The official Inquiry web site (http://www.iirep.com) is cleverly set up to make it impossible to copy the text from a web browser. Maybe the Governors just wanted to impede discussion of the Report, or maybe they intended to avoid the text becoming indexed by Google.
To allow contributors to this forum to quote from the Report, I have managed to defeat the technology and I've set out the text of the main body of the Report (not including appendices) below. It is a text dump only and is not properly formatted like the original.
Anyone wishing to read the original report should do so at www.iirep.com. The text below is reproduced solely to allow easy copying and pasting for discussion in this forum.
ST VEDAST / ST JAMES INQUIRY
Report of a Private Independent Inquiry
Commissioned by the Governors of St James Independent Schools
and held in London between 20 June - 06 October 2005
INQUIRY CHAIRMAN: JAMES TOWNEND Q.C., M.A. (Oxon.)
1. GENESIS OF THE REPORT
I was appointed to conduct the Inquiry which has led to this report by the Governors of the St James
Independent Schools on the 1st June 2005. They decided, perhaps uniquely in the history of
independent education in this country, voluntarily to institute and fund this wholly independent
inquiry into their own schools. I believe that it may lead to a more thorough understanding of the
reasons for this Inquiry and of the manner in which it was conducted if I set out here the
circumstances in which the Governors reached their decision. The reasons expressed by the
Governors for establishing the inquiry were:-
? Concern for the welfare of former pupils.
? The need to establish the facts and undertake a process of truth and
? Informal approaches made by former pupils communicating distress to
Governors and the present Headteachers.
? The more general gossip conducted on the internet.
? The fact that allegations were being made against current members of staff.
? The Governors? wish to act conscientiously in the discharge of their duties as
charity trustees and employers and to protect the present Schools from any slur or
complaint relating to the past.
1.1 History of the Schools
1.1.1 Their origins
(a) The history of the Schools is intimately bound up with that of the School of
Economic Science (?the S.E.S.?), the foundation of which preceded that of the Schools by
some 40 years. The S.E.S. was the creation of Andrew MacLaren MP who started it in 1938
as a movement to promote economic justice through fair taxation and distribution of wealth.
(b) Andrew MacLaren had a son, Leonardo da Vinci MacLaren, a barrister, who like his
father was for a time a member of the Labour Party. He left the Labour Party, however, in
1945 for the Liberal Party. More important he became Chairman of the S.E.S. in 1947.
Leon MacLaren, as he was always known, extended the remit of the S.E.S. to embrace the
teaching methods, if not the basic beliefs, of the Russian philosopher P.D.Ouspenski and the
Central Asian mystic, Gurdjieff. The S.E.S. became more orientated towards philosophy
and less towards economics. In 1961 MacLaren became acquainted with the Maharishi
Mahesh Yogi and through him was introduced to the practice of transcendental meditation.
In 1965 he travelled to India and met the Shri Shantananda Saraswati, the Shankaracharya
of the North, who was a teacher of the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta. From that time on
the teachings of the S.E.S. became principally influenced by this Eastern school of thought
as interpreted by Leon MacLaren, who continued to visit and consult the Shankaracharya
(a) In about 1974 a number of members of the S.E.S., being parents of children,
approached MacLaren and asked him to set up schools for their children. (In this
connection it should be noted that in the late 1960s Sunday Schools had been opened for the
children of members by the S.E.S.). It happened that MacLaren independently had been
thinking of conducting an experiment along these lines.
(b) It must be remembered that from 1965 onwards selection by 11-Plus was gradually
abolished and with it most other forms of competition between pupils. From 1970 LEAs
began voluntarily to ban corporal punishment (although such remained lawful in certain
circumstances for a further 16 years in State Schools and for 28 years in independent
schools). By 1975 the comprehensive system of education was perceived by many to be
(c) In January 1975 St James Boys' School and St James Girls' School opened, each
with 3 classes of children aged 5 to 7. It was planned to have all-through schools with
juniors from 5 to 10 and seniors from 10 to 18. Pressure was then applied by the parents of
rather older children who wished to obtain the same education. Accordingly and not without
some reluctance on MacLaren?s part, separate St Vedast schools were established for older
children, initially between 9 and 12.
(d) In 1985 the St Vedast Schools were closed and their pupils transferred to the St
James Schools. St James Schools now had both junior and senior departments.
