Ficino School - New Zealand

Discussion of the SES' satellite schools in Australia and New Zealand.
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Ficino School - New Zealand

Postby MrBlobby » Mon Apr 26, 2010 11:38 pm

Hi folks.

Glad I have come across this forum as it has given so many answers.
Some comments still raise new questions for me & others answer things well

Now allow me to outline my situation briefly.
My wife & I recently toured Ficino school here in Auckland, New Zealand.
We were impressed with the quality of education supplied on face value.
However a deeper look into the school revealed a darker side after seeing its relationship to sister school St James & also with links to SES & SOP.

I am fairly convinced that I will not be sending my son there at this time, nor my daughter when she comes of age in around 1 year.
I will be honest with you all here, My problem is my wife cannot see nor understand what the heck I am on about.
It is as good a school, if not better than any alternative, (state, state integrated or private) as far as she is concerned.
No worse or no better than a Catholic or Christian based school she says.

My concerns are high. But am I being paranoid?
A lot of what happened is well in the past, & matters regarding corporal punishment have changed so much.
(I understand that for some of you who experienced these wicked events, it is not in the past & the scarring remains a lifetime. I hold empathy in my heart for all of you in that position & hope the scarring continues to heal & your lives improve in a positive manner)
The level of education in the current day is probably ok?

Links to SOP seem to be strong at this school with around (so I am told) 80% of staff being SOP members.
A look at their website reveals that most of the teachers are only Dip Ed qualified.
I mean why would somebody go from being a lawyer to a primary school teacher for example?
I did not see any BoE qualifications there (Batchelor of Education) - a 3 year university course for primary teachers.
While Dip Ed is ok for secondary teachers (I believe), Primary is a whole different realm
The current Principal has no NZ teacher qualification however to be fair it looks like he arrived back from Britain recently (where he did hold teacher Qual) & maybe he is trying to gain that status here in NZ? Of that I have no idea.

Anyway I digress,
What indoctrination still occurs?
How is punishment served or dealt with?
How much so called "spirituality" is pushed on a 5 year old?
Would it be damaging to my child to put them in this school? Even if it was only for 1 year.
I am expecting to be called up for an interview in coming weeks. What questions should I be asking Principal?
MOST IMPORTANTLY: Does anybody here have first hand experience with Ficino school in Auckland NZ & could they please share either here in forum or privately.

In saying all this, I am fairly convinced from all messages I have read on the forum NOT to send my Son here. (However I have an open mind & like to hear all sides)
But like I said, my wife has other thoughts but will compromise by even putting him there for a short time until she finds another school we can agree on.
Any of your comments are much appreciated.

Let it be noted that neither myself, nor my wife, are (nor, ever have been) SES or SOP members, & have no interest in joining or following these organizations.

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Re: Ficino School - New Zealand

Postby bonsai » Tue Apr 27, 2010 9:05 am

Hello MrBlobby,

Welcome to the forum.

Let me start by saying I have no direct experience of the Ficino school. I do however know Mark Broadwith, the founding headmaster of the school. He came over from New Zealand to London and taught at St James for about 12 years before going back to New Zealand to found the Ficino School there.

He would have started at St James before the publication of the Secret Cult and taught throughout that period. I think it would be fair to say that he is one of the teachers us pupils remember for his, at times, explosive temperament.

He used to live on the school premises in a flat at the top of the senior boys school and he used to use the school minibus as his own private set of wheels. He ran a lot of the outward bounds activities being responsible for the school Climbing Club and the Sailing Club.

I personally would not send any child to a school in anyway connected to the SES or SOP. They make out that the philosophy is inclusive and innocuous merely setting the ethos of the schools. The reality is that the philosophy is significantly more deep-rooted into the curriculum of the school and the activities the school undertakes.

I notice that the Ficino school website makes a point of stating that it is a separate legal entity to the School of Philosophy but does make it clear that many of the teaching staff are members of the SOP. The reality is that the teachers who are members of the SOP will discuss the philosophy and their day jobs quite a lot. The two things mix quite considerably and there is a lot of opportunity for tutors in the SOP and ultimately the head of the SES to directly influence what happens in the childrens schools.

The other question that has to be asked is how many of the trustees or governors of the school are members of the SOP. Looking at the information provided via the website it would suggest that only one of the trustees are SOP members however I am sceptical that this would represent a full a frank disclosure. I would expect as with St James in London that the majority if not all the trustees were SOP/SES members.

I hope this helps. Trust your gut instincts about this school.

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Re: Ficino School - New Zealand

Postby Daffy » Tue Apr 27, 2010 12:28 pm

I completely agree with everything Bonsai says, in particular about Mark Broadwith's explosive temperament and the connections between the SES and the children's schools.

Imagine yourself considering a children's school where the chairman of the board of governors was Tom Cruise, the other governors were members of Scientology and most of the teachers were also Scientologists; but otherwise no formal Scientology ownership was disclosed. Would you believe the children's school was not controlled by or heavily influenced by Scientology?

Bear in mind as well that when you visited the school you were getting the rehearsed, squeaky clean behaviour that the school expects and demands from its children when parents or government inspectors are around.

