Disruptive children and special schools

This morning on Jon Gaunt’s show they were talking about the recently announced government policy of moving “excluded” (expelled) children into the more popular schools, so that such kids don’t end up being concentrated in “sink schools” - that is, dumping grounds for kids other schools can’t deal with. I was intending to send him an email with my views on this subject, but because I got stuck in a traffic jam, couldn’t get to the computer in time to send it before the end of the show. One of the ideas mentioned was that there should be more special units and special schools for disruptive children. I feel qualified to comment on this, because I spent much of my education in such places. The special school was Kesgrave Hall in Suffolk, and I was sent there after getting expelled from a private school in Croydon, after my previous school had decided I could no longer stay there. The place was supposedly for academically able children with behavioural problems. The reality was a bit different.

It was a spin-off from an earlier school, a primary boarding school called Heanton in Devon, which closed some time in the 1980s. The founders were reacting against other schools which they claimed used children as “educational guinea pigs” - they preferred “tried and tested old-fashioned methods”, to quote the Kesgrave prospectus. They founded Kesgrave after realising that Heanton pupils were “invariably badly served” by the secondary schools they went to afterwards. The school ostensibly favoured a “structured” and “disciplined” approach, but appeared to sorely miss the opportunity to use the cane or slipper (though some staff did assault kids).

The problem, at least by the time I got there, was that plainly inappropriate pupils were taken on, and the school was a melting pot of different types of problems: some of the pupils were violent, some were just thugs, and others had various social difficulties. One I remember clearly was not apparently “academically able”. He could remember car number plates, but was obviously retarded. He was bullied very badly by members of his form group, and little was done about it. Another (in my form) was abused so badly over the years that he turned to drink while still at the school (I had to sleep in the same dorm as him through most of this period).

Quite a few of the staff were lazy and incompetent, and made various excuses to avoid punishing boys who attacked other boys for various “reasons”, and there was quite a bit of racism (including, on occasions, from senior staff), and a bit of sexual abuse too. “Stressful” is the best word I can use to describe living there, and the stress has never quite worn off.

As for a solution to the problem of disruptive pupils in mainstream schools, you need to avoid lumping all “disruptive” pupils into one group, separating the violent pupils, bullies and serial vandals from those with social difficulties, some of whom have tantrums, but are not opposed to learning. We need to realise that some of those who present difficulties at school are also vulnerable to becoming victims if they are put together with the violent, disturbed people. Some may have hyperactivity problems, which are often these days treated with Ritalin (an issue mentioned in an article by Margaret Cook in the New Statesman last week, noting that the drug companies taking doctors on various all-expenses-paid junkets and ghost-writing “research” in medical journals may be connected with this), but whatever happened to the matter of food additives having a role in influencing children’s behaviour and contributing to hyperactivity?

I think we should also lower the school leaving age, so that pupils who don’t want to be at school can leave and stop making everyone else’s life a misery, and invest more in adult ed, so that these people can get an education themselves if they decide they want one.

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  • To Whom it may concer!

    Let me enlighten you!

    I was a pupil at Heanton School between 1977 to 1980!

    If I ever manage to track down and meet face to face any member of staff who worked at Heanton School in my life time I shudder with cold terror to think just what I would do to said thing!

    I hold no terror for the thing, but I do for the value of my life!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Do you understand the meaning of TOTAL HATERD, OF THE TYPE THAT TRAVERSES NEARLY 30 YEARS OF TIME?????????????

    Just to prove that I was there, how about some names……..John Downing (PAEDOPHILE), Roy Lester (PAEDOPHILE), Edgar. G. Morris (SADIST), Alan Bleasedale (SADIST), Miss Kenworthy (SADIST), Mr Burrows (ANIMAL AND SADIST), & THE OTHERS……guilt of pleading ignorance….!!!!!!!!!!!!

    What human being puts a child on a metal skinned storage heater (wearing short trousers) & when he jumps off crying, beats said child about the head, picks him up, puts him back on said heater so he burns, laughs at said child and say’s……..this boy will do what ever you tell him! The answer is Downing & Lester!

    The boy was me………that’s just one of a multitude of tortures which I and others suffered………!

    If I were you I would not be advertising any involvement with this torture chamber………………….! Have you no shame…..????????????????????

    I feel that I am getting closer and closer to the perpatraitors & their families, beginning to know where they are now…….

    and I care nothing for the law!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I have waited so long to exact retribution………….!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    If you know any of these people……tell them I am coming…………!

    Mr.K.J.Kessler.