In the first decade of the Schools? existence the pupil roll increased and there was an
increase too in the facilities available both in terms of premises and teaching aids. The staff
available also grew in size. By about the early 1980s it seemed that the experiment had
succeeded. Sister schools were also established in other parts of the U.K. and in a number
of other countries.
(a) When the Schools had first opened almost 100% of the parents of pupils were either
members of the S.E.S. or spouses of members. As at today only about 15% of parents are in
this position and about 85% have nothing to do with the S.E.S. Unsurprisingly, this, together
with changes in the views of society at large on the question of corporal punishment and
discipline in general and ultimately as a result of changes in the law, appears to have
effected a cultural change in the Schools, noticeable in their discipline policy.
(b) At the beginning the curriculum was more limited than it is today. With the
extension of the curriculum to include, for example, the teaching of modern languages and
of scientific subjects it has been necessary to increase the size of the staff. The schools now
have a total pupil roll of 750 with about 120 staff. Originally the staff was composed almost
entirely of members, both men and women, of the S.E.S. I am told that currently 75% of
staff in the Senior Schools are members of the S.E.S.
(c) Leon MacLaren died in 1994 aged 83. Everyone who knew him speaks of him as
being a brilliant and charismatic figure and a man of strongly held opinions. Many admired
him, some with great affection. Others speak of him as a highly intelligent autocrat, with
emotional limitations. During his life and up until his declining years in the early 1990s he
seems to have maintained a very close interest in the Schools (as well he might as their
Founder) and to have had a powerful influence over their running, not only in general
matters but in matters of detail too.
(d) When he died he passed on the position of Senior Tutor, (Head) of the S.E.S., to
Donald Lambie who has given evidence before me. Others, including members of staff,
have given evidence to me about him. Although Donald Lambie is also a barrister and is,
no doubt, an educated and intelligent man, I am satisfied that, although I never had the
opportunity of meeting Leon MacLaren, the two men are very different from one another.
Moreover the evidence supports the view that Lambie is less interventionist in matters
involving the Schools than was Leon MacLaren.
(e) Although there is evidence available to me as to the greater separation between the
Schools and the Senior Tutor of the S.E.S. than existed in MacLaren?s time, I am
nevertheless satisfied that as late as 1995, Lambie was in a position to exercise direct and
real influence over senior appointments. He is still consulted over the appointment of Heads
and Governors but the Heads report that he does not become involved in the schools' day to
day management. None of this affects the position of the Governors in law: they remain
responsible for the governance of the Schools.
(a) St James Senior School for Boys is now at Pope?s Villa, 19 Cross Deep,
Twickenham, Middlesex, TW1 4QG. St James Junior School for Boys is now at Earsby
Street, near Kensington Olympia, London W14 8SH as are St James Senior School for Girls
and St James Junior School for Girls. All four schools have accreditation by the
Independent Schools Council.
(b) The Schools are vested in the Independent Educational Association Ltd, a
company limited by guarantee with charitable status.
(c) The Board of Governors is headed by Roger Pincham CBE, formerly a
prominent member of the Liberal Party. Initially the Governors were chosen by Leon
MacLaren. The position under Donald Lambie seems to be that, while he would probably
be asked to approve a new Governor, it would be the Governors who would choose him or
her. The Governors are also the Trustees of the Trust.
(d) For the purpose of discussing financial and general management matters and
making recommendations to the Governors there is a Board of Management, consisting of
the three Principals of the Schools, the Bursar and a Chairman, both of whom are also
1.2 Bad Press
1.2.1 The Newspaper Campaign
(a) On June 8th 1983, a newspaper carried an ?expos?? of the S.E.S. and ?its schools?.
This had been written by two investigative journalists, Hounam and Hogg, who later
published their findings in a book (see Appendix 3).
(b) It may well be significant that when this campaign was continued on the next day,
the day of the General Election, specific mention was made of the Chairman of the
Governors, Roger Pincham, who was standing as a Liberal Candidate for Leominster.
