A personal view from a parent.

Discussion of the children's schools in the UK.
elizabeth edmunds
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A personal view from a parent.

Postby elizabeth edmunds » Tue Mar 21, 2006 6:38 pm

I am writing this post because I feel both moved to do so and because I reckon that having sent 6 children to St James Schools I am entitled to do so. I added up the years that between them they had spent at school and it came to 6 time 13! 78 years and that plus the 30 years of my life that have passed should mean that I know a bit about what happens and what happened.
I have attended the S.E.S. for about 32 years and meditated for probably 28 years, and have been involved with helping at the day schools in all sorts of capacities: kitchen, Matron as a fill in, Meditation Tutor for the Senior Girls and more recently in starting up a department of Art of Hospitality.
All of my family have received a good education, all of them have been able to go into their chosen sphere of work, and all of them have managed to get through any storms and events that life sends. They are all well balanced, the boys do not attend the philosophy school but the girls have joined the foundation girls group. This does not present any problem to any of us, attenders or non attenders, we all understand that it is a question of choice.
Although I started attending the philosophy school just before my oldest son joined St James, we sent him there because it had such a bright and clear feel to it. We liked the headmaster and were pleased with the choice and pleased to become involved with helping its evolution.
Of course it has changed over the years, and evolved into a school that anybody who values a thoughtful education which believes in the innate spirituality of each child could be happy with. What I have always loved about the school is that it doesn't preach any one religion above another, it finds the good as it shows itself in each one. I have found that philosophy itself has illuminated my own Christian practice and that it has done the same for all my family.
The issues that seem to cause concern on this web site are first, the ones of the past. Yes, there was corporal punishment, it isn't there now. It is a fact that ideas change and corporal punishment seems as distant as smoking on the tube now. I have a feeling that as well as holding the record for numbers of children of one family in the day schools, we also hold the dubious record for numbers of boys punished. Certainly the last caned boy belonged to us: as he said, "When I threw the banger out of the window, the people were miles away!" I don't think that any of them have any issues with caning but are probably glad that it is no longer on the menu.
All but one of the family had and still have a happy relationship with their past form teachers. The one who didn't was in class where the teacher probably didn't understand teenage boys. The effect of that was that the class rebelled in style, formed excellent relationships with each other and survived. This was far from ideal and as parents we should probably have been more active in sorting this out, but in the long term, fortune has smiled benignly on this son and on his friends. I don't expect that any other school would have suited all of a family and that St James probably did better than any other.
The other issues which appear at the moment to be troubling people are in relation to the S.E.S. For myself, I feel entirely free in my choice of attending a philosophy school, it does just what it says, offers philosophy and practice in putting philosophy into life. Meditation is a rewarding discipline, but it is definately a discipline which any individual undertakes if they wish. Philosophy and meditation are probably the things which have kept me sane with all those 6 children. I welcomed the initiation and am grateful for the help which it offers.
Then there are rumblings about sex education and girls. Here I would like to thank the course which Mrs Hyde has evolved for giving a reasonable and enlightened view which has allowed the girls to evolve a moral code and space above all not to feel coerced into relationships which they haven't thought about The ideal of one man. one woman for life is not a bad ideal, it may not be easy to find but it is a good ideal to have. This has not made them judgemental, either of themselves or others, it just serves as benchmark and I am immeasurably glad that they have it in their moral vocabulary.
The connection with the School of Philosophy has in my view provided a remarkably committed and thoughtful body of teachers. Of course the St James Schools and the Philosophy School have evolved as they have grown and grown up. The open hearted search for truth and goodness is ongoing and I have great respect for those who lead that search and who live rather remarkably self disciplined lives. The dress code is a dress code and as far as I understand it is based on both modesty in dress and good manners to those who you are with.
At the heart of this submission is a plea to all of you who enter and post on this web site. I believe that in the main you must be motivated towards the good and that the way the governors and headteachers have responded to that in setting up an inquiry has also been motivated by good. I am sad that anybody should have been hurt, and perhaps even more sad for those who in stupidity or ignorance should have done the hurting. But the goal that all sides must wish for is surely not far away. I would encourage anybody with a past grievance to take up the courageous offer of truth and reconciliation which the teachers involved have offered. In addition, come out of the website into the reality of a small but brave school which strives to offer a sound education based on the idea that each child is great and deserves the best.

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Ben W
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Welcome

Postby Ben W » Tue Mar 21, 2006 7:11 pm

Wow. I'm sure your posting will attract a healthy response!