The standard of education may appear to be good on the face of it but this is achieved by weeding out pupils who don't fit the one-size-fits-all methodology from the system before their participation in exams would otherwise bring down the school's published statistical averages.

You are obviously doing the right thing by your child in researching this school thoroughly before making any decision. I also hope you trust your instincts, and that you and your wife come to a joint decision without one of you feeling like you've been overruled by the other.

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Re: Ficino School - New Zealand

Postby Free Thinker » Wed Apr 28, 2010 3:42 am

Hi Mr. Blobby,

I also have no direct experience with the Ficino School. Nor did I attend the SES children's school in the US, where I'm from, because it didn't exist yet.

However, I was born into and raised in the School in NYC until I left independently at age 19.

I read through most of the text, FAQs, etc. on the Ficino School website and from that I will assure you that you are correct to worry. I see so much language that was used when I was in the school to describe things that it can barely have changed at all.

All that business about how it's OK to not believe in God, and that they teach kids to think properly is bullshit. There is one "Truth", one way of believing and thinking, and their way of teaching you philosophy is to slowly teach that version over time so that you don't realize what is happening until you are already believing it. There really is only one way and if you question it or try to go your own way, you are ignored or politely argued with until you stop questioning.

Growing up in the school, having parents in the school, attending various youth groups and classes, and then joining the school as a teen, were very damaging to my emotional development and self esteem. It's taken me years to try to overcome them, and I still wrestle with many of the effects in my 30s. I can only imagine what it would have been like attending one of the schools as well.

I can get more specific if you like but for now, I would just urge your wife to read some of our experiences here, and then tell her that I said that the text on the school website reads almost exactly as it would have when I was active, so many years ago.

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Re: Ficino School - New Zealand

Postby MrBlobby » Wed Apr 28, 2010 6:15 am

bonsai, Daffy & Free Thinker.
Thank you so much for your replies. These are all helpful and fairly much confirm so much of what I have read thus far, on the boards here.
I will be showing this thread to my wife this coming weekend so perhaps hopefully there will be further posts to work with.
I really appreciate this forum.
Thank you all.

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Re: Ficino School - New Zealand

Postby bonsai » Wed Apr 28, 2010 10:40 am

The other thing I'd add MrBlobby, is that I do not believe for one minute that the St James model of childrens education has changed sufficiently and learnt from the failures of the past. I do not believe that these schools really understand issues that we complain about here on this forum. I think it would be fair to say that they don't really care to listen to the issues.

The Townend inquiry into St James has pretty much been a PR exercise so that the school has been seen to do something to answer the criticisms that arose on the predecessor forum to this one. There is very little evidence that anything has really been done in the form of reconciliation or that there has been any real change that has been designed to address the concerns raised. The default answer of the school is that this was all in the past and the schools have changed.

The relevance of this to the NZ school is that the founding headmaster previously taught at St James at the time of all the difficulties and there is no indication that sister schools to St James have picked up the concerns raised from the inquiry. But there again is this really surprising if the St James hasn't really understood these issues and the Education Rennaisance Trust, whose mission is to extend the St James model around the world, is chaired by the original headmaster of St James who presided the whole difficult period.

To understand the relationship between the SES/SOP and the children's schools it support the best background reading I can point you at is the so called 1996 Report, written by a then governor of St James, Marco Goldschmied, when Donald Lambie took over from Leon MacLaren as head of the SES.

His letter to the Townend inquiry also demonstrates how the St James and the SES cannot easily be separated. There is every reason to believe that the day schools in other countries are equally tied to the SES/SOP in their region, if not back to London too.


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Postby Free » Wed Apr 28, 2010 12:54 pm

Last edited by Free on Wed Oct 05, 2011 10:31 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Ficino School - New Zealand

Postby ConcernedMum » Wed Apr 28, 2010 2:14 pm

Hello Mr Blobby

Would the CofE document on New Religious Movements help in explaining the difference between established religions and NRMs to your wife?

I took my son out of John Scottus for a number of reasons but the chief one was the breakdown in trust. I wouldn't put very young children, who often do not know to tell their parents things or who can easily be manipulated not to, in the care of people who behaved in deceptive and manipulative ways. Its all very "nice and wholesome" on the surface but the reality was much different. If the abuse scandals in Ireland (relating to institutions run by the Catholic Church) have taught us anything, it is to be careful when adults have too much power over children. I don't know about the Ficino school, but John Scottus has a very long day, with more academic work than I was lead to believe. The discipline was harsh. One way of disciplining the boys was to threaten them with having to sit "in the girls class". This happened to one 5 year old. It was intended to humiliate as there was a 'shame' attached to being in the girls class. I saw another child standing outside the door of the class (which was open but the child was out of view of the teacher) on his own beside a steep staircase. That child was also 4/5 in the reception class.

My feeling also was that too much pressure was put on the children to "perform" to make the school look good rather than considering the children. I have no evidence for that feeling so it could be a misperception but that was my feeling on it. I really don't think reciting Shakespeare is fun or necessary for a reception class's Christmas performance (ie 4/5 year olds).