Corporal punishment was effectively made illegal in maintained schools by the Education
Act 1986. It remained legal in private schools, though public opinion progressively reduced
the number of such schools actively employing it. As contrasted with such schools there
was always a body of schools whose Heads favoured retaining the cane as a last option
before expulsion. In such schools the cane remained an option for a time though largely an
unused one. The St James Schools resisted abolition almost until the end. Corporal
punishment was finally made unlawful in all schools when the School Standards and
Framework Act 1998 inserted section 548 into the Education Act 1996. All corporal
punishment at St James ceased in the Junior School in 1993 and in the Senior Boys School
in 1996. Nicholas Debenham was regarded by certain sections of the media as a principal
protagonist of the cane. He was on a number of occasions interviewed by the media and
was not reluctant to express his views. It is interesting to observe that when the question of
the abolition of corporal punishment arose in 1995, the pupils of the Boys? Senior School
actually voted to retain it. In contrast to that, the Governors did not seek to join in the
litigation resulting in R (ex parte Williamson) v. Secretary of State for Education and
Employment and Others  UKHL 15 where they might have sought to argue that the
abolition of corporal punishment in schools was an unlawful interference with their
Convention rights. In the event they may have been wisely advised not to do so.
1.2.3 The Effect
That all this bad publicity damaged the Schools and threatened their precarious income and
financial position is amply borne out by a report by Marco Goldschmied, referred to below.
In the words of the Report ?The early growth was halted but not reversed.?
1.3 The St James Schools Report
(a) This report by Marco Goldschmied, properly called ?St James Schools Report?, was
produced in October 1996 at the request of Donald Lambie. Its author was a senior member
of the S.E.S. and a Governor of the Schools for upwards of a decade. He sent five of his
children to the Schools and is prominent in his profession as an architect. He gave evidence
(b) The report set out a number of suggestions for change in the way the Schools were
run. The principal purpose of the report was to increase the pupil intake and improve the
finances of the project. It called, inter alia, for a more open and transparent organisation, no
S.E.S. involvement, and for the Governors to govern more proactively and to be seen so to
(c) It concluded that the ?St James set-up is, as yet, far from transparent.?, that it "is
really still a school for the ?S.E.S. families?, controlled by the S.E.S?.? This may have
been a little unfair since the Governors inform me that in fact at that stage (1996) only about
50% of parents were members of the S.E.S.
(d) It reported that in May 1995 the new Senior Tutor, Donald Lambie, regarded the
position of the Heads of the St James Schools as depending on his (Lambie?s) consent.
(e) Lambie appears to have given this Report a very lukewarm welcome. The
Governors were very reluctant to discuss it but finally did so at an unminuted meeting 3
months after its circulation. I only heard of this Report by a sidewind when it was
mentioned by a complainant. By no means all of its recommendations appear to have been
(f) The question which all this prompts is, ?How much change has there been in the last
ten years?? This is considered below in paragraph 6.
1.4 The Message Board
As explained in the Terms of Reference (Appendix 1) in about February 2004 an internet
message board was established and a number of former pupils of the Schools began to
exchange reminiscences of their schooldays. A great many complaints were made about
how pupils, individually and collectively, were mistreated, unreasonably punished and
assaulted. Some complainants gave their names; some complaints were anonymous. Some
were made about identified members of staff, some not.
1.5 Governors? Decision
Some contact took place between the Heads of the two Senior Schools and some of the
complainants in an attempt at reconciliation. However, little progress was made. These
facts were reported to the Governors. Accordingly at a Governors? meeting in October 2004
it was resolved to establish an independent internal inquiry.
2. TERMS OF REFERENCE
The Terms of Reference of the Inquiry are set out in Appendix 1 to this report. A group of the
original complainants were consulted about the draft Terms and a number of amendments were
made at their suggestion although it is fair to say that the final form was not wholly accepted by
this group. The Terms of Reference were approved by the Governors on the 10 th June 2005. Later
during the course of the Inquiry it became clear that parents of pupils who had attended the Schools
wished to make representations and believed themselves to be excluded from so doing.
Clarification of the position was achieved by a notice entered on the Inquiry Website and by a
suitable amendment to paragraph 1 of the Terms of Reference.
3.1.1. Forms of Evidence
(a) This Inquiry was not bound by any of the rules of evidence. It had no power to
administer oaths, though it was made plain to witnesses, either expressly or impliedly, that
they were expected to tell the truth. Evidence was received by way of written statement,
signed or otherwise identified by the maker. It was open to any maker of a statement to
come and give oral evidence as well at the Inquiry. A few witnesses gave oral evidence
without putting in a written statement. Hearsay evidence was not excluded but has in all
cases been treated with caution and in some cases disregarded.
(b) A few witnesses for various reasons wanted to give their evidence anonymously.