  • Rob Griffiths

    I was also a puipil at heanton between 79-84 and also at kesgrave from 84 til 89 so i had the full works & “benefit” of their regimes. It vwas horrendous. Although now i am happily married and adjusted when i left (with only 2 GCSE’s despite their wonderful teaching methods) i found it very difficult to mix having been in a controlled enviroment.

    The sadism of the teachers (& pupils) was tough & due to the pecking order system i became a violent bully simply to avoid being beaten up myself.

    I think about this part of my life with great regret now.

    would love to hear from pupils at the same time from both schools-i read mark phillips comments & do remember him from kesgrave

  • gary cross

    i went to this “SCHOOL” and my mother took me out after only 1 term .roy TWAT lester who reckoned he could cut hair. morris theC**T with his ugly wife and gargoyels of daughters. you are right about downing ,if they had the laws to protect us then as they do now they,d all still be inside ( or hanged)! but i don,t think it has done anyone any good . i still think there is a way we could get compensation ,or failing that lets find MORRIS and “TORTURE” him no matter how old he is (assuming he is still alive) let me know

  • simon nicholls

    i remember all those staff and what they done they all deserve to rot in hell for what they done if they r there now then they shopuld wait for me as i will b there for them soon and i remember u rob griffiths there was me and my brother chris and i remember phillip dubois

  • Just Me

    I have a few comments, I was at Heanton in the Mid to late 1960s if I remember right,there was a church across the street, and a Royal Air Force base at the bottom of the hill,(Wrafton Base was it?). the man over everything was called DR star,(allways in the shadows somewhere). The head master was Vivien Davis (spinless wimp & Paper Tiger in Real). but when it came to picking on children Brutal.His wife was the school nurse,she beat me more than once, all I can tell you is that I forget, or blocked out most of my time there. As proof of life I offer the following. When I Attended Heanton they had three houses, (Drake,Rally,Chitester). Something like that (not sure). The so called Teachers Mr Borrows *(beat me so bad the Police came to investigate). Mr Keith Davis * (Perv always slapping the boys on the arse with his walking sick). Mr osbourne * (always marching up and the corridoors with taps on his shoes repeatedly yelling GO TO SLEEP NOW, HEADS ON PILLOWS, ALL BOYS ASLEEP). Now I ask you how, the hell could anyone sleep with that BS going on, oh by the way he had a nasty son called Edgar. Mr Ironmunger * (would make children hold their arms straight out and place heavy books in their hands till the pain was un bearable). Mr Lester * (smoked a pipe as I remember). Mr Hogg * ( had a Bad temper). There was a model plane room, a comic paper room,a tennis court, sports field,and that proof I was there. oh some of the names of the boys that attended at the same time John Oatway Micheal O’Reilly Collar Elory many others I cant remember

  • just me

    from just me im sorry I did not realize my Email had expired. If you would like to Email me its fullamotool@hotmail.com

  • Gavin Weldon

    I was at Heanton between 1979 and 1983 and remember Kieth who was in my year and Rob Griffiths who I remember as a bully and I had many a disagreement with but I have no malice for any pupil. I was lucky at this school and seemed to have a fairly easy ride compared to some but in that time I experienced being slippered, spending weekends in bed and sitting in hallways with my hands on my head the whole time as punishment for minor things. This school was like something out of Dickens days. I would love to come face to face with John Morris who was a vicious teacher.Roy lester i have good memorys of as do Dave Frith and Mr keith. I remain unsure of John Downing but Ruth Rawle was a great teacher and crumpit to in a swimming costume.

  • Gary Johnstone

    Im just reading Keiths kesslers experiences, and now he’s jogged my memory with names that was archived,i wondered why everything was blanked out and now i understand why. All the answers are here, i now know why their is so much hatred for my parents,as they sent me to these schools, i too was at heanton 74/5 to 77 and i think i remember Keith but its vague.. i do remember Andrew and Scott earnshaw (both pupils).. Mr burrows , Ruth who had a mean triumph 2000 mk1, the school buses were 2x commas in yellow, i cant remember who had the cream Toyota Crown custom. i also remember the wurzels playing once at the school, and now its a nursing home. i would like to hear from those who attended this school and another school called Berrow in berrow wood Worc between 77-81 my email is VFAETZ at aol dot com cheers GJ

  • Barry Johnstone

    I have just read my sons comments on Heaton and Berrow school, all i can say in my defence is when the scocial services,and school, plus doctors threaten you with taking your child away because he is out of control,but if you send him to this school they wont take him from us and we can have him back when they think he is ready. you tend to except what they say . at 21 years old i naturally thought these educated people knew what they were doing how wrong i was , i have spent the last 30 odd years in hell thinking about my son going through that because of my stupidity saying sorry wont do it but if i ever come across any of the people who lied to me i wont be responable for my actions even at my age hindsight is a wonderfull thing, but it wont put right what went wrong.

