Reprint - 3 former St. James teachers apologize, Oc/Nov 04

Discussion of the children's schools in the UK.
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Reprint - 3 former St. James teachers apologize, Oc/Nov 04

Postby NYC » Mon Apr 11, 2005 8:07 pm

Hello all,

Below I?ve quoted posts originally made on the ?EXPERIENCES AT ST VEDAST (now St. James) AND THE SES? thread. This thread has become so lengthy it is extremely time-consuming to get to the middle pages of it without a link. Consequently, I'm afraid that many casual visitors will miss this content, which I found very compelling reading.

What I did was go through the thread, copying and pasting all posts by the three former teachers ? David Hipshon, Barrington Barber, and Will Rasmussen ? who apologized for their actions in the ?application of discipline? as David Boddy has called it. I also copied and pasted all posts by former students who responded, whether their comments were positive or negative. I didn?t edit anything except email addresses, which I replaced with xxx?s. Those email addresses are still obtainable by finding the relevant page in the original thread.

These posts are from pg 15 ? pg 25 on ?EXPERIENCES AT ST VEDAST (now St. James) AND THE SES.?

David Hipshon
Posted: Sat Oct 16, 2004 5:43 pm Post subject:

Firstly let me explain that I was only told about this site a few days ago. I looked at it for the first time last night and I have only just finished reading all the contributions. I'd like, therefore, to begin by apologizing for seeming to ignore what you have been discussing. If you had contacted me in any way I would have been only too happy to respond. My e-mail address is xxxxxx. I would prefer to receive messages from people with names, rather than anonymously, but either way I'll do my best to enter a dialogue with you.

I entered the teaching profession in 1979 after obtaining the first of my history degrees and a post-graduate teaching qualification. My hope and intention was to help people and to make a contribution to society. It still is. I am deeply sorry if anything I have done has caused distress or resentment. Although some of the correspondence on these boards is malicious, misleading, one-sided and libellous I am only too painfully aware that some of it is not.

Tom: I'm afraid I don't actually remember you although I recognize your name. If what you say is true and I have caused you pain and unjust indignity, then I am very sorry. Please accept this apology as a first step towards understanding and reconciliation.

Dan: I remember you as a rather difficult and complex individual with a considerable degree of resentment at being in the school in the first place. I nevertheless liked and respected you. I met you at a party some years ago and was shocked by the implaccable hatred I encountered. I immediately apologized to you for any part I may have had in creating that feeling. I do so again. It's time to begin to resolve these feelings and I would very much like to meet you to start the process. Please get in touch.

Alban: You mention my throwing a board duster at you and a piece of chalk (which was apparently intended for someone else). Sorry. I don't remember the incidents you mention but I do have a vague recollection of you as a lively young man with a great sense of humour.

From my perspective it's important to remember the context of the times. When I was at Leeds Grammar School in the 1960s corporal punishment was normal and used by almost all the staff. I received, for instance, three whacks with a cricket bat for running in a corridor. We were regularly hit for minor midemeanors. I was slapped across the face for speaking out of turn. We accepted it because we didn't think there was anything wrong with it and believed it was making us stonger characters, better able to deal with the vicissitudes of fortune. After a gap year, three years at uni and a PGCE year I was offered a job at St Vedast. The school was still quite new and the prevailing ethos was one of restoring values to a society that was rapidly abandoning them. We believed that to have self-respect and tolerance you had to be well-disciplined yourself. The parents of our pupils wanted a strict school where teachers were obeyed so that there was order and therefore better opportunities for learning. In the context of the seventies, when there was a general perception that education had gone off the rails because school pupils were no longer disciplined, I was happy to teach in the way I myself had been taught in the belief that this would help my pupils and society at large. This attitude, combined with the smallness of the school which added to the intensity, undoubtedly led to the feeling of oppression that some of the correspondents mention.

I moved to St James in 1984, a year before St Vedast closed, and as the school grew, so in many ways did we. I was only 23 when I began and there can be no doubt that I was insensitive, over-bearing and over-zealous. I'm glad I wasn't a pupil in my own classes at that time. It must have felt stifling and oppressive. I'm sorry to all of you who had the misfortune to meet the arrogant and bigotted young idealist I probably then was. I've been teaching now for 26 years and although my present pupils know that I don't put up with anti-social behaviour and deliberate disruption to my lessons (detention is pretty much the ultimate sanction these days) I like to create an enjoyable learning environment and to encourage pupils to express themselves as much as possible. I think I've learnt to be sympathetic and understanding whatever the problems the pupil might have.

I would like to say one final thing about Mr Debenham. I can accept any criticism of myself. I think I deserve it and it helps me to become a better person and a better teacher. I think much of the vitriolic bile against him on these boards is unjustified, nasty and disgustingly puerile. He is remembered by hundreds of his former pupils as a man of outstanding integrity, humanity, vision and courage. At a church service a few months ago to celebrate his retirement as the founding Headmaster of St James the place was packed with former pupils and their parents who wanted to thank him. Their feelings were just as valid and genuine as those of the comparitively few who have contributed to the criticism of him on these boards. Many former pupils came to the reception afterwards and one of them said to me, "I never received a punishment from Mr Debenham that I didn't thoroughly deserve. He is the most just man I have ever met."

I'd like to end by reiterating my opening sentiments. I am saddened that I may have contributed to the continuing unhappiness of any of the correspondents and while apologizing to them I would urge them to get in touch with me privately. A few beers and some talking might begin the process of resolution. I sincerely hope that we might at least begin to understand each other more. Nothing would give me greater satisfaction.

David Hipshon.

Pg 15 ... &start=210

Posted: Sun Oct 17, 2004 6:31 pm Post subject: responsibility
Mr. Hipshon's posting failed to recognise that a headteacher should have complete knowledge of the type of discipline in use at their school. No good saying the head is a just man if he's not even aware of the disciplinary proceedures used by his staff. Might well be a just man; but the claim to "just" in the execution of his duty as head just doesn't hold, unless the perpetrators of these brutal forms of punishment were acting outside the authority of the head. In the latter case, what the hell are some of them still doing teaching there.
Mr. Hipshon's appology is welcome, although he reckons he can't remember any of the actual acts of violence inflicted upon any pupil.
That is difficult to believe!

Pg 16 ... &start=225

Tom Grubb
Posted: Sun Oct 17, 2004 6:58 pm Post subject: Reply to David Hipshon
Reply to David Hipshon

Dear David,

The views I?m about to express in this message are very much my own. I haven?t yet consulted other survivors of St James or St Vedast about your extraordinary post on this forum. Some of them may have very different views from my own.

Thank you for your post! This is the first apology I have read here from a former or current St James or St Vedast teacher and I welcome it. Thank you also for giving out your email address. I suspect that you will be receiving many emails from former pupils in the near future.

Tom: I'm afraid I don't actually remember you although I recognize your name. If what you say is true and I have caused you pain and unjust indignity, then I am very sorry. Please accept this apology as a first step towards understanding and reconciliation.

Don?t worry about not remembering me. It would be surprising if you did. I was at St Vedast for less than two years and one thing that I was very good at was keeping my head down and not being noticed. This was a useful survival tactic which helped me avoid much, although certainly not all, of the brutal mental and physical cruelty that was so common at the school.

What I say IS true. You once struck me around the head with great force for no apparent reason. However, I don?t expect you to remember this particular incident since you hit so many other boys during, and no doubt after, my time at St Vedast. As I remember it, violent blows to the head were something of a speciality for you. Quite apart from the pain and humiliation that such assaults caused, you must be aware of the danger of severe and lasting injury that might ensue from unexpected and violent blows to the head of a developing child. I hope you are also aware that, were you to behave in such a way nowadays, you would ? in my view, quite rightly ? run the risk of criminal prosecution. Speaking strictly for myself, I accept your apology to me as far as it goes although, as you suggest, I see this as only a first step, albeit a very welcome one, towards reconciliation. Rather than wanting ?a few beers and some talking?, I would consider my dispute with you closed on receipt of a full and unreserved verbal and written apology for your abuse of the pupils in your care. It really is as simple as that.