They were discouraged from doing this and it was pointed out to them, as is the case, that
little if any weight could be attached to their evidence. One witness put in a statement and
attended the Inquiry in person under a pseudonym. His evidence has been disregarded for
(c) Greatest weight has been attached to evidence supported by oral testimony, except
in isolated cases where there is a very cogent reason for non-attendance (e.g. distance from
London or ill-health) when greater weight has been attached to a written statement than
would otherwise have been the case.
(d) The closest focus of this Inquiry has involved events between about the years 1975
to 1985. There is quite naturally a great difficulty when trying to investigate the facts of
something which occurred 20 to 30 years ago. Memory is fallible especially where the
witness is trying to remember back to his/her youth. Moreover in some cases the event in
question may have taken on the mantle of an oral tradition, giving wide range to
exaggeration or to unwitting fabrication.
(e) Examples exist where there has been clear misidentification of an alleged
perpetrator, where extraneous evidence prevents the acceptance of the detail or substance of
an allegation, where a witness is obviously unreliable or frankly lying. All this calls for
caution in approaching the credibility of the evidence.
(f) It is clear from some of what has appeared on the internet and from the evidence
itself that there has been much opportunity for contamination of evidence as well as actual
such contamination. I have had to guard against this. I have not, however, treated anything
which has only appeared on the internet as evidence at all, save where it may amount to an
admission of wrongdoing. As part of my preparation for the Inquiry I read some of the
messages from the Message Board which had been printed out for me as background
information. Otherwise so far as possible I have made it my business to ignore the website
although I have from time to time instructed the Clerk to post announcements there on
procedural matters relating to the Inquiry.
(g) The position is also complicated by the fact that there has been active lobbying by
both camps (that is both extensive lobbying by the complainants and some inspired by
Debenham) during the run up to and the course of the Inquiry.
(h) Quite apart from the more ordinary sources of evidence, I have been referred to a
number of books and other publications as background reading to improve my
understanding of the S.E.S. and its philosophy.
(i) Assessing what weight to attach to any piece of evidence is obviously a task for
me, as is choosing between those witnesses on whom I can rely and those on whom I would
be unsafe so to do. I have, however, attempted to perform this duty with regard to the
various factors listed above.
3.2 Onus of Proof
The burden of proving any assertion against another person or body must lie on the maker of
the assertion. The burden does not shift. This is the principle which I have followed
throughout. Complainants must prove their cases: it is not for those complained about to
3.3 Standard of Proof
In a matter not strictly criminal but involving criminal or quasi-criminal allegations it seems
proper to me to employ the test of a balance of probabilities as applied by Lord Nicholls of
Birkenhead in the case of Re H & R  1 All ER1. In that case he said:
?The balance of probability standard means that a court is satisfied an event occurred
if the court considers that, on the evidence, the occurrence of the event was more
likely than not. When assessing the probabilities the court will have in mind as a
factor, to whatever extent is appropriate in the particular case, that the more serious
the allegation the less likely it is that the event occurred and, hence, the stronger
should be the evidence before the court concludes that the allegation is established
on the balance of probability. Fraud is usually less likely than negligence.
Deliberate physical injury is usually less likely than accidental physical injury. A
stepfather is usually less likely to have repeatedly raped and had consensual oral sex
with his under age stepdaughter than on some occasion to have lost his temper and
slapped her. Built into the preponderance of probability standard is a generous
degree of flexibility in respect of the seriousness of the allegation.
Although the result is much the same, this does not mean that where a serious
allegation is in issue the standard of proof required is higher. It means only that the
inherent probability or improbability of an event is itself a matter to be taken into
account when weighing the probabilities and deciding whether, on balance, the event
occurred. The more improbable the event, the stronger must be the evidence that it
did occur before, on the balance of probability, its occurrence will be established.?
It seems to me that there is a great difference between an allegation against a schoolteacher
which would amount to a serious criminal assault (e.g. an offence under s.47 of the Offences
against the Person Act, 1861, ?assault occasioning actual bodily harm? or s.1 of the
Children and Young Persons Act 1933 ?assaulting [or] ill-treating a child in a manner likely
to cause him unnecessary suffering?) and one of over-zealous hand slapping. The former
would call for a more cogent body of evidence before the balance of probabilities was
satisfied than the latter.
3.4 Attendance and Oral Evidence
Those witnesses, who attended the sittings of the Inquiry to make oral submissions, gave
their evidence at Keating Chambers, Essex Street, London WC1. A very few witnesses who
could not conveniently attend but who wished to give evidence orally gave their evidence by
telephone. Almost all oral evidence given was recorded electronically and subsequently
transcribed. Hand written notes were taken throughout which provided back up in the very
few cases of mechanical breakdown of the recording equipment.