  • Robert Griffiths

    I too attended Heanton School between 1975 and 1981, although I am not the Rob Griffiths who went to Kesgrave Hall. I was known as the “welsh womble”, and seem to remember being a hellraiser! I was forever writing lines at the weekend for terrible results in the house points system. The houses were called Raleigh, Drake & Chichester after the nautical explorers. Myself and fellow hellraiser Timothy Quinlan used to have races to see who could incur the most negative points on the board, often needing extensions below our names.

    My sincere apologies to anyone who remembered me as a bully, if I’m not being confused with someone else.

    Luckily for me, I have survived the experience relatively unscathed.

    Since reading of the experiences of the previous postees I have decided to create a website dedicated to connecting the previous pupils of Heanton School, so we may share our memories and maybe provide a bit of support for those of us who suffered. I will post again when it is online.

    In the meantime, if anyone would like to contact me, my email address is rhg5 at aber dot ac dot uk

  • The website is now live - but only displaying one page for now..

    If you have any info which may be useful eg photos, school history etc…

    http://www.heantonschool.org.uk

  • Jo Bloggs

    My parents would describe the same emotions that u have expressed. The not realising what was about to happen to their child. I often thiink that it must be trrible for them to know that their child suffered so much. However, it is not the fault of the parent!…The fault lies with the government institution responsible! Parents place their children in the care of people they are told will help them, but unfortunately the reality is very different! For my own part, if I thought I would get away with it I would gladly clamp open the mouths of the staff at Heanton School and burn out the nerves in their teeth with a soldering iron one one, and video the whole thing! Why should I feel shame about such an inhuman act perpetrated against sadists?….or are they really just sad cowards with no mind or will of their own? I have to say that because of these people I am capable of inflicting the most hideous torture upon anyone who would make me angry against them….without regret or pitty…that’s what they taught me!!!

  • Stewart Martin

    Having just read the messages from various ex pupils of heanton i am now with mixed views. firstly i would like to say hello to any one present whilst i was serving my time, gavin wealdon,(a good mate) andrew frame, andrew foster, the vicor of bray, to name just a few. I think we all know that we were all at heanton school for verying good reasons. When i first joined heanton i hated it so bad i attempted to run away with 4 other students,(sorry i dont remember names) big mistake ! after being picked up late evening by the police we were taken back to school to face mr.morris and his split cane, then paraded like animals around the dormatories to wake the boys and show the scars for such attempts. i also remember being slippered for not eating food i did not like, and like gavin standing in corridoors with my hands on my head. i now have children of my own and have chosen to never raise a hand to them, maybe because of my own experiences with c.punishment.the teachers and housefathers as i remember them were harsh but not without exeption fair. mr downing, always ok to me. mr bleasdale, short.miss rule, a proper darling and great year teacher.mr kieth, a nice bloke. mr frith, all the hands evow evow what ever that meant ? and roy lester a bad hairdresser. in summary my life has turned out ok and i wonder if it had anything to do the school that so many pupils dispised. if anyone reads this and remembers me please contact me through friends reunited

  • You had a Mr Frith at Heanton? We had one at KHS too … we used to call him Tefal and he had a pronounced bald bit at the front of his head which he claimed was put there surgically (I called BS on it because there was hair on it!). Was it the same guy? He was in his 30s and was at KHS briefly in 1990 or 1991 I think.

  • Denis Unwin

    I attended Berrow Wood school from 1974 to 1979, and the name above~~Gary Johnstone rings a bell!!! But I cannot picture you in my head.Please read ALL my feedback on this HOUSE OF HELL on the other blog, I explain all in lenghthly text, the nightmare and horror of that fucking HOUSE OF HELL! Do you remember me??? My 5year sentence there has left me with psychological scarrs that will always remain, even to this very day. I have been on anti~depressents since 1993, and I would be absolutely interested to hear from all previous pupils that attended there, to see how their life has worked out. How that premises survived all them years I just truly do not know! Anyway…..I strongly urge all people who attended that House of Hell to read all my writings on the other blog. What I have written is the TRUTH, and please, please feel free to leave feedback and contact details. I would be happy to organise a meeting/get together of all those that attended there, to discuss our experiences and hopefully, see faces of pupils who I was there with. Now don’t get me wrong…..There was a LOT of fucking bastards there!!! you know who you are!!! Bullies, thieves, and anti~social behaviour was rife, but there was good pupils too. Does ANYONE remember me??? Anyway, I hope to hear from you, or please do leave a comment………