I leave your remarks about other pupils for them to answer.

On the subject of your own experiences as a pupil of Leeds Grammar School, I am sorry that you received ill treatment there, whether you ?accepted? it or not. As you will realise from many of the posts on this forum, the level of abuse at St Vedast and the old St James was probably a great deal worse than at Leeds Grammar School and was definitely not something that pupils generally ?accepted?, however much Mr Debenham might want to believe otherwise. Indeed, even today, the resentment and anger that many of us still carry at this appalling treatment is great.

On the subject of Mr Debenham, you write that ?much of the vitriolic bile against him on these boards is unjustified, nasty and disgustingly puerile. He is remembered by hundreds of his former pupils as a man of outstanding integrity, humanity, vision and courage.? I can only say that just about all of the vitriol I have read here about Mr Debenham is entirely justified! I suspect that, of the former pupils you mention who were so keen to thank him at the recent church service, few were contemporaries of mine at St James or St Vedast. Ascribing the words ?integrity, humanity, vision and courage? to Mr Debenham?s behaviour during my time at St Vedast would be a sick joke.

Tom Grubb

Posted: Sun Oct 17, 2004 7:29 pm Post subject:
Firstly, I personally feel that David Hipshon's post is genuine and comes across as sincere. I thank him for that, and I applaud his efforts to bring reconciliation - that is all I am personally after. I'm glad too that he has recognised that his actions were those of a young and inexperienced (my interpretation) teacher.

I can also understand the arguments that schools used to use corporal punishment twenty years before and am aware that in certain sections of society, there was a feeling that children were undisciplined...and if you read the manifesto of the UKIP you'll probably still find the same sort of complaint.

However, I think my real complaint with the way things were, which was not really touched upon in DH's post, was the culminative effect of all the factors. Firstly, there were the young an inexperienced teachers that lost their temper, true, but the older ones were just as bad if not worse. Very few had any control over the children (and it's not as if St Vedast was a school full of problem children) and so they resorted to violence - what sort of example is that for the kids. Nicholas Debenham MUST have been aware of this and did nothing to stop it. Secondly, the general level of discipline was so high, that there was never any let-up for the kids. It was a constant barrage of "do-this", "don't-do-that...whack" that meant the whole atmosphere was extremely depressed. Thirdly, there was no outlet for creativity in the school - even art lessons were removed from the syllabus for years, and even when we had them, it was "do-it-like-this". Lastly, the influence of the SES on both the Schools and our parents meant there was no let up once we got home (after our extremely long day).

Some of my complaints can be laid at the door of the SES and it's leader at the time, which massively influenced everything the schools did. Some of the blame should be shared by the teachers that lost their temper and lashed out at the kids. But most of the blame MUST be laid at the door of the Headmaster who allowed both of the former to continue unchecked. Not only did he do nothing to stop it, he encouraged and contributed to it.

So David, please do not try and defend Nicholas Debenham, he has many things to answer for. For example, the pupil who said "I never received a punishment from Mr Debenham that I didn't thoroughly deserve." obviously wasn't one of the two classes of children he caned because someone spoke in swimming!

As for certain content being " malicious, misleading, one-sided and libellous", then I would urge you to publicly discuss points raised that you feel aren't fair. I will certainly be happy to defend anything I have written (and a great deal that I haven't). I can say this though, that it generally takes a lot of courage to write about one's personal experiences in a public forum, and when one does so, it is normally done with a great deal of care.

Having said that, I re-iterate that the post was most welcome, and for me it serves as an admission that mistakes were made and you are sorry they were. We have all made mistakes in our past, I certainly am not proud of everything I've done in the last 20 years. I only have a problem with those that still feel they were justified in treating the children that way, and would still be doing so if it were not outlawed.

I truly hope that yours is the first of many similar posts from those that taught in the schools during those hellish years. No-one can give back what was taken away, but an apology goes a very long way if it is sincere.


David Hipshon
Posted: Mon Oct 18, 2004 6:05 pm Post subject:
Thanks for your recent posts and E-mails. Keep them coming. The strength of feeling in them is indicative of great hurt and resentment and I would like to do everything I can to help. There are no qualifications on my apologies for contributing to your feelings of pain and anger. I am truly sorry. If any of you would like to meet me let me know by E-mail. I'm away over Half Term but get back 30th October. I would welcome the opportunity to face up to my mistakes and the people who have suffered as a consequence of them.

David Hipshon.

Posted: Thu Oct 21, 2004 12:48 am Post subject:
I wish to amend my above posting as follows:-

I would fully endorse every word of the last post by Lowpass. From the age of eight I witnessed and was subjected to identical levels of 'punishment'. My brother and I were at St Vedast from day 1, September 1975. One of the unfortunate 50 or so guinea pigs who through some perverse twist of fate just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

This thread has come along way since I wrote it's first posting back in February this year. I had managed to escape by the time David Hipshon came along but I welcome his apology. However if I was one of those that had suffered at his 'over-zealous' hands, I would need to look him directly in the eye and hear him actually say the same words to my face before I could fully believe it.

However since David Hipshon arrived after I left, by the same token he was not there when the brutalities of the early years were committed. On this basis, since I left in 1978, he is not qualified to make any comment about what happened in the 1975 to 1978 period, and you need look no further than the latest 'Lowpass' posting to get the full flavour of that abomination.

His defence of Debenham just proves how much he and others are still trapped by the iron stricture of SES thinking that can transform something which is so blatantly obvious to a clear sighted person, and thus the entrenched view is maintained. I am prepared to take Mr Hipshon's comments at their face value and accept that he actually believes, to this day, that his defence of Nicholas Debenham is realistic, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary as any net reader will know. I hope that in this context he will take Lowpass's response seriously, and for once, not choose to ignore what is now common ground amongst so many former pupils of St James and St Vedast in the early years.

What is truly astonishing and revealing is that Mr Hipshon fails to penetrate the mind-set to which he continues to be subject. This manifests in an abject refusal to admit that Debenham stood at the point of intersection between the pupils in his charge and the misguided and, in certain respects, reprehensible regimen emanating ultimately from Leon MacLaren via the SES. If Mr Hipshon wishes to demonstrate that he is no longer a clone, his first step is to open his mind and face the facts - or at least to admit the possibility of those facts being true, a possibility that cries out for exhaustive investigation.

At the same time I applaud his courage to be the first of all the teachers who have been mentioned in these posts to make an honest admission of his guilt, but this is only a first step and we sincerely hope that he will willingly do this face to face. More examination needs to take place of what the processes were about. It wasn't that he was just a young and naive teacher putting into action an education that he had experienced as a young child, but that he was part of an abusive regime based on ignorance of the highest order. Once again the point must be repeated of the clear distinction between the corporal punishment that he and his generation went through and the blatant child abuse that went on at St James and St Vedast. Two very different things.

Katherine Watson's concerns appear to be for truth, I hope not the defence of an ossified structure. For these schools to go forward, fearless thinking that demonstrates a release from stale and brainwashed attitudes of the past is needed. May more of the present day teachers have the guts to speak out. It is a difficult process for anyone who has followed a philosophy for most of one's life to acknowledge that the most powerful philosophy in the hands of the zealot can become demonic. This is what happened in the day schools of the 70's and 80's.