The Clerk to the Inquiry was Mrs Christine Betts, a barrister employed by Veale Wasbrough
Lawyers, the schools' solicitors who have been responsible for making the arrangements for
the Inquiry. She was assisted by Kris Robbetts, a trainee solicitor with Veale Wasbrough
Lawyers. Further office support was provided by Miss Michelle Mildiner. I was
enormously assisted by all these persons and without their help and support my task would
have been well nigh impossible.
3.6 The Chairman
(a) Despite the thanks expressed above, the Report is my Report. The views expressed
in it and its conclusions are mine. Although I was appointed by the Governors I have been
free to conduct the Inquiry and form my conclusions according to my own belief as to where
the truth lies. I am not subject to instructions from Veale Wasbrough, the Governors, school
executives or any other persons in my conduct of the Inquiry. I am not aware of any attempt
improperly to influence me in my conclusions.
(b) I am aware that prior to my appointment the question of the identity of the Chairman
was hotly debated. For the avoidance of doubt I attended both private preparatory school
from the ages of 7 to 13 and public school from then until 17. In both cases I was a
boarding pupil. In both schools corporal punishment was practised. For the avoidance of
doubt I can also state that I am not and never have been a Governor of any school nor have I
had at any time any connection with the S.E.S..
4. STATISTICS AND BIBLIOGRAPHY
Attached hereto as Appendix 2 are some statistics relating to the work done in conducting this
Inquiry. A bibliography of the background and other reading made necessary for a full
understanding of the issues is also attached as Appendix 3.
5. EVIDENCE ? GENERAL
5.1 In this part of the Report I shall as envisaged in paragraph 30.1 of Annexe One to the
Terms of Reference set out my conclusions generally on the former discipline policy and its
application at St Vedast and St James Schools. I shall not name any complainant or teacher,
save where necessary to identify the Head of any particular school.
5.2 The Original Plan
5.2.1. As indicated above the original plan was to set up two schools, one for boys and one
for girls, from the age of 4 ? to the age of 18. This was the scheme devised by Leon
MacLaren and supported by Nicholas Debenham and Miss Caldwell.
5.2.2. Accordingly St James (Boys) and St James (Girls) were set up in 1975. There were
three forms in each school taking children from the age of 4 ? to 7 approximately. Many of
these children had not been to school before and those that had had only been for a short
time. It was easier therefore to train these children to a novel school system since they had
no or little previous experience.
5.2.3. The plan envisaged that year by year further forms would be added at the bottom of
each school until the top form was composed of 10 year olds. This form would then become
the lowest form in the Senior Schools. The annual growth would continue until there were 4
Schools (2 Junior and 2 Senior for Boys and for Girls.)
5.2.4. At this stage the 4 schools would contain a full complement of ?home-grown?
students inured to the methods of the Schools.
5.3 St Vedast
5.3.1 The parents, almost entirely S.E.S. members, of older children felt that their
children were in danger of being denied the advantages promised to the younger children
entering St James Schools. Accordingly they pressed Leon MacLaren to open Schools for
their children. MacLaren was reluctant to do this as was Debenham. They foresaw
correctly that older children would have more difficulty in acclimatising to a new and, to
them, almost certainly more demanding regime. Nevertheless the St Vedast schools were
opened in the Autumn of 1975.
Shortly thereafter as predicted by MacLaren and Debenham the behaviour of the boys at St
Vedast began to give rise to concern. At this point for a number of reasons it is convenient
to follow the history of the Schools? discipline policies and practices by separately
considering the Boys' Schools and the Girls' Schools.
5.4 Corporal Punishment ? The Old Law
The Common Law allowed corporal punishment of pupils as long as it was ?reasonable?,
not ?for gratification or personal rage? nor overly protracted or too severe (see R v Hopley
 F & F 202). In Mansell v. Griffin  1 KB 947 Phillimore J said: ?It is enough
for a teacher to be able to say, ?The punishment which I administered was moderate, it was
not dictated by bad motives, it was such as is usual in the school, and such as the parent of
the child would expect that the child would receive if it did wrong.? It is against this
pragmatic standard that the lawfulness or the criminality of a teacher?s acts or omissions are
to be judged.