  • gareth flower

    hello gavin,stewart rob etc and anyone else from 1980-82. I remember wed 1st Oct 1980. we were just going to look at a school i was told, Imagine my horror to look out of Mr Hockley’s window to see my parents car disappearing out the gate. didnt see ‘um for 10 weeks. After that though it was possibly the happiest two years of my schooling. If you put Mr Morris’s sadism and Miss Kenworthy’s mindbender to one side, Mr Kessler who i didnt know seems to have been very badly affected by it all. GET HELP. yes they were employed by the school probably ‘cos no other school would have them but if these things are still eating you up after all this time you need professional help. Mr Kieth and Mr Frith I know are both dead, not sure about the others.

  • ken.(I was In raliegh)

    Ive just read your comments on the bastards from heanton If only you knew how happy i was to find you my only hope is that your still out there, i was at that torture house the same time as you. I seem to remember smashing an etchasketch over you on a trip to the beach!, sorry, more importantly I have been trying for years now to find those evil bastards but keep gettin side tracked. If your still out there for the love of god get in touch and lets see if we cant pool our talents and track down those vicious fucks for some compensation, financial or other..

  • GLENN FRIGHT

    Hi I was also at this school and frankly its caused me pain for years and scared my life. I am on facebook as Glenn Black I have a good life now but the pain is there and very hard. Why we had to go to such a place is beyond me and I would like to meet others who went there for coffee and a chat if you are anywhere near Manchester. I dont feel anger anymore if you know what I mean. When I tell people about the place it sounds like a horror movie or some kind of government experiment. Its all good and well talking about pro help Garath but sometimes just talking can help just as much or even more. After readin this page I now know IM not mad after 30 years of confusion. All the best. If its any help I say Morris/BogFish looking painfully Ill some years back if Im mistaken do let me know so I can drive pins through his testicals slowly over weeks. Im also antonblk at g m a i l dot c o m

  • David Ben Judah

    I spent 5 years at Heanton, some of those with Gareth robert and others who post here and elsewhere.

    To hold such hatred as I see in these blogs and fora for 30 years is not healthy or helpful.

    I do not have a rosy or revisionist view of my time there, or at KHS, but I do not hold any grudge or ill will towards anyone, staff or pupil.

    Yes, I was hurt both physically and mentally during my time there but it made me a stronger person rather than damaging me.

    Believe it or not I miss some of the staff - Mr Keith, Mr Lester, and Mr Frith in particular. I remember Mr Frith’s entire wake up call “All the hands evo, evo, evo, lash up and stow. Wakey, wakey rise and shine the morning is fine, Hands of cocks on socks” It was an old navy chant used by senior rates to get crew out of their hammocks. I also remember his address based on the nemonic using his rings.

    Some part of life have been a let down since then - christmas time was a highlight for me and it has never been as good since. I still love to spend time on the beach or on sand dunes and burrows. I also still hate running since the time spent going round the pitch as a punishment but I hated it before the as well.

    The only remember of staff who sticks in my memory as being disliked is Mr Morris - The Africana as I remember him. He was a bully, violent, and racist - I vividly recall the incident where he hit Aleric calling him a ‘black bastard’ and Ricky coming to Aleric’s defence. I was often the butt of his evil humour or the victim of a visit to the woodwork room and the doweling rods. Having written all that, and much more unwritten, I still bare him no ill will and forgive all.

    It is time for us all to get past these times and events and to heal, forgive, forget, and move on.

  • iain croucher

    hi i have mixed feeling about my time there .i thougt roy lester ok.frith with his metal detecter ok .keith was great.i remember g weldon and a few others .no one seems to say anything about hockley the head.i only had one term with morris he deffenty was wot every one says he was. i left with hockley so i never had him as head thank god. if any ome would like to get in touch i would love to hear from you .i was there from 77to early 80s

  • tim seswick

    hi was at berrow wood school 74 till 77 no 64,please get in touch

  • ken

    hey I remember you iain croucher!! sadly I am a terrible technophobe so have never had an e mail address nor will I ever but if you leave me some way of contacting you i’ll get in touch cos i’d love to chat, if my memory is right I seem to recall standing with you and a couple others outside the main entrance one evening for what seemed like eternity as punishment for some minor misdemeanor! Get in touch please I’ love to talk..