Matthew Woolf

Daniel Gregory
Posted: Thu Oct 21, 2004 9:46 pm Post subject:
I was a pupil at St Vedast school for boys from 1978 to 1984.
For my first two years we were at Queensgate before moving to Hampstead. While at Queensgate Nicholas Debenham was my headmaster and thankfully I avoided being caned by him by keeping my head down. I was absolutely terrified of the man and his reputation for caning. He seemed to me a quiet, calm man but too calm, like a volcano about to erupt. I never heard him shout at anyone which unnerved me all the more as he seemed aloof and difficult to predict. Would he blow up in my face one day? He seemed like a compressor but did he have a safety valve?
Nicholas Debenham seemed to express himself ok when he caned boys. Maybe this was for him a physical outlet because he caned hard. Even though I was never caned by him myself, I have the vivid memory of a boy coming out of his study having been caned by him. The boy was in great pain and very very distressed. He would instinctively hold his backside only to shock his hands away as touching his injury would increase the pain. His distress caused him to lose the strength in his legs so he next went to sit down but stood back up before touching the seat as he wouldn't be able to sit down again with any comfort for hours if not days. He just didn't know what to do with himself, reduced to an emotional wreck as he was. He was crying, not quietly, not with any dignity, but uncontrollably.
The boy was a couple of years older than me, maybe twelve or thirteen.
At school in Hampstead my headmaster was Julian Capper, another quiet man but thankfully he used to shout at us now and again. What a relief. We new what sort of man he was as he expressed himself and showed emotion. I have never been convinced that Julian Capper was happy caning us boys, but did so as it was school policy. My count-up came to twentyone strokes by the time I left St Vedast, usually two strokes at a time and once three.
Other punishments at school were the slipper- or rather a plimsole from the changing room and the ruler across the hand. Items thrown at pupils were the blackboard rubber, chalk and on one occasion the teachers half eaten apple. One teacher was kind enough to allow us to choose between the 'hedgehog' or the 'bicycle'. The 'hedgehog' would see the teacher take the hair at the base of your hairline between his thumb and index finger. Then in one swift movement he pulled his hand up along with a small tuft of your hair. The 'bicycle' saw a similar grip between thumb and index finger, pull the hair outward a bit and rotate, this time it was the hair found just above the ear.
I would sincerely like to thank my form tutor of four years, David Hipshon for his contribution to this site. David was another who scared me. I left school afraid of almost any man in there twenties and this continued for ten years or so. Silly really isn't it? But David was in his twenties and had a profound effect on me.
To read his words posted recently showed me that he too is a man capable of emotion and compassion. I can even empathise with him as he has revealed what I have always suspected, that he was abused as a child too.
I personally do not need to pursue my old teachers for apologies as I have left St Vedast and all it's bad experiences behind me now.
Having said that, David Hipshon's need to apologise in general and the fact that he now teaches in an 'enjoyable learning enviroment...encouraging pupils to express themselves' is music to my ears. Children need to be encouraged and motivated and this is where the skill in teaching is, not just the content of the subject.
David Hipshon, for me, is no longer the teacher in the video of Pink Floyd's, The Wall. And to a certain degree, I am not afraid anymore.

Pg 17 ... &start=240

David Hipshon
Posted: Thu Oct 21, 2004 11:04 pm Post subject:
Thanks, Danny. I remember you as a quiet boy with an uncanny ability to get lost on cross-country runs! I was deeply moved by your post and would like to wish you all the best.
I'm away for a week now so won't be able to respond to further posts during that time. I welcome the Inquiry and hope that some resolution may emerge.
Pg 17

Posted: Fri Oct 22, 2004 3:20 pm Post subject: St. Vedast
To all St.Vedast & St. James ex-pupils, especially Matthew Woolf and Tom Grubb.
I must first of all apologise unreservedly for any pain or humiliation that I inflicted on any boys at St.Vedast in the 1970-80's.I realise now that in the position I was priviledged to hold I sometimes must have abused my power and made boys suffer unnecessarily.At the time that was not my intention.
I was rather inexperienced as a secondary school teacher having only taught art students before. Although I had been well trained by my father and grandfather[a professional boxer in his youth] and had worked as a professional artist for some years previously, I had never had formal tutorial training although at the time my art school diploma was officially good as a teaching qualification. I was also an M.S.I.A. during my proffessional career. I was a part-time teacher at St.Vedast because I spent half my time at St.James as well.
To give you all the relevant background, I had grown up in a fairly tough time And had learnt to fight for myself through what was then quite tough junior and grammar schools in the 1940-50's, and as I was a rather puny boy I had quite a hard time. But I did manage to hold my own.
When I was asked to teach boxing at St.James/St.Vedast it was based on the idea that most boys tend to fight and it was better if they learnt a formal version than just to be left to use whatever methods came to hand. I trieed in teaching boxing to give the boys all the techniques I'd learnt in the same way I was taught. But I did try very hard to match boys of similar weight and skill as much as possible. I am pleased to say that there are still old boys that tell me that they enjoyed the boxing lessons, and they weren't always the toughest ones.I agree that some of my methods of punishment were a bit crude but I assure you that I was not motivated by the spirit of sadism. I tried to keep it to the least painful I could under the circumstances. I realise it probably didn't look like that to you, but I never gave out anything I had not been put through in my own youth. I was probably too hard on you for the times. I beg your pardon in the hope that you might allow for a different upbringing slanting my methods.
I am impressed by the tenacity with which you have pursued your investigations into the early days of the school and I agree with you that love and wisdom were not always in plentiful supply. This is not an excuse because I accept my responsibility for causing some of you unnecessary pain and am deeply mortified by any of my previous ill-judged behaviour.
I do think however I have helped to encourage and produce some first rate artist,quite a few who have been accepted in top Art Colleges including one recently at the Slade School of Fine Art.
There has definitely been a flourishing artistic development in the school and that doesn't happen by chance. I still have a few drawings from the earliest days that stand up to the best. My remit in art was first to teach drawing of a classical,naturalistic form which I think was successful.
I was impressed by your response to Dr.Hipshon's messages and have only become aware of the existence of this site and wish to add my apologies to his.If any of you wish to contact me directly my e-mail is xxxxxxxx. As I am now a bit elderly and am not used to using the internet you will forgive me I hope for not contributing much more to this site. However I will answer e-mails as soon as possible. You will all be relieved no doubt to know that that I have now retired from teaching and would say I sent all my children to St.James and hope that they don't regret it. I wish you all well and hope in time your pain and anger will be resolved. Matthew and Tom and Alban and friends my sincere apologies.Please forgive me. BB

Pg 18 ... &start=255

Posted: Fri Oct 22, 2004 7:27 pm Post subject: Re: St. Vedast
Dear Mr Barber

Thank you, your apology is both welcome and appreciated. About 25 years too late, but appreciated nonetheless. And as they say, better late than never at all. On reading what you say, it does appear to have a tone of truthfulness and honesty about it, but to be completely assured of your heart-felt sincerity, I would ideally of course, need to meet you and hear you repeat this as I look you in the eye. Perhaps we shall meet at the forthcoming Inquiry. It is there and then that I look forward to being able to forgive you personally for what you put us through.

I welcome too the fact that, up to this point, this has all taken place on a public internet-forum such as this. Full transparency is now essential after all the years of secrecy and cover-ups. If you keep trying to sweep things under the carpet in the hope that they will disappear, eventually the pile will protrude so much that everyone starts tripping over it. It feels a bit like this is what has been happening.

I too must echo Tom's eternal gratitude to Mike Gormez for setting up and hosting this site. Thank you Mike. We would never have got to this stage if it hadn't have been for the Internet.