5.5 Boys' Schools - Caning
5.5.1 Up to this point the cane had not been used but it was introduced to St Vedast by
Debenham. It was first used in St Vedast and somewhat later in St James. Debenham
maintains that St Vedast was never as happy a school as St James because of the essential
flaw in its composition and, while there is some truth in this, this is not the whole story.
5.5.2 St Vedast was not a very happy school but nor, (during that period, 1975 to 1985),
was St James for some of the boys who were sent there. Many speak of an overarching
sense of fear during their school years ? fear of harsh punishment, fear of unexpected
physical pain inflicted on them as a result of their behaviour, sometimes unjustly. On the
other hand many boys speak of their time in the Schools as a happy one. In this they are
supported by the May 1984 Report of Inspectors of the Independent Schools Joint Council.
This report of the first inspection of St James School stresses the general friendly
atmosphere of the School and the calm, caring devotion of the staff to the pupils. This is
less of a riddle then might appear to be the case. There will always be in any school
children who will resist discipline more than others. These children are likely to receive
more punishment than the more submissive. As one witness said, if you kept your head
down and maintained a low profile you were more or less safe. Equally temperament will
play a part and children will be affected to a greater or lesser extent by receiving punishment
of any kind.
5.5.3 When St James had opened there had been no formal discipline policy. It was
accepted that teachers could deliver a smack with a hand or a slipper/shoe to a bottom or
with a ruler to a hand for minor misbehaviour. Later in both St James and St Vedast this
punishment was restricted to the use of a hand only.
5.5.4 Use of the cane was restricted to the Headmaster alone. To begin with the use of the
cane was unrecorded and unwitnessed. Later in Autumn 1979 a punishment book was
instituted by Debenham and purports to record the boy's name, the offence, the date of the
caning and the number of strokes. This was kept for the rest of Debenham?s time as
Headmaster. Julian Capper, who became Headmaster of St Vedast in 1980, retiring from
that position in 1985, kept a similar record but the book is no longer available. I accept
Debenham?s Punishment Book as a careful and accurate record. It has all the appearances
of a genuine rather than a dishonestly fabricated record and is clearly more reliable than the
victim?s recollection back over 20 to 30 years. One boy said he had been beaten by
Debenham on hundreds of occasions. The book gave the lie to this gross exaggeration. He
had in fact been beaten on 3 occasions, a total of 8 strokes. It is worth noting that in the
1984 Report of the Inspectors, who would have seen the Punishment Book, caning is
referred to as ?infrequent?.
5.5.5 The book does not cover the vital period prior to September 1979 when it seems that
caning was probably at its height. Moreover even the best record-keeper may, like Homer,
nod. I am satisfied, however, that the book is substantially correct in the period which it
5.5.6 Later in time Debenham was advised by a School Inspector to have a witness
present at all canings. He said that he had not always adhered to this advice. In fact
witnesses are mentioned in the Punishment Book. There are very few such entries.
5.5.7 Debenham refers to 6 strokes as being the maximum and, with one possible
exception, this appears to have been the case. He says that in all but one case he caned boys
through their trousers. He says that he did not cause bleeding but I do not wholly accept
this. I do not, however, think that it was his aim to do so nor do I believe him to have been
motivated by sadism or any ?bad motive? (see Mansell v Griffin ibid.). None of this
punishment was ipso facto unlawful.
5.5.8 He says that beating of boys under 10 was rare. The punishment book shows that it
was not as rare as all that.
5.5.9 There was an occasion when 2 whole classes of boys were caned for bad behaviour
on the way to a swimming bath. This was a deterrent collective punishment and on
reflection Debenham believes that he over-reacted. I agree.
5.5.10 Caning was also used for a short-time to punish failure to pass a re-test (? a
mistake? per Debenham) and as a final totting-up sanction for the receipt of 10 black marks.
5.5.11 In the 1990s caning began to diminish in frequency at the Schools until it was
abolished in 1996. Debenham remained until the end an advocate of retaining the option of
the cane for boys and was not infrequently interviewed by the media about his views.
5.6 Boys' Schools ? Other Punishments
5.6.1 As has been said, only the Headmasters could cane. Other teachers could slap
bottoms or hands, order press-ups to be performed or circuit-training runs to be undertaken.
They could also give other non-physical punishments including black marks.
5.6.2 Some teachers had their own preferred forms of punishment. One or two would
insist on a boy taking his trousers (and sometimes pants) down before being slippered.
Others used T-squares to strike boys with.