From what I hear there are few of the boys who were in his class left in the school. There may be many reasons for this, including the area the school is in has a transitory population, but I suspect the turnover of pupils, in general, is high. My son was there for 8 months only and the harshness of the experience gave him the shock of his life. He was used to a very loving environment at home. He was very unhappy and while clearly some children appear to be ok in these schools, I think its not worth taking the risk.

p.s. when I say more academic work than I was led to believe I'm only talking about young children in reception class (age4/5) - obviously that's a strange thing to say about a school as in general that is a good thing! I meant only for young children over a longer than usual day for their age group.

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Re: Ficino School - New Zealand

Postby joeblogs » Sat May 08, 2010 12:33 pm

Hi Mr Blobby.
I worked in the Ficino School a few years ago as a student teacher and I was also in the SOP for many many years. Basically, I don't think it's a bad school, but as you yourself noted, the teachers all almost all only qualified with a DIP Ed. The problem I saw when working there was that the spirituality side of things is absolutely thrown in the kids faces by some teachers, to the extent that there was one who only answered the questions her 5 and 6 year old kids asked by sayin 'Because it's the will of God'. On the other hand, there are some very good teachers, but they are all secondary level teachers. They treated 10 year olds like they were much older, and their expectations were completely unrealistic. An example of this is the teaching of Shakespeare. This is a very difficult subject even for secondary students, but I saw teachers telling off 11 and 12 year olds because they didn't understand their lines, but not offering any explanation for them. The punishments are normal, detention, lines, standing outside the classroom etc, nothing like the physical that went on at St James. On the other hand, some of the teachers have a bad habit of ripping into the kids who misbehave, maybe beyond what would be deemed necessary by other teachers, and what I thought sometimes bordered on psychological abuse. Also, the teachers are mostly involved in the sop or the ses. This means that there are a few of the problems of arrogance that come along with this organisation. The teachers absolutely believe that they are right in their believes as taught by the SOP. This means the kids have to pause a lot, which is not necessarily a bad thing as they can be pretty rowdy at times, although it means that by the time the kids are 12 or 13, they generally hate everything to do with the SOP because they find it so boring and stupid. I agree with them, but thats my point of view... So, if you asked me, I wouldn't send my kids to this school. Not because I'm afraid of them suffering abuse, but because I think that a lot of unnecessary rubbish is pushed into their heads that they will later have to sieve through to find out what they actually believe themselves. It doesn't encourage thinking for yourself, as it says it does... it encourages you to believe what you're told. Finally, I don't know the new headmaster, I only worked under Broadwith, but I imagine it will not have changed very much, it will remain the SOP organisation/propaganda machine it was designed to be, because thats what the board of governers want. Anyway, I hope that helps.

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Re: Ficino School - New Zealand

Postby joeblogs » Sat May 08, 2010 12:40 pm

Oh and I just remembered, I did see some kids who had to do squats for an extended period of time as a punishment... so there is still a bit of physical punishment...

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Re: Ficino School - New Zealand

Postby MrBlobby » Fri Aug 13, 2010 2:38 am

Sorry I havent checked in for a while.
Have been very busy.
I wish to take this moment to thank all the contributors to this thread & those in the many other useful threads found on this forum.

I am pleased to say that we decided against putting our young one into the school & he is now attending a public school & thriving.
Plenty of friends, plenty of good wholesome fun, & plenty of learning in such a short time.
He's doing very well & our minds & hearts (not to forget our wallets) are all the better off for it.
Wifey saw the light, & we give our heartfelt thankfulness to you all.

Met the Principal, (Peter) & he seemed like a decent chap on the surface .
But, it was not the surface of one character we were concerned about.
It was the teachings of the 'organization'
We wish you all the very best life gives you, & encourage others who are/were in similar situation to us to have a good read through this forum to make informed decisions.

I will still check in from time to time, as I find the postings a fascinating study in human nature, education, cultism, religion & much more.

Thanks again
Mr Blobby

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Re: Ficino School - New Zealand

Postby bonsai » Fri Aug 13, 2010 12:46 pm

MrBlobby wrote:Met the Principal, (Peter) & he seemed like a decent chap on the surface .
But, it was not the surface of one character we were concerned about.
It was the teachings of the 'organization'

Hi Mr Blobby, I'm pleased that you have been able to make a decision regarding your son and that he is happy and settled. I think you are right in what you say about the head. Many people in the SES are genuinely nice and good hearted people but you are right that actually what matters is the underlying belief system and the character and ethos of the organisation and how this impacts.

That said there are certainly some in the SES and the Childrens schools who are good at presenting a benign face that is likely to appease with prospective students and their parents.


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Re: Ficino School - New Zealand

Postby ET » Mon Aug 16, 2010 10:05 am

Great news! If this forum exists for no other purpose it is here to inform and stop children and parents being put through what we went through. So proud to be part of this small fight back against those who abused us.
Pupil at St James Girl's School from 1979-1989, from age 4-14. Parents ex-members of SES.

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