Matthew Woolf

Last edited by Matthew on Fri Oct 22, 2004 8:52 pm; edited 1 time in total

Posted: Fri Oct 22, 2004 7:31 pm Post subject: Reply to Barrington Barber
For some reason I didn't expect to hear from you Mr Barber, but I am sincerely glad that you made the effort and I thank you for not trying to defend the regime or the actions thereof. It is also very welcome to read an unreserved apology.

You see the problem from where I stand, is this. We remember the brutality, the sadistic regimes and the people who were enforcing them. We remember the vigour with which you carried out your tasks and that's how the image stays in our memories. The very simple act of apologising and admitting that you made mistakes which you now regret changes that image that has been held for so long. We remember you as believing whole-heartedly in what you were doing, and until that memory is broken, then you remain tormentors in our minds.

For my part, I accept your apology with gratitude, and hope that others can follow the precedent set by David Hipshon and yourself.

Posted: Fri Oct 22, 2004 8:09 pm Post subject: Barrington Barber
Mr Barber,

I would like to thank you for your apology. My belief is that I am responsible for my actions and the results they have. If I have harmed someone then I really need to look at what I have done and face it. Someone once said that communication is the result we get. My sense is that you are genuinely sorry. Personally I have been moved by your and David Hipshon's apology and I feel myself letting go of some of the pain I have been holding for so long. I would like Nicholas Debenham to recognise that under his watch I suffered in a way a 4,5,6 year old child should not suffer. I personally remeber you beating our whole class once for something I had done. I remember the time well - we were in the crypt in St Albans. You lined us all up one by one and beat the whole lot of us. That was when I was 4 or 5. I am now 33 and I remember it very clearly.

I am not sure if I need to meet you - but I am glad your offer is there and I may take you up on it. Perhaps if you would like to make amends - you could speak to Nicholas Debenham and see if you can persuade him to look into his heart and see if he feels responsible for any suffering.

I wish you well. I hope Daniel is doing OK. He suffered alot at school. I still have a cartoon you did of a school trip we made to Greece.


St James pupil
Posted: Sat Oct 23, 2004 10:51 am Post subject: About BB and the school St James
I always remember BB as a caring and nice man. Boxing was a scary sport but to this day I still have a good right hook which has saved me on ocassion. I realised that he had little teacher training but I have always looked upto him during my years at St James. Some of his methods could have been described as a little rough at times. But I strongly believe he never knowingly mean't harm and he always tried to get the best from his pupils.

I cannot unfortunately say this about all of the other teachers although I did really like many of them and still do to this day. I hardly passed any exams at St James but after attending a normal comprehensive school I pased O'levels and A' levels and went on to university and have been successful in life since. I have no idea why I didn't pass exams at St James but I remember getting laughed at in the comprehensive school for not being able to do long division.

In the SES I never really understood what I was doing there but I suppose I learnt to paint, decorate and garden at an early age. I do remember one SES member attempted to sexually assault me on about three ocassions. He was about twenty and I was about 12/13. He didn't get very far other than very forcefull attempts to fondle me once at Queensgate, once at Sarum chase and once/twice at Stanhill court. Also at Stanhill court he leaned over a bathroom partition and poured harpic in the bath I was about to get into I assume in an attempt to terrorise me. I have never told this to anyone and have no wish to do anything about this now as I feel its just something I have to live with. I was extremely terrified at the time. As far as I know this person is not involved with the schools today.

Overall its was not all moans and groans at St James school. I do remember swinging one Latin teachers brief case on a rope outside the window at Chepstow villas while he was teaching a class below and also some of the boys urinating from the top of Queensgate late at night onto the crowd waiting in the street below. Although Debenham thought he knew what his pupils were upto there was much more mischeif, petty theft, buying alcohol and ciggies while under age and other activities that he ever got to see.

Daniel Gregory
Posted: Sat Oct 23, 2004 1:35 pm Post subject:
had Barrington Barber as an art teacher, boxing teacher and he was my CO while I was in the cadets.
I never had a problem with him and I remember him with some fondness. Mr Barber was a kind man of good judgement and I wish him well and hope he is happy.


x St James
Posted: Sat Oct 23, 2004 1:56 pm Post subject: Barrington Barber
I can only speak for myself but I never had anything but respect for Mr Barber. In my mind he could be tough but he was fair unlike some of the others.
If you read this Mr Barber, I hope you are well and enjoying your retirement

St James pupil
Posted: Sat Oct 23, 2004 2:19 pm Post subject: Barry Barber
Despite some of the very unfortunate things that happened to me in my early life. Not in any way related to Barry Barber I may hasten to add.

I will always see Mr Barber as a true friend and a good teacher and someone I trust.

Good luck on your retirement

Posted: Sat Oct 23, 2004 4:05 pm Post subject: Re: Barry Barber
I am heartened to read this praise for Barry Barber. I wish I could say he was like this in the first 2 to 3 years of St Vedast. It seems he may have gone on to reform himself (or at least with some of the boys) and this is good to learn. Once again I would like to accept and thank him for his apology. On the positive side I remember him as a very talented cartoonist.

Posted: Sat Oct 23, 2004 9:10 pm Post subject: To David Hipshon & Barry Barber
Thank you both for taking the trouble to respond with apologies for your previous behaviour as teachers. Your words are very welcome and do make a difference to me even now - in a life that you very literally touched.

I was at St Vedast 1975-80 and received many blows from both of you during those years. These included punishments with plimsoles, ropes, canes and facial slaps as well as frequent angry verbal barrage.

I remember strongly the humiliation of your punishments as they were usually done in corridors and classrooms in full view of 25 or more other boys.

I was utterly miserable for much of my time at St Vedast because of the continual threat of violence from staff and my own lack of control of over events. My parents were dutiful SES members and I existed in a claustrophic bubble of SES abnormality.

I find it fascinating that you both offer explanations for your violence towards children by describing your own childhood corporal punishment or 'tough' times. It makes me wonder that there has probably been a cycle of violence against children going back to eternity where adults continue 'to do as was done to them'. However I do think that you two (DH and BB) should perhaps examine your own actions a little further.

DH, you say that hitting children 'stinks' and you abandoned it 20 years ago - but you continued to work under a man (Nicholas Debenham) who carried on caning boys until the late 90s, isnt there a contradiction there?

BB, my main memory of you is actually holding a cane in your hand. ....However my memories of you are not all bad. I did enjoy the cadet force because we could smoke, swear and shoot and I now appreciate the long evenings & w/ends you must have spent taking us to various military establishments, thank you for that.

I would be very interested to know to what extent did Nicholas Debenham encourage you to use 'corporal' punishment in the 70s and 80s. Also to what extent do you think that the hierarchical SES structure encouraged you not to act as humane individuals but as victorian disciplinarians.

I know that this all happened 25+ years ago, but it was 5 years of my life and I will remember it till I get Alzheimers. My sense of outrage is still strong and I suppose I am trying make sense of what I recall as being a 'mad' time of my life. It would help me forgive you and understand the past if you could do a little more 'remembering' yourselves. What influences were going on in your lives at the time to make you behave like that?

I will send this to both your emails

best wishes
Dan Salaman

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Posted: Sun Oct 24, 2004 10:03 am Post subject:
Dear Matthew W., I would like to meet you and give my apologies to you, face to face a.s.a.p. if this suits you. Could you e-mail me with your telephone number and we could then arrange a meeting. regards BB.

Dear Dan Gregory and other St.James pupils-
Thank you to all who were kind enough to say good things. I appreciate it, although it doesn't lessen my contrition. bless you BB.