5.6.3 By the mid-1980s all forms of corporal punishment were restricted to the
Headmaster only. It is not clear that the other staff all honoured this change in the regime.
5.6.4 Some staff members would send children to the Headmaster more readily than
others. Although the action of sending a child did not necessarily result in a beating, in
practice a beating often followed.
5.6.5 Some teachers were far more liberal with giving out black marks than others. Some
were not averse to giving multiple black marks on one occasion with the consequently
increased likelihood that the cut-off figure of 10 would be achieved.
5.7 Boys' Schools ? Rough Handling, Physical and Mental Mistreatment
5.7.1 I am in no doubt that mistreatment of pupils took place in the Boys' Schools, mainly
during the period 1975 to 1985. This took a number of forms. In my Confidential Report to
the Governors I shall give full details of those events which I find to have occurred together
with the identity of the perpetrators. Here I will simply list the various types of
5.7.2 A small number of teachers had no proper control of their tempers. Whether this
was as a result of inexperience, lack of training or, more likely, their innate temperament is
difficult for me to say. As a result I am satisfied that several boys were subjected to rough
handling. They were criminally assaulted by being punched in the face or in the stomach,
cuffed violently about the head, had blackboard rubbers thrown at them causing injury in
some cases, had cricket balls thrown at them violently when they were not looking at the
thrower and were struck with the end of a gym rope. Other students were kicked, struck
from behind, slapped about the face, thrown across a classroom. Whatever the provocation
nothing could justify this mistreatment. It was clearly unreasonable and criminal.
5.7.3 Several of the teachers guilty of the behaviour set out in 5.6.2. above would shout
loudly at boys, verbally berate them and find ways to humiliate them.
5.8 Girls ? Punishments
5.8.1 This part of the report relates solely to the Girls' schools prior to the appointment of
the present Headmistress, Mrs Laura Hyde in September 1995.
5.8.2 It goes without saying that the cane was never used in the Girls' schools, nor was
spanking of girls performed by male teachers.
5.8.3 Miss Caldwell says that she never allowed any corporal punishment in either St
James or St Vedast. She also says that she does not remember any complaint about corporal
punishment being used. There is, however, clear evidence of a girl being spanked in the
classroom for stealing another girl?s clothing. It is said that the allegation against the girl
was false. Whatever the truth of that, the matter was reported to the girl?s father who
complained. As a result Miss Caldwell spoke to the female teacher responsible and told her
that all corporal punishment of girls was to stop. This would have been in about 1982.
5.8.4 Up until 1982, therefore, there was spanking of girls and hand slapping of girls with
a ruler by some teachers but not all. The spanking was with the hand or a slipper/shoe on
5.8.5 The girls appear to have been rather more law-abiding than the boys and there is
evidence to the effect that they, unlike boys, would listen to and act on verbal criticism.
5.9 Girls ? Physical and Mental Mistreatment
5.9.1 A number of complaints have been made against some female teachers alleging that
they smacked girls on their bare bottoms. I find one complaint (described above in
paragraph 5.8.3) proven. However, I have considered other complaints against other
teachers and do not accept them as proven.
5.9.2 A number of girls complained that they were subjected to various forms of verbal
humiliation in front of their classes. Some were repeatedly shouted at and others told that
they were stupid.
5.9.3 A particular practice, not wholly confined to the Girls Schools, was either publicly
or privately to interrogate a subject at, if necessary, very great length, in order to obtain a
confession. Confessions were usually obtained but I am satisfied were sometimes false and
worthless. Sometimes in the course of this type of interrogation the subject would be
attacked or criticised in hurtful and distressing ways.
5.9.4 Some girls were mistreated physically and mentally by male teachers but to nothing
like the extent that the boys suffered.
5.10 For the avoidance of any possible doubt, I came across no evidence of any form of
sexual abuse in any of the Schools.
5.11 The Causes of Mistreatment
5.11.1. Many of the teachers had academic and/or teaching qualifications. Several did not
and several were without any or much experience in teaching. Inexperience, insufficient
grasp of the subject taught, inability to keep order may all have led to loss of class control,
loss of temper and over-reaction. Some of the worst examples of mistreatment involved,
however, people who were well-qualified on paper to teach.