  • ken

    oh yeah and Keith kessler please for the love of my sanity<whats left of it!! please please get back on this forum cos I really wanna talk with you re finding the sadistic feks who were teaching when we were there.. (To catch up of course) specifically morris downing hockley and that vile piece of slime bleasdale(sports) ooo do i really wanna talk about the old days with him……..

  • Glenn Fright

    David to be fair when you are a young developing innocent child and an adult abuses you it changes your life. Yes we can ”move on” but forgetting about it is another thing. I dont forgive these people or the sytem that allowed this kind of place to exist. My mother allowed me to go to this school under false promises not knowing what I was going through. Its been a hard journey because of the start and IM forgiving no one because I choose not to. Child abuse should not be forgiven it destroys life and very nearly mine.

  • Ian Holt

    I attended Heanton School from 1969 to 1973, I have to say reading the comments here whether or not I was existing on some separate planet or something. I certainly do not recognize the description of such staff members as Roy Lester or Keith Davis as being so sadistic. My memory tells me that the staff were indeed firm in terms of discipline, but not much beyond a slap with the perforated slipper.

    A school of 48 boys (during my time there) obviously there is misbehavior but I cannot ever recall ever seeing staff react with the sort of violence depicted here.

    I recall Heanton as a school where I had a great time, always off somewhere doing something, whether to the beach, fishing, playing various sports etc. The teaching staff for me at least laid a foundation of education which has stood me in good stead throughout my working life.

    Thus reading these comments I begin to wonder, was I attending Heanton in a parallel universe? :-)

  • Keith Kessler

    Well, well, well….my old m8 Kenny Grey! Bashed me over the head with an etchasketch….which I well deserved for flicking his legs with a lollipop stick being an annoying BASTARD! Top comment….Vengeance lies in the moment, if you aren’t capable of exacting revenge at the time it deserves, I strongly advise disposing of such emotions, as they are likely to drive you crazy! However, to those people who seem to have had a good time at Heanton I can only say this..”Obviously no bastard put his hand in your shorts whilst he marked your work!” I am beyond revenge or hatred these days but I am very much a product of the people who ran Heanton and if I had a daughter I would pray to god (I am not religious at all) that she would never encounter someone like me! Anyway, Kenneth, m8, I remeber u so well, we really were m8’s at that place and u of many people suffered heavily at their hands - man u just had too much spirit, and they don’t like that u know! - but buddy we gotta move on! I would love to get in touch with people from Heanton, but! then I kinda think about the kind of person I am - & it’s not pretty! Logic dictates that if I am not pretty then my contemporaries are unlikely to be prettier! Therefore, contact I think other than in forums is not good! Maybe I have alot to answrer for, maybe not? At present I would say i am very well adjusted and my liver hates me….roflmao! Kenny grey!…my enduring memory of u other than being a real m8 is of u SCREAMING IN AGONG as u took a beating one night, It woke the whole school, I think it was one of ur attempts at running away….if u remeber my bed in Croyde was next to urs (u hated me cryin all night when i broke my arm..^^) during that time i couldn’t shrink back into my bed far enough to escape what u were getting! The next day when we got up I saw the marks all over you, the imprint of the sole of an army boot all over u in black raised welts, arms, legs body u were covered, and they were raised welts too! I can still see the look u gave me now even after all these years!…I was even ashamwed to look u in the eye! Like I failed you my m8. Like I couldn’t help you! I think the hardest part of being at Heanton was being a witness as much as being a victim - kinda like shell shock! But, you gotta remeber people, taking a punch in the mouth as an adult is not comparable to recieving an uprovoked and sustaind violent attack as a child! A final memory from me for now was of Timmothy Langley having a letter recieved frome home and then less than a minute later having it wrenched from his hand torn into pieces and deposited in the bin. Wrong place wrong time was the justification! This guy was lucky to get a letter from home as it wasn’t a frequent occurence. he never evven read it before it was destroyed. Later that evening he tried to recover it from the bin but was caught…u can guess what happened to him! My final question is……if that was your child….what would you do? My parents chose to ignore it….^^ To this day I have a very vivid memory of standing in Croyde dormitory doorway and telling myself over and over…”That never happened!”…just what it was I don’t know. Kenny Grey, my m8.