Posts: 122
Joined: Mon Feb 21, 2005 10:17 pm

Postby NYC » Mon Apr 11, 2005 8:17 pm

Quoted posts continued (too much text to put up all at once)

Posted: Mon Oct 25, 2004 5:52 am Post subject: Thankyou BB and DH
These appologies are courageous and do have a releasing effect. But I hope that these men are not going to take the flack for the entire regime. one of the ideas which brought the whole abuse into play was the rock hard belief that ses alone understood how to educate the young. Maclaren had a loathing of experts and preferred to follow his own interpretation of philosophic principles in the running of St. Vedast and St. James. He was never the Chair of Governors but had the final say. BB and DH do well to appologize, but somehow the greatest fault was in setting up schools without the necessary training having been given to a large number of the teachers, and possibly, even weak heads who allowed themselves and their school to be governed by an unauthorized body.

Posted: Mon Oct 25, 2004 11:11 am Post subject:

YouDon'tFoolUs wrote:
We need to make as much noise as possible and not allow this inquiry - which is clearly a complete sham - to let them get away with it.

YouDon'tFoolUs (or is it Chaz?),

Personally I give this inquiry a one in three chance of not being a whitewash. I've watched 'Yes, Prime Minister' on how to influence the outcome of an 'independent' inquiry.

However, I have waited nearly 20 years and I'm prepared to wait a little longer in the earnest hope that I'm wrong. I suggest you do too.

So far, the contributions of current and former teachers on this forum have not given me any reason to believe this process is going to be a sham.

Tom Grubb
Posted: Mon Oct 25, 2004 6:42 pm Post subject: Reply to Mr Barber's apology
Mr Barber,

I welcome your apology, in which the sincerity of your contrition comes across strongly. I salute your courage in posting it on this forum.

As I wrote in reply to Dr Hipshon?s equally welcome post, I accept your apology as far as it goes but see this as only a first step towards full reconciliation. A full, sincere verbal and written apology is all that I seek. To my mind, you have already shown sincerity. I would like to see you be more specific about some of the acts of violence you remember carrying out and to acknowledge that they were totally unacceptable whatever the pressures on you at the time may have been. Then I would like a verbal apology. Then I would consider the matter well and truly closed.

I stress that my recollections of you are certainly not all negative. Like some other former pupils, I have some fond memories of you, too. You once lent me a warm pair of socks at one of those awful military training camps we were forced to attend! You also offered me some words of praise and encouragement during art and sports lessons. Despite your lack of teacher training ? was anyone at St Vedast a fully qualified teacher? ? you were one of the very few teachers to realise the value of positive reinforcement. If only more of the carrot and less of the stick had been employed back then!

Best wishes,

Tom Grubb

Posted: Mon Oct 25, 2004 7:36 pm Post subject:
I would like to chime in and thank Mr Barber for his post, even though I am not really seeking an apology from past staff, it actually meant something to me, what exactly I am not sure yet! Even if I was frequently on the end of your gymshoe- stick- ruler-whatever was to hand- I never felt you were 'out to get me' or picked on me in any way, and did not leave any lasting scars on me as far as I can tell! There did not seem to be much 'other' about your behaviour, unlike ND who let forth some personal demons and as I realsie now had some kind of disturbed emotional makeup.

You also never instilled fear dread and loathing like ND or a few others did. I enjoyed boxing it allowed me to work of rage against ND and it is true you spent great care matching us up.

I could relate your rather harsh discipline methods to how I imagined the army would be so it made some kind of sense, unlike the totally irrational and sadistic treatment I got from Debenham.

I enjoyed the trips out and the lets face it really violent game with the medicine ball! I used to look forward to that all week.

Thank you for taking the trouble to post here.

lowpass. (please excuse my anonymity).

Mike. did not mean to belittle your web site regarding numbers reading it! It's has been great.

Katherine Watson Not signing off, i just have got enough off my chest for now,I will keep lurking thanks for the words of support, post St james has not easy, although i got to conservatoire somehow.

I to am sceptical of inquiry, but willing to hold my judgement for now.


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Posted: Tue Oct 26, 2004 11:48 pm Post subject: St James
I've read through some of these posts and just wanted, briefly, to make a few points.
We can only speak as we find and make judgments, if we must, on what we have experienced.
I'm not sure reading other people's accounts of abuse and mistreatment, however true, actually helps in the process of finding "closure". Maybe it just reinforces our own anger and makes us less likely to forgive and to call a truce within ourselves.
I was at St James for 14 years. It's not my business to judge other people's accounts, but Mr Barber was, I believe, honest, kind and skilled at what he did.
For all those of you clearly still suffering, it is possible to let go. Victims of prolonged sexual abuse do it, people who have lost children do it etc. By hanging on, surely the only person who loses is yourself.

Posted: Wed Oct 27, 2004 8:15 am Post subject:
Dear Tom Grubb
In response to your posting please e-mail me and give me your phone number and we could make arrangements to meet.

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Posted: Sat Oct 30, 2004 3:15 am Post subject: Will Rasmussen
I have been contacted by Tom Grubb, who has in turn been in touch with Will Rasmussen, regarding allegations I made in an earlier page of this discussion. There is a certain irony in repeating something I am about to partially retract and replace, but here is what I said on 27 September:
Daffy wrote:
Will Rasmussen frequently resorted to corporal punishment, either with his hands or with a plimsole. He did not show the slightest reluctance to using these for trivial misbehaviour. When he used the plimsole he would put red chalk on it so that everyone else could see you had been punished.

Nor did he indicate he had any problem with Debenham's use of the cane. In fact he would tell stories about how, back in the States, if he misbehaved his father would tell him to 'fetch a switch from the yard'.

I have no knowledge of 'Razz' for the last two decades, and while I suppose it's possible he repented and recanted, let's not kid ourselves: he was as fully implicated in the violence of the 70s and 80s as any other teacher there.

I never thought he was as psychopathic as Lacey, or as quick to anger as Russell, but he deserves just as much condemnation.

I will leave it to Tom to report on Will Rasmussen's current thinking on the issues raised on this forum. However, he has stated that the description I gave of hitting boys with a shoe for trivial things and using chalk as a marker must apply to someone else, not him. Given this denial, I have tried to cast my mind back to those times. They were a quarter of a century ago, and I can't now recall him carrying out this particular form of punishment, though I can say with 100% certainty that this form of punishment did occur many times to boys including myself. So please consider that part of my allegation retracted in so far as it is directed against Will Rasmussen.

However, I don't feel too apologetic for getting this detail incorrect, because I can say with 99% certainty that Rasmussen often called misbehaving boys to the front of the class and hit them repeatedly on their bare upper legs with his hands. This happened to me on an almost daily basis for some time, for trivial misdemeanours. I am sure I wasn't the best behaved child, but that isn't the point.

The remaining 1% is simply because I am the first to admit that after such a long time trying to suppress my memories of those miserable days, I can't be absolutely sure of every detail. The rest of what I previously said about Will Rasmussen is also true.

Let's put the above detail in context. I remember Will Rasmussen as a generally intelligent, thoughtful teacher. He was obviously well educated, with an intellect and a sense of calm not matched by most of the other teachers. I thought he would one day become headmaster of St James. He is certainly well down the list of teachers who are responsible for the excesses of the 70s and 80s reported on this forum. However, his devotion to the SES and its leadership was unwavering and unquestioning. So, apparently, was his acceptance of Debenham's disciplinary methods.

I realise it must be frustrating to some of the former teachers to face accusers who remain anonymous. I do not feel ready to disclose my identity, but I hope that my posts on the forum show I am genuine. I just want those who made my childhood a decade-long living hell to apologise or to be called to account.

One of those who contributed to that hell is Will Rasmussen. This is not so much because of his physical abuses, which were probably confined to a fairly limited period, before Debenham apparently assumed exclusive right to inflict formal corporal punishment. They didn't really make a lasting impression on me anyway - there were so many worse physical abuses and abusers. It is more because he was an unquestioning and enthusiastic enforcer of a system of beliefs that I utterly repudiated.

