosophy and economics and various related subjects.

In addition to a number of remarkable initiatives in the fields of art, music, law and science, Leon MacLaren founded a school for children. It was to provide a complete education for boys and girls from four and a half to eighteen, which would look after their spiritual, mental and physical development.

The founder took the greatest care in formulating the educational principles for the schools and maintained a close interest in the early years of their development. The St James schools are owned by a charitable trust, the Independent Educational Association Ltd.


This is technically incorrect, as it implies that the founding of St. James was in no way connected to the Ses, McLaren just 'happened' to found that too.

There does seem to be a new paragraph added to the individual histories of the schools however, (although the junior schools have yet to recieve an 'our history column), here it is:

http://www.stjamesschools.co.uk/v2/girl ... bout-1.htm wrote:Our teachers are men and women who share in the recognition that the spiritual aspect of education is of central importance to wellbeing in human life. Many are students of philosophy at the School of Economic Science. Meditation is respected as a valuable practice by all our staff, although not all necessarily meditate themselves.


That's certainly making things a little more transparent.
Last edited by adrasteia on Sun Jan 16, 2005 10:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.

dan
Posts: 30
Joined: Mon Feb 16, 2004 4:39 pm

inquiry comment

Postby dan » Sun Jan 16, 2005 6:15 pm

I totally agree with Daffy and Adrastei's concerns over C.Betts's call for statements for the enquiry. I was initially keen to take part in an enquiry but now I am equally keen not to be involved in a gesture to silence complaints about a school with a worrying past.

Where are the London-wide adverts and letters to all past pupils calling for personal statements from ex-pupils for the enquiry? Are the current governors really concerned about what went on at St james and St vedast and the psychological damage violent teachers scarred pupils with for 25 years? Or are you concerned more with maintaining current admissions. The past, at St vedast and St James, was a deeply disturbing place. Poor management of teachers with violent tendencies was common place, resulting in long term institutional physical abuse of children.
Dan

Shout
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Postby Shout » Thu Jan 12, 2006 6:24 pm

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