  • anthony sandilands

    i can vividly remember my time at heanton school which abruptly ended when i beat mr morris up with his own strap then got injected every night i was tied to a bed and removed

  • ken

    oh keith mate i didnt think you were still out there and didnt dare think u would remember me so well!! nice one m8, it sounds like your lifes gone down the same roads as mine and i doubt theres much left that could shock me. yeah that night has never truly left me and i reckon its still the reason i suffer the vivid terrors some nights! most people dont believe it wen u tell em though an put it down to childish exageration. i cant remember how u broke ur arm but i do remember it causing u grief at nite sorry 4 not bein more tolerant. i remember timothy langley too an the passion he had for eatin all sorts of crap!! i recall him throwin up one evenin on the steps of lynton dorm and bein well impressed at all the bits of toy soldier an rubber in it i seem to recall him bein overly singled out in sports too cos he had athsma bloody tom bleasdale an his twisted ideas of good sportsmanship, he was the c”*#t who woke me one nite wen i was sleepwalkin an accused me of thievin from lockers it freaked the livin hell outta me then he sttod me right next to the heater in the dinin room at breakfast so close it burnt my legs an he hit me if i moved now theres a chap id love to have a meal with. theres no trace of any of them though its spooky they seem to have just vanished from existence??? well me ol bezzie m8 stay in touch please cos i was well chuffed wen i saw ur name but i didnt think u would still be out there glad u are though, take care mate and hopefully ill see a reply again soon.

  • icroucher

    can any one imagine wot we would get in compo if anyone belived us thevm way children were treated then .no wonder some went off the rails. imagine the conseuling we would get if it happened now

  • ken

    i remember u anthony sandilands and the way they dissapeared u for your kind treatmnt of morris! and ian croucher you r so right about the compo but i cant find any trace of any of the sadistic ” teachers” who were there, like i said its as though they’ve vanished from the face of the earth??? u kind of shove these things as far away in your head as possible, the wet nelly parades through the house some mornins for a so called healthy ice cold shower for being so audacious as to wet the bed! they were mr morris’ little routine humiliation, one of them. tom bleasdales game of hare an hounds for the less capable kids durin football, mr burrows and his obsession with hankies punishment for lack of was bein hauled over the bench and slapped stupid endured that one many times i could go on but there aint enough space! but anyone who can be so blind as to describe this as moderate discipline was obviously one of the more favoured pupils and there were a few of them i recall well liked by the more pervy teachers. i do remember several uncomfortable times when teacher proximity occured during lessons and bath time like you mentioned keith so u werent alone there..i have tried to “lose” all these emotions but they just come out in other ways so i am kinda passionate about tryin to find these ex teachers(tormenters) who believes a kid when they say these things,? noone, they just say your makin it up, well i want justice before its too late cos its fucked my life up big time, i dont think its too much to ask for any of us is it?

  • icroucher

    by the sounds of it it got worse after i left . i remember downing and the standing in the corridors for hours on end .by the sounds of it also i must of got of lightly . but even so we could all have been treated better after all we were only children .

  • iain croucher

    hi every one i am on facebook .iam sitting in my 4x4 inthe picture if you want to add me as a friend i would love to hear from you or my email is icroucher@tiscali.co.uk i canot think of any pupils that i wouldnot want to hear from

  • anthony sandilands

    i know where most ov the staff live mr downing is still at the same village miss rawlings is now remarried and mr leicester is still in the area mr bleasdale i beleive is dead and mr frith

  • Glenn Fright

    Anthony do you remember when you and I and Robert Knightingale ran away?

  • ken

    thats just typical of bleasdale!! still it would be nice to know where he is buried, put some flowers on the grave!!! as for tyhe rest of them i would very much like to know where they reside now especially john downing morris and that F*&”“@R hockley so Anthony s if you got any info on any of them that might help me get closer to findin them i,d be very appreciative m8. I dont suppose you live in north devon do ya? or nearby cos we could meet up for a chat or whatever i just dont like all the technochat its too public for my liking!! anyway let me know… all the best to everyone who survived that place i wonder where phillip dubois is now too??

  • anthony sandilands

    yes i do remember when we all ran away it was a regular occurance for me

  • Icroucher

    where is all the other posts

  • Christopher

    was mr downing still at heanton at the end of your time there?

  • Lee baker

    Funny thing the internet i was looking for something about the school and found this.I went to the school from 1976-79. although i was not pleasant for pretty much of the time is was not all bad. I did give me discipline in my everyday life and I remember getting into Group 2 once and having a weekend off school chores. I still have a place for the Malverns and have been back to the school which is almost unreconisable as the main building is converted into 3 houses. I do remember you though. I am currently a freelance IT Consultant but having recently had a Liver transplant I’m not able to work at the moment.

  • alan d

    If anyone had a bad experience @ heanton or kesgrave hall school , then to let you know the ball is rolling re certain staff . Support can be put in place , should anyone wish to report any events to the police.

  • alan

    Do you remember christopher coleman setting fire to the classroom.