If he has left the SES then I hope that he can look back on some of those beliefs with a critical eye, and perhaps reflect on the wisdom of force-feeding them to young children. I would be interested to see him participate on this forum.

Posted: Sat Oct 30, 2004 12:09 pm Post subject:
I guess it's time I posted something, although getting to this point has been a painful process!
I spent nearly two years at St Vedast, having gone in at the start. After all the years that have passed, I have a few good memories of that time, and they revolve around the friends I had, Matthew Woolf, Peter Graves, Chris Pierce and others. The bad memories form the massive bulk of my memory though. I expected to be disciplined, but I didn't expect to bleed, and be concussed for my offences! Neither did I expect to be disciplined for other pupil's offences. I knew at the time that I attended an abnormal school, but didn't realise just how far off the mark we really were, until I left and went to another school. There were three teachers for whom I seemed to be "high on the Radar", Nicholas Debenham, Mr Farndell and Mr Howell. Their beatings and "discipline" quickly lost their meaning to me as they were applied for almost random reasons! They became merely pain and suffering, and all the more humiliating when we were told at one point to thank our teachers for our punishment!
One day it all came to a head. Mr Howell made a mistake and confused me with another group of boys who he had told to do something else, rather than the task in hand of clearing chairs, and struck me on the side of the head, propelling me into the edge of the open door of the room. I staggered off and sat with the other boys, and nursing a slightly bleeding head resolved that I wouldn't take it anymore. That night I collected some things together and ran away from home, and spent three nights sleeping rough on Wimbledon common before being "captured". The effect on my parents was terrible, but somehow I was persuaded to return to the school, the only change being a slight softening of attitude to me by Mr Howell.
Later in the year, standing in Nicholas debenham's office waiting for yet another caning, I again decided I'd had enough and left the building and came home. I made it clear to my parents that I would never return to St Vedast again, whatever the consequences. I was placed in another school where I thrived, and began to undo some of the damage done both to my education, and my state of mind.
I never looked forward to going to school at St Vedast, my feelings each morning would swap between dread and loathing. The only time I felt alive was when there was distance between me and the school! One teacher however stood out from the others as a human being, Ms Diana Picton, who taught Science. Her's were the only lessons I ever wanted to be in, through choice.
Mr Hipshon, I didn't know you but am encouraged by your response.
Mr Barber, you took me for physical education, and I feel you were pretty good as a PE teacher, but you brutalised me. Your suffering as a child never gave you the right to inflict it upon us! However, I feel your apology is sincere, and take heart from the reports of your decent tutoring from more recent times.

Alex McMeekin
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David Hipshon
Posted: Sun Oct 31, 2004 6:35 pm Post subject:
Thanks Dan (Salaman) for your post. I've just got back from a week away but I'll reply as soon as I can, probably by e-mail,
Best wishes,
David Hipshon.

Posted: Sun Oct 31, 2004 8:48 pm Post subject: meeting between B Barber, PF & M Woolf - 29/10/0
PF and I had a very positive and useful face to face meeting with Barrington Barber last Friday night. PF may also like to share with everyone his account of the meeting. I looked Mr Barber straight in the eye as he apologised unreservedly to me and asked me to please forgive him. This profound demonstration of contrition convinced me of his true sincerity. We could actually see him welling up. It was apparent that it was equally important to him for us to forgive him, as it was for us to hear him say it. We all agreed that it was a very moving, healing, and necessary meeting for the three of us. He was genuinely very very sorry and regretful.

I asked him if he could recall any specific instances where he'd abused myself and others. He found that difficult so I reminded him of a few examples: The time he caused several in my class to get chilblains and frost-nip by forcing us to run to and from Hyde Park in freezing cold conditions, wearing only thin t-shirts and shorts, whilst he and Mr Southwell were snug in their warm track-suits. And the time when he forced me to run (again in mid-winter) at 5 am at Waterperry. I told him I suffered with night-blindness and couldn't see a thing. He said "Shut up and get on with it you weakling". I then described the terror of being forced to run not being able to see literally an inch in front of me, and therefore inevitably running full tilt into trees, goal-posts, falling into puddles etc. utterly powerless to do anything about it. I described the time he beat my brother with a climbing rope for not sweating after 3 minutes of circuit-training. The thick purple weals on his backside were there for over a week. He repeated how deeply sorry and regretful he was for all of these things.

I asked him about the violent and intimidating culture that existed at the schools, and to what degree he was encouraged or instructed by Debenham/MacLaren. He said he was given no special instructions by either. He was given free license to discipline us however he saw fit. It was not until the early 1980's that he gradually realised that his previous extremely harsh discipline was proving ineffective. He said he then revaluated his approach and used less physical chastisement. Unlike Dr Hipshon, he made no attempt to defend Mr Debenham. He wanted to take full and personal responsibility for all his actions. He said he only heard about this website a few weeks ago, someone had told him that his name had come up on it. He insisted that on reading all the testimonies it was literally the first time in 25 years or so that he'd had any knowledge that so many of us had ever felt and still feel the way we do as a result of his and the other teachers' actions. On looking at the site his instant reaction was to write his post, apologise, and plead to be forgiven.

He was adamant that he was never a sadist and insisted that he genuinely believed this was the correct approach to disciplining us. Without attempting to justify his behaviour in any way, he explained this by describing his upbringing. His father and grandfather were strict disciplinarians. His grandfather was a boxer and taught him also to box. He confirmed that, apart from this, he has never had any formal qualifications in teaching children Physical Education. As a child he was quite puny and was brought up to always stand up to bullies and fight back, and if anyone hurt his younger sister to go and hit them too. He was taught to defend himself not with words, but with his fists. His upbringing and schooling were harsh, but he admitted that with the benefit of hindsight, by the time he came to teach at St Vedast some twenty years later, the methods he adopted were inappropriate even for the mid to late 1970's and early 1980's. Perhaps his saving grace - his talent for art and his passion for philosophy, as well as raising a family, gave him the compassion and humanity that Mr Debenham has never possessed. After meeting Mr Debenham last July and having a very long conversation with him about his past, I can say with absolute certainty that this is still the case. ND simply refused to acknowledge or accept the abuse that he and those under him were responsible for. He has never had children of his own - this fact is perhaps quite telling. Mr Barber had a gift for art and drawing, and a deep fascination and interest in philosophy - he had read Plato's complete works as a young man before he joined the SES, and it was through friends with the same interests that he first discovered the SES. My theory is that, because he has been blessed with and is more in touch with these more sensitive and creative sides of his character, this perhaps goes some way to explain why he has been one of the first of the former abusers to step forward and offer us this apology.

At the end of the meeting, we all got up, shook hands, and PF and I both fully accepted and thanked him for his apology. We gladly and willingly offered him the forgiveness that he needed to hear from us, and found that we were even able to give each other a warm and spontaneous hug of affection. PF and I stayed behind to chat for a while, and Mr Barber had to leave to go and meet his son Daniel. We said our goodbyes, he wished us well, and we wished him well in his retirement. The experience provided healing and catharsis for me, I suspect it gave the same for PF and Barrington. Mr Barber was one of my childhood demons that as a grown man I have now managed to literally and directly face up to. This is a good start. One down, about a nine or ten more to go....

It is my sincere hope that Barrington Barber's lead will set the example that Messrs Debenham, Russell, Southwell, Howell, Farndell, Capper, Matthews, Lacey, and Skinner will all follow - especially Mr Debenham for obvious reasons.