It would be helpful to me if you could confirm the status of your posting. Have you written this entirely off your own bat without specific support and encouragement from others at the school? If you have have had support and encouragement, please can you talk a little about the nature of it. Did someone approach you? Did you aproach someone?

Your answers to these question may help shape the responses you receive.
Child member of SES from around 1967 to around 1977; Strongly involved in Sunday Schools ; Five brothers and sisters went to ST V and St J in the worst years

Alban
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I'll be blunt

Postby Alban » Tue Mar 21, 2006 9:02 pm

Well, there's another glowing report from the now familiar stable of friends, family and beneficiaries of the SES!

Sorry for being so negative about your opening post, but do you know how insulting it is to hear someone spouting off about the perfection of an organisation that has been the single-biggest cause of misery in my life?

If such a generalisation is possible, there seems to be two approaches on here by active members of the SES. The first - let's call it the head-in-the-sand approach - is to treat it like a bit of free advertising space for their beloved organisation. The second - shall we settle with the smelling-the-coffee approach - is to listen to what is said, not alienating themselves, and responding to criticisms of their organisation with the intelligence they deserve.

I wish we had more of the second approach and less of the first.

Alban

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Stanton
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Postby Stanton » Tue Mar 21, 2006 9:06 pm

Welcome to the board, Elizabeth. Your daughter, Mary, has already posted to us off the coast of Africa. I feel sure that she will make a very fine doctor in due course.
Like you and many others I wish for reconciliation. But wishing is not enough. There is work to be done first. To take but one example: only one of the three current teachers reprimanded by the governors has apologised to former pupils. The other two have not. Sad but true. The inquiry was a brave step towards establishing the truth of the matter but it needs to be followed up. What I am talking about is a change of heart, sticking plaster won't do here. It's a change of heart. This really is an opportunity for the School if only members will allow themselves to see it that way.
Today I posted my letter to John Story as invited (as a contributor to the inquiry). I'll PM you about this.

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Keir
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Postby Keir » Tue Mar 21, 2006 10:10 pm

Elizabeth,

You had a fantastic experience and you think that your sons and daughters also have. May I quote from your daughters post here...

I have 5 elder siblings 4 of whom are brothers and all of them went through St James. They too say that some of their experiences were terrible


Great. So another parent not aware of how her children felt.

Many boys and girls did not have a wonderful experience but felt hampered in telling their parents for fear of disapproval and family conflict. This particularly was the case where the parents were in the SES. Discuss.

Please dont tell people what to do in reaching their own personal journey forward from this point, whilst ignoring what you can do to move forward. If you think it is all fine and dandy then look again at what is being said by current SES members, ex pupils, and current pupils. All is not well, and it is sticking your head in the sand to think that it is after reading the entries on this board.

I welcome your decision to post but feel that you have simply re-affirmed the inadequacy of the governors approach so far.

Tom Grubb
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Re: A personal view from a parent.

Postby Tom Grubb » Tue Mar 21, 2006 11:05 pm

elizabeth edmunds wrote:The issues that seem to cause concern on this web site are first, the ones of the past. Yes, there was corporal punishment, it isn't there now. It is a fact that ideas change and corporal punishment seems as distant as smoking on the tube now. I have a feeling that as well as holding the record for numbers of children of one family in the day schools, we also hold the dubious record for numbers of boys punished. Certainly the last caned boy belonged to us: as he said, "When I threw the banger out of the window, the people were miles away!" I don't think that any of them have any issues with caning but are probably glad that it is no longer on the menu.

Elizabeth, as I'm sure you know very well, the past existence of caning at St James and St Vedast is not something that bothers many former pupils. I happen to oppose all corporal punishment of children but do you honestly think I would have given up many hundreds of hours of my free time over the past couple of years if I just wanted to complain about the legal use of the cane at my former school? No, Elizabeth, what concerns me and most former pupils who have posted on this forum, is the brutal and criminal abuse that went on at SES-run schools. Caning may well have been legal when Debenham was using it (although I'm not sure what the law would have said about Noddy's 'over-zealous' application of it) but punching pupils in the face, throwing them across classrooms, throwing cricket balls and board dusters at their heads and hitting them with cricket bats and ropes were certainly not legal.

You call the current St James "a small but brave school which strives to offer a sound education based on the idea that each child is great and deserves the best". If that's true, it's wonderful. But it's hardly a great comfort to the former pupils who were once treated like dirt by your beloved SES and its vile schools.

Tom

AntonR
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Postby AntonR » Wed Mar 22, 2006 4:09 am

Post deleted
Last edited by AntonR on Wed May 17, 2006 8:52 am, edited 2 times in total.