  • alan d

    Several bits have been in the media recently mainly about Kesgrave hall school, but a couple of lines about heanton as well.

  • anthony sandilands

    i was at heanton school from 77 to 83 it was the worst time ive ever had the place destroyed me mentally and phisically i was drugged up by morris tied to a bed with ripped up sheets by morris and was beaten regularly by morris i ran away numerouse times with other lads on getting caught we were beaten and parraded around the school naked made to stand against the wall naked it has only been in the last 8 years ive been able to get the hatred out ov my system for what was done to me at heanton by morris,downing,and co i broke my leg falling out ov tree by scout hut and ended up in hospital for nearly a year had bone graph ive been back to heanton to find its now a nurseing home but went to the church and saw loads ov old school pictures they have got ov trips out with the church

  • Brigden

    Anthony Sandilands - remember you well mate. Always wondered whether you survived it all in the end…. Glad to hear that you did.

    Robert Griffiths - have you abandoned your website on the school (www.heantonschool.org.uk)?

  • Wayne

    I believe that we were all there because we didn’t tow the line.i was caned,hit with the “dog of two tails” the “rhino hide” slippered and made to stand naked in the corridor. I do remember the good times tho. Fishing on a Wednesday with John downing,chips at bleasdales house ( no vinegar and ketchup) mr Keith,the loveliest old man on the planet.waking up to ALL HANDS HEAVE HO HEAVE HO HEAVE HO,LASH UP AND STOW……WAKEY WAKEY WAKEY RISE AND SHINE THE MORNINGS FINE.

  • Anon

    Has anyone been following the Sexual abuse allegations against John Downing ? It goes to court in June 2014, over 20 counts of indecent behaviour, spanning from mid 70’s to 80-82

  • ThePostMan!

    Hello,

    Here is a link to the press coverage of John Downing’s pending trial for sex crimes against children.

    http://www.northdevonjournal.co.uk/Heanton-Court-boarding-school-teacher-face-extra/story-20274272-detail/story.html Looking at the picture he is a shadow of the “all powerful” house master that used to scare the hell out of me, he’s just a sad, pathetic old man! But I am now 6ft tall and 17stone. Quite a reversal don’t you think? Here is John Downing’s address and telephone number & it’s confirmed! I spoke to him just the other day on the telephone, I asked him his name and if he was in court soon. He replied, “Yes, June!” 2 Penhallam Warren Lane Mill St Torrington Devon EX38 8AL Tel: 01805623568 All the details above are in the public domain for anyone who cares to look! http://www.192.com or http://www.whitepages.co.uk The reported address seems to be misrepresented, Water Lane is just that a lane with no street side front doors. I think the reporter maybe heard it wrong and mistook Warren Lane for Water Lane. The majority of the press reports list his address as “Penhallam”, not too difficult to find! His house is right on the junction of Warren Lane and Mill St, it’s the big house with the high wall, check it out on Google Street View! The court case is at Exeter Crown Court for 1 week starting on the 9th June 2014. I hope this interest some of you!

  • Lee Woolcott-Ellis

    On 10th April 2015, at Exeter Crown Court, John Downing was found guilty of 39 counts of gross indeceny, indecent assaults and physical assaults against 7 pupils of Heanton School between 1968 and its closure in the 1980’s. He was sentenced to 21 years in prison and that is were he is now. His arrogance stayed with him to the end!! http://www.northdevonjournal.co.uk/North-Devon-teacher-jailed-21-years-boarding/story-26314113-detail/story.html

  • Guest
  • Glad to see someone get a proper jail sentence for child abuse — too many have got suspended sentences.

  • M Risbrook

    Are there any particular staff from KHS that you would be glad to see jailed for child abuse?

    Riaz informed me that you had a particularly fraught relationship with Michael Geoffrey Smith and a few of the care staff I have forgotten the names of. Who was the member of care staff that was with you in the bathroom when you were throwing a screaming fit late at night that lasted for nearly an hour?

  • Darius Drewe

    I read this blog the other day with a mixture of amusement and horror, ,my random Googling (gor reasons which escape me, to be honest) of the word ‘Heanton’ having awakened several disturbing memories from my own past.