Matthew Woolf

Posted: Mon Nov 01, 2004 12:52 am Post subject: Re: meeting between B Barber, PF & M Woolf - 29/

Matthew wrote:
We all agreed that it was a very moving, healing, and necessary meeting for the three of us. He was genuinely very very sorry and regretful.

It is my sincere hope that Barrington Barber's lead will set the example that Messrs Debenham, Russell, Southwell, Howell, Farndell, Capper, Matthews, Lacey, and Skinner will all follow - especially Mr Debenham for obvious reasons.

Thanks Matthew for your moving account of this meeting. I think I must have read it more than a dozen times. Each time I do so, it allows me to share in your catharsis, your sense of release from childhood demons.

There is a long way to go, of course. I hope that other teachers, including some you haven't mentioned, can take heart from this encounter and follow BB's courageous lead.

Posted: Tue Nov 02, 2004 8:56 pm Post subject: Re: meeting between B Barber, PF & M Woolf

Daffy wrote:

Thanks Matthew for your moving account of this meeting. I think I must have read it more than a dozen times. Each time I do so, it allows me to share in your catharsis, your sense of release from childhood demons. There is a long way to go, of course. I hope that other teachers, including some you haven't mentioned, can take heart from this encounter and follow BB's courageous lead.

Daffy, thank you. It was a moving meeting, so I'm pleased I managed to convey this in my account.

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Posted: Wed Nov 03, 2004 8:48 pm Post subject: Truth and Reconciliation
I thought I would add briefly to what Matt has already said about meeting Barrington Barber. Matt has already said most of what I would say.

I had been thinking about our meeting all week and was nervous to meet Barrington again after so long. The beginning of the meeting was difficult as Matt and I recalled events. I reminded Barrington of an event where he beat our whole class for something I had done. He apologised unreservedly - I could see that he was genuinely sorry - and that he felt sorry.

My impression of Barrington was that he was a very impressive man. He was ruthlessly honest with himself and acted with integrity. He did not try and blame anyone else for his actions. He said that as soon as he became aware of this site he had no choice but to do something. I was deeply moved by our meeting - as I think he was- and I would like to thank him publicly for standing up and having the courage to face his past - as we did.

My wish is that somehow this message will get through to Nicholas Debenham - who saw himself as a leader - where are you now? He always went on - ad nauseam - about truth. Well it seems time that he confronted the truth of his actions - but I guess he prefers some truths to others.

PF (slightly less angry)

Posted: Sun Nov 07, 2004 4:49 pm Post subject:
So good to see the ball has started rolling at last, enquiry or no enquiry.

Well done to Barrington Barber for having the guts to step forward & apologise. Also to David Hipshon for his postings too, definitely a step in the right direction, even if not far enough for all.

Will be interesting to see who else has the strength of character to come forward (without being pushed) and apologise unreservedly.

Lastly, but not least, well done to those few pupils who have had the courage to publicly testify to their humiliations etc. in order to start the ball rolling.


PS Have just discovered there are some other schools dotted arund the country...past pupils of St V & St J may find some of the words & pictures on this website a little scarey..I know I do...(maybe without due cause, but you'll know what I mean when you look)...

...the site is from 2002 so may not be current :-?

Will Rasmussen

Posted: Fri Nov 19, 2004 9:03 am Post subject:
Last night I met with some former students of St Vedast and St James. I admired the courage they showed in coming along at all, for in the course of the evening they described the intense and long lasting anguish that they had experienced there. This gave me the opportunity to apologise wholeheartedly for the contribution I had made to their suffering, and to try to explain how this was the last thing in the world I had intended. They asked me not to give their names, and I will, of course, respect this; however, I did want to let others know of this meeting and I wish to extend to all the students of St Vedast and St James who experienced trauma or distress in any way the same fulsome apology for any part I played in this.

Wishing you all the best,

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Posted: Sat Nov 20, 2004 12:48 am Post subject: Reply to Will Rasmussen

Thank you for taking the courage to post, even though I certainly don't remember you as a violent man and don't remember any abuse for which you were directly responsible.

It does indeed take courage to share experiences on these boards, and even more to go and meet those people concerned, but it also takes courage for those people to post appologies here.

There have now been 3 (ex) teachers who have done this - that in itself is very good progress. Those posts represent an extremely good example, one that I would urge the other ex-teachers to follow. As a majority of the people on here just want appologies and recognition of wrong-doing, then it would be so much easier for all concerned if the relevant teachers came forward and followed the lead of DH, BB and WR.

I for one feel that the case is closed with those that have come forward so far, and I can only speak for myself, but if everyone else followed suit then any further action would be superfluous as far as I'm concerned.

However, I am concerned that there appears to be a number of un-repentant (ex) teachers out there who really do not seem to care for this whole process. I would seriously urge those that know them and have their ear to persuade them that this is the right course of action, and to ask them to honestly evaluate their actions of 20 years ago. It is a shame, because their actions would spoil the good work done by the three mentioned above. As at least two of the current teachers are amongst those that have not come forward, it also has an extremely negative effect on the CURRENT school.

Lastly, I would like to point out that a number of the board of govenors were governors at the time, and ultimately the responsibility rests with them. I know of a number of parents that complained at the time, and whether these were "Official" complaints or not, there was certainly knowledge of the goings-on at the time.

So, please lets be totally honest about this and allow as quick and painless a process as possible. If the school chooses to try and brush this under the carpet, or indeed supports people who choose to fight it, then no-one wins, although ultimately the school has more to lose.


Posted: Sat Nov 20, 2004 10:25 pm Post subject:
Rather than be "Guest with some temerity" , I shall sign my name "Scotsman"
If I correctly understand the reason you made this comparison, you feel that the passage of time might allow a new perspective from those who experienced abuse at St James, just as it allowed you to do from your own school experiences?

That is my hope, Yes.

And there are good people in today's St James, as the "Newish Teacher" above explains. It is a far cry from what it used to be, of that I am sure.
Do you think that the examples of corporal punishment are comparative between the schools?

What really shocked me about the accounts on this board was how young the children concerned were at the time, remembering my own sons at that age.

And secondly, how my wife and I believed so implicitly that our sons would be in the best care possible at St James. Our sons did not suffer any abuse that I can ascertain, but I do know the people named in these posts.

It takes courage to meet up with former students who have stories to tell like those on these pages, but it is the only way forward in my view, and an example has already been set.
Is the experience of St James repeated across the schooling system with past students strongly affected by past events, or is St James/Vedast a unique occurence?
Don't know.

Am very heartened to see Will Rasmussen's post above. For the record, my younger son felt that he had a friend in Will Rasmussen. That he was someone he could talk to and receive help and encouragement from.

I don't usually recommend books for people to read. It's not my business what people choose to read. But today is going to be an exception.

There is a book called "The Railway Man" by Eric Lomax. It would strike a deep chord with everyone who has posted on this board, were they to read it.

Included in that are Mr and Mrs Debenham, and Mr David Boddy, and all the teachers and ex-teachers named on this board. It may be a forlorn hope, but nevertheless I hope thy will read it, for it carries a vital message for them too.


Tom Grubb
Posted: Sun Nov 21, 2004 8:02 pm Post subject:
Will Rasmussen wrote:
Last night I met with some former students of St Vedast and St James. I admired the courage they showed in coming along at all, for in the course of the evening they described the intense and long lasting anguish that they had experienced there. This gave me the opportunity to apologise wholeheartedly for the contribution I had made to their suffering, and to try to explain how this was the last thing in the world I had intended. They asked me not to give their names, and I will, of course, respect this; however, I did want to let others know of this meeting and I wish to extend to all the students of St Vedast and St James who experienced trauma or distress in any way the same fulsome apology for any part I played in this. Wishing you all the best,


Just to clarify things: Will Rasmussen met with two former students on Thursday night. I was one of them and am quite happy to be named! Although I had disagreements with Will over certain issues I am very grateful to him for meeting us, for his frankness and for the fascinating insights he provided into the 'philosophy' of the SES and the behaviour of some St James and St Vedast teachers. I felt his apology was sincere and moving.