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a different guest
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Postby a different guest » Wed Mar 22, 2006 4:48 am

Elizabeth Edmunds writes

the boys do not attend the philosophy school but the girls have joined the foundation girls group.


Now juxtapose that with what a current (non SES parent) wrote here
http://www.whyaretheydead.net/phpBB2/vi ... 771b0f2718

4) The "girls must be subservient" culture that gradually extends as they go up the school. It has been also been described as a "break them and remould them" culture.


Oh yes, all that other stuff is SO in the past! :|

Well at least we now have a name to blame for the "Art of Hospitality" department! :)

Goblinboy
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Postby Goblinboy » Wed Mar 22, 2006 5:24 am

The voice, language and schemas used in Elizabeth's posting seem quite old-school SES, as Alban observed.

Authority implied by length of time rather than capability; unquestioning faith in the school leaders; lack of acknowledgement of the validity of different viewpoints; description of the school's "feel" as clear and bright (have been hearing that language from senior SES members for 15 years).

It's a marked contrast to the more sensitive posts of SES members such as Chittani, Bella and Stanton. Elizabeth's apparent connections with the SES hierarchy come as no surprise, unfortunately.

...the 30 years of my life that have passed should mean that I know a bit about what happens and what happened.


Should, but may not. Correlation doesn't equal causation. I'm sure that Elizabeth and, say, Nicholas Debenham would agree on many things that they believed "happened" at St Vedast and St James, that will be disputed by many people who also have 30 years association with the SES and its schools.

Regardless of my concerns - wish they'd taught The Art of Hospitality at my skool. I'm still rubbish at fondue and ironing.

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Free Thinker
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Postby Free Thinker » Wed Mar 22, 2006 6:59 am

Goblinboy - I can't help you with the fondue but I'd be happy to teach you to iron! Of course without Mr. MacLaren's underpants, I'll be a bit lost... :badgrin:

Disclaimer - Although I cleaned out Mr. M's toilet, I never touched his underpants. Yikes!

elizabeth edmunds
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A personal view from a parent.

Postby elizabeth edmunds » Wed Mar 22, 2006 9:03 am

I had only intended to write one posting, this is your site and I am just an old Granny writing, however ...
Ben, the status of my posting: I have not been put up to writing by anybody. Yes I know all the people involved in the School of Philosophy and feel great affection for them but I am writing for myself.
I believe that the Governors, Heads and past teachers have been courageous in facing unacceptable aspects of the past. Isolating these aspects and resolving them seems to me to be what you all wish for.
I have made no effort to hide my identity and that was intentional, it seems important that my own involvement with the schools is clear.
We have been fortunate in being able to send children to these schools, many people have made sacrifices to send their children there.
I know exactly how my family got on at St James, we talk about it often and I am under no illusions that it was all a bed of roses but I am sure that there was no malicious intent to damage, no intention to brainwash, teachers made mistakes, some quite unacceptable and have had to face the consequences of those mistakes but the mistakes were only a part of the story, so much more that was good took place.
Everybody makes mistakes,I certainly have made more than most but surely the important thing is how you deal with them. As I understand it the door is open for any of you to walk through.

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a different guest
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Re: A personal view from a parent.

Postby a different guest » Wed Mar 22, 2006 9:17 am

elizabeth edmunds wrote: mistakes


Oh there's that word again :|

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Stanton
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Postby Stanton » Wed Mar 22, 2006 9:39 am

Elizabeth - if you have a moment you may care to go to your Inbox. I've sent you three messages now.

Tom Grubb
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Re: A personal view from a parent.

Postby Tom Grubb » Wed Mar 22, 2006 12:43 pm

a different guest wrote:
elizabeth edmunds wrote: mistakes


Oh there's that word again :|

Yes, "teachers made mistakes" sounds so much nicer than, say, "teachers deliberately beat pupils up" or "teachers struck pupils full force with cricket bats" or "teachers deliberately punched pupils in the face".

mgormez
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Re: A personal view from a parent.

Postby mgormez » Wed Mar 22, 2006 4:04 pm

elizabeth edmunds wrote:...teachers made mistakes, some quite unacceptable and have had to face the consequences of those mistakes...


What consequences would that be? The Governing Body gave:

"Teacher B" a Formal Warning &
"Teacher C" received Formal Reprimand, which will remain on his employment record.

See: http://www.iirep.com./page13.htm

How are those "consequences" in any way proportional to the abuse, fear, anxiety, hurt and misery they caused?

Mike
Last edited by mgormez on Fri Mar 24, 2006 2:50 am, edited 2 times in total.
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