5.11.2. In a limited number of cases individuals may have been temperamentally unsuited
to teaching. Uncontrollable bad temper is but one example of this. The method of choosing
teachers from a relatively small pool of S.E.S. members may also have had something to do
5.11.3. In the early days there does not seem to have been any very effective line
management to check on the teachers? behaviour towards the children. One has the
impression of teachers, more or less dedicated (and dedicated head teachers), working on a
shoestring so far as resources were concerned and working a long and tiring day.
5.11.4. There seems to have been little involvement of the Governors in staff appointments
or in complaints by parents. Until the death or, at least, the decline of Leon MacLaren, this
can be put down to the fact that the Governors were not in any real sense in charge of the
Schools. They were MacLaren?s people, as were the members of the S.E.S., and as the
Senior Tutor, his word was very nearly law to all of them. The views expressed in this
paragraph are the result of the distillation of a large body of evidence coming from
impressive witnesses including ex staff members and ex members of the S.E.S.
6. THE FUTURE
6.1 Has Anything Changed?
6.1.1. Almost all who comment on this aspect are of the view that much has indeed
changed. The schools are no longer teaching predominantly the children of S.E.S. parents.
The curriculum is much wider than it was in the beginning. The Schools are now
mainstream schools which also make provision for children with special educational needs.
Pupils come from a wide range of ethnic and social backgrounds. The schools run courses
consistent with the National Curriculum for children aged 3 -16 and, in addition, the Senior
Schools run Sixth Forms. Corporal punishment is illegal and in any event ceased
completely in the Junior School in 1993 and in the Senior School in 1996. Donald Lambie
has succeeded Leon MacLaren as leader of the SES.
6.1.2. It is still the case that all the staff in the Junior Schools and two-thirds of the staff in
the Senior Schools is composed of members of the S.E.S.
6.1.3. In addition to taking seriously their charitable responsibilities for children with
learning difficulties and disabilities, the Schools are at present very successful. In the
Sunday Times table of the top 500 independent secondary schools, following the Summer
2005 examinations the Girls? School was placed 55th. The Boys? School was placed 352nd.
6.1.4. Has the transparency advocated in the 1996 Report really been created? Even after
MacLaren?s death, Lambie appointed Mrs Hyde as Headmistress in September 1995.
However, the Governors readily ratified and approved this appointment.
6.1.5. That there has been a real change in the ethos and conduct of the schools is
established by the evidence of those witnesses, not naturally well-disposed towards the
S.E.S., who speak of them as happy places where there appears to be a relaxed atmosphere
between pupils and teachers. This is a hopeful indication and one which is also reflected in
recent inspection reports. Indeed the 2004 reports into all the Schools set out the many
strengths of the Schools and speak in particularly glowing terms of the very successful
Senior Girls' School under the leadership of Mrs Hyde.
7.1 Reconciliation and Closure
7.1.1. Some of those who have given evidence and others on the internet have suggested
that they simply wish to have an apology for the mistakes which can be accepted by those
who made them. A number of staff members have made apologies of greater or lesser
width. I hope that for some this Inquiry and my findings may assist in bringing about
closure and, perhaps in time, reconciliation.
7.1.2. None but the most negatively inspired will persist in seeking the destruction of the
current Schools. Mistakes were made in the past and must be avoided in future, but much
good has come out of the Schools too. Many boys and girls have happy memories of their
time there. A number of very successful men and women have been sent out into the world
from these Schools.
7.1.3. The other side of this is that undoubtedly some pupils were damaged by their
experiences in the Schools. I saw some damaged witnesses and heard of others. I cannot
say how or by what they were damaged and there is no medical evidence showing that it
was the fault of the Schools. Nevertheless I am as sure as I can be that some of them are
suffering from their experiences at school. There has to be an acknowledgment of this or
talk of reconciliation is a waste of breath.
7.1.4. Let me close this section with a quotation from an apology received from a former
member of staff (now long since retired). ?I believe that my methods were harsh and now
believe probably unnecessary, but I think that at the time they seemed to be so?. I certainly
regret my tendency to rely on corporal punishment to reach what I then understood to be the
process of discipline and order?. My own inexperience did not help me?. I realize [now]
different times demand different approaches?.I think now that the system was too rigid and
outdated, and that somehow we harked back to a rather less sensitive recent past. Anyway I
hope this does help in some degree to explain my hard and insensitive actions at the time,
for which I cannot forgive myself, and hope that in some way you may find solace for your
hard times at St Vedast.?
I should like to thank all those witnesses who tried to assist me by writing to the Inquiry and
especially those who attended to give evidence.
James Townend QC
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