Posted: Sun Nov 21, 2004 10:32 pm Post subject:
I am a former St James pupil, and haven?t contributed to this forum yet. I only recently became aware of it, and reading the posts left me with a dull, sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, which I remember as a regular feature of my 10 years there. In my experience St James was a cold loveless place, where pain, and fear of pain were used as an instrument to force children to conform to the SES?s prescription of what a schoolchild should be.

Although I witnessed some, I managed to escape most of the random acts of violence that people have described in their posts, perhaps because I was fairly tall and physically strong for my age. What I think was much worse, and affected me most though, was the institutionalized bullying of some children by teachers, and I was one of them. This came right from the top. Children who did not conform to the SES ideal were picked out, and labelled by the headmaster. This included the physically weak, anyone who questioned the school doctrine, showed signs of developing a critical independent mind, and often those with learning difficulties. In my case I essentially had a good character, but had a bad attitude, which had to be removed by strict disciplining at every opportunity.

As my form teacher, Will Rasmussen was for many years an enthusiastic and dedicated enforcer of this regime, and often sent me to be beaten by the headmaster for any minor instance where he thought I had lived up to this description. In this respect for me he played a full part in creating the atmosphere of fear that was the overriding feature of many children?s lives at the schools.

In my memory he arrived at the school a light-hearted, happy and engaging teacher, and was almost instantly respected by his pupils, but within a very short period of time he became colder, authoritarian and to me had the appearance of a man carrying a heavy burden.

In all my time at school though, I don?t remember Will ever hitting or using physical force on any pupil. He was also an intelligent man, obviously loved his subject, and by all accounts was a good teacher (just a shame I had no interest in ancient languages!).
Unlike most teachers, he also on occasions showed signs of warmth and some understanding.

I was recently offered the chance to meet Will, and thought the opportunity was too good to turn down. We met last week and had an enjoyable, and open discussion. I was surprised to find that, although after 20 years I?ve discovered I still have a deep anger about my treatment as a child, none of it was directed at Will. I can?t explain this, because it should be. Perhaps it could be that even at that young age I thought he was basically a decent human being, but in my view became corrupted by the SES regime.

What struck me when we talked was that he seemed quite surprised at the effects of his actions, as if he had never truly considered them. Although he recognised the kind of instances I described to him, it seems he had never seen them that way at the time. I think Barrington Barber and David Hipshons posts describe something similar.

I had not met Will with the intention to make specific accusations, or ask for any apology, so I was surprised when towards the end he apologised unconditionally to me for his actions. I wasn?t expecting it, and I had to look him in the eye and asked if he meant it, and could see that he did. I accepted his apology, and as far as I?m concerned he?s completely forgiven.

I was also surprised he hadn?t read Barbers and Hipshons apologies, and I asked him to read the posts on this site, as I think these apologies mean a lot to a lot people who suffered at St James/Vedast. It was then that he voluntarily offered to post on the site himself.

I think it takes great courage to apologize in public, and Wills instinctive reaction confirms my first impressions of him, all those years ago. I hope he will continue to read the accounts here, and reflect further on his involvement. I also genuinely wish him happiness and success in his new career and life outside the SES.


PS. Nicholas, if you feel you would like to contribute, away from this site, do feel free to contact me privately.

Posted: Mon Nov 22, 2004 10:47 pm Post subject: Will Wrasmussen

I wasn't in your class at school but you taught me for sometime. I don't think you ever treated me badly there, but thankyou for posting an apology. You were definately one of the very few half decent teachers there. Just a shame none of the rest seem to have anything to say for themselves.

Posted: Mon Nov 22, 2004 10:58 pm Post subject: Re: Will Wrasmussen
exsjpupil wrote:
Just a shame none of the rest seem to have anything to say for themselves.

I'm not sure if you meant this literally, but have you seen the posts from Barrington Barber and David Hipshon a few pages back?

Posted: Tue Nov 23, 2004 1:00 am Post subject: apologies

I'm not sure if you meant this literally, but have you seen the posts from Barrington Barber and David Hipshon a few pages back?

Yes, sorry - i didnt mean that literally. Have seen BB and DHs apologies, and and as far as I'm concerned that excludes them from anything to come. possibly why i'd temporarily forgotten about them.

Pg 25 ... &start=360

Tom Grubb
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Postby Tom Grubb » Mon Apr 11, 2005 8:57 pm


Many thanks for highlighting these posts!

The men who have made these apologies have shown a lot of courage. I hope others will eventually follow their brave example.

Tom Grubb

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Free Thinker
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Postby Free Thinker » Tue Apr 12, 2005 1:35 am

I agree - thank you NYC. Although I spent a lot of time reading when I first joined, I never read those posts. I knew some teachers had apologized but it was really good to read it in person.

I think this was very timely of you to post given the latest discussions regarding who has what agenda and letting go, etc.

Obviously many of us are working on letting go and resolving our issues. Obviously some teachers are as well.

My issues are with the hierarchy of the schools themselves, as in the case of Abu Gareb prison horros, but even when those issues are very large and harder to handle, it is wonderful when the people intimately involved are able to come to a resolution.

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Postby concerned-parent » Tue Apr 12, 2005 11:48 am

Thank you NYC.

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Postby daska » Mon Jul 04, 2005 10:21 pm

Not really got anything new to say. I thought these posts ought to be highlighted again as there are probably a good few new members who haven't had time to scan past the first page - there are a lot of threads now! And with the inquiry underway I don't think it hurts to remember that there are teachers who have acknowleged that things were not right...

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Postby mgormez » Mon Jul 04, 2005 11:33 pm

Good points Daska, I've made the topy 'sticky' so it keeps atop.
Mike Gormez

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Please Read

Postby Lee » Fri Jul 22, 2005 12:25 pm

Dear Barrington Barber & Will Rasmussen,

I am touched to have read your apologies on this site, and yet slightly amused, in that I believe you to be the two individuals who perhaps least of all needed to offer any apology whatsoever.

Although others on this site may have different memories, I remember both of you fondly as the only two teachers that we had, who seemed to actually like and have respect for the children they taught, and, I would go even further to say that I believe you both really made an effort to make the subjects that you taught 'interesting' for the pupils. Truly the hallmark of an excellent teacher.

Please understand, I have no hesitation in speaking my mind regarding life in 'St James' as you may see from my 'statements of truth' entitled 'latest submissions to enquiry', a few lines below this re-posted thread.

For you both to have the courage and strength it must have taken to offer the apologies you did, I believe, yet again shows how your willingness to be open-minded and introspective makes you both stand out above all others as kind, caring and wise individuals, and indeed, as true role models, exhibiting the real qualities of 'leaders of men' that most of the teachers at 'St James' never even understood were of any importance.

I will never forget Mr Barber's passion for art, and how he inspired the class with his enthusiasm, and how when children such as 'Leon' in our class displayed true talent he nurtured it, instead of stamping on it, as happened elsewhere in the school.

And I even learnt some Ancient Greek for Mr Rasmussen, (quite a feat, for me, since I thought it a completely pointless topic, with no application in the real world), why ? - Simply because he was a great teacher who could make a useless subject interesting.

I therefore offer you both my heartfelt thanks, simply as one pupil fondly remembering the smiles and encouragement of a 'Good Teacher'.

One hates to end on a sour note, but it would be nice if those who really needed to apologise had half of your balls.

Very best regards,

Lee Rodwell.


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