    I too, was a pupil there (under my real name, Drewe Shimmon) for four horrific terms between early 1983 and late 1984. Some of you might even remember me. For what it’s worth, I will go on record as saying that other than a slight look of pleasure when he gave us a caning, slippering or spanking, I never ever suffered any sexual abuse at the hands of John Downing. But then again, I was never one of his “good boys”- I don’t know who was, although I suspect John Smith, who seemed to get on with him very well, may have been one of them. Nor did I ever find anything pervy about Roy Lester- aside from the aforementioned bad haircuts, which may well have constituted some form of abuse, I always found him to be kind, gentle and sweet, and wondered what in the name of God he and the other nice staff (old sailor Mr Frith, with his catchphrase of “you pipe down”, good-looking Miss Blackburn, the caretaker couple whose names escape me for the moment, chef Gary Gomez, and lovely cookery teacher Mrs Channing) were doing there. They must have signed some pact they were hitherto unaware of…

    No, the torture I suffered at Heanton was most definitely of either a physical nature (endless canings, route marches, “run detention” round nearby villages, having one’s head held underwater for not being able to swim, being made to do endless sit-ups and push-ups by sadistic bastards like Mr “Zebedee” Folland and Mr Walklate, having one’s fingers slammed inside a desk, my muscles twisted, and “chinese haircuts” performed on my head by Mr Bleasdale for not being good at telling the time, and on one occasion, being bounced off the hard wooden panelling round the side of a door by “Bogfish” Morris, the headmaster) or a psychological inclination. The latter, perhaps, being the most damning of all.

    Apart from repeatedly being told that my “parents had abandoned me because they couldn’t be bothered with me”, when in fact they’d actually been threatened that if they DIDN’T send me there, I’d be taken into care (something my Mum’s social worker mates in Barkingside told her was actually impossible, but by then it was too late) the staff seemed hell bent on breaking down every psychological reserve of safety of self-worth you had previously had outside the school. Utterly innocuous comments, such as “my old comprehensive used to close daily at 3 30” would be met for no apparent reason with cries of “liar” “deceitful boy” or “stop making up stories, you expect us to believe your school was the only one that ever did that” (when in truth, EVERY day school did that, especially in East London where I came from) from unqualified so-called ‘teachers’ like Miss Thompson (my form tutor) or the aforementioned Downing.

    Generally, the trick seemed to be to find your Achilles heel and exploit it: in my case it was my mathematical dyslexia, which I was later officially diagnosed with at a ‘proper’ school, coupled with a burgeoning Tourette’s tic, whereas in the case of my classmate Martin Wakeling, it was his linguistic dyslexia AND an unfortunate case of hyperactivity causing him to constantly shake, thus leading to the nickname ‘Shakeling’ (although to be honest in that regard, we boys were as bad as the staff ) Or in the case of Robert Chapman, who was in my dorm, named Woolacombe (all the dorms were named after local towns, although there was no ‘Westward Ho!’, as that would have been too jovial) it was because he was an orphan from a series of unsuccessful adoptive families up an down the country, leaving him with not only a social stigma but the most impenetrable accent ever heard.

    However, regardless of your physical/vocal attributes or dexterity (or lack thereof) ALL pupils were criticised daily- for everything from an inability to run as fast as the others during PE, or being slightly overweight, or something as minor as possessing squeaky slippers- and dealt with accordingly, usually by Morris or Downing. Or, on some occasions by Mrs Morris (not a member of official staff, but always there to dish out her own form of ‘discipline’ ) whose methods of dealing with ‘difficult’ kids included on one occasion painting my entire face with Gentian Violets to stop me from nervously licking my chapped lips, or emptying a bucket full of rancid water over me from the back of the kitchens. Lovely.

    As you got older, you were allowed a few more privileges- being only 9, I was allowed to have my parents book into a hotel into the nearby town of Braunton and take me out for the weekend, also on one occasion taking my mates Graeme Barnes and Paul Rixon out into Exeter to see RETURN OF THE JEDI before an infamously elongated rural bus journey back which almost made my Dad as bad-tempered as the staff, although in his case it was justified. Older lads, such as Charlie Griffiths (another Londoner, from Highbury, N5, I believe) Anthony Harris, Phillip ‘Bod’ Dubois (from Walton On Thames, maybe?) and Darren Buezeval (from Surbiton) got allowed to go into Barnstaple or Ilfracombe by themselves with one nominated as ‘leader’, and buy records: they even got away with going to a party at the house of a local girl’s parents once, but ironically, although that was allowed, the single Harris bought (the 12-inch picture disc of Frankie’s “Relax” with the picture of the BDSM couple on it) got confiscated.

    Actually, MOST things got confiscated at Heanton. The week I started there, all my books of ghost stories (mainly the ones for kids edited by Mary Danby and R Chetwynd Hayes, which my previous school in Hertfordshire, though by no means perfect either, had not only allowed but positively encouraged) were judged ‘unsuitable for a boy of my age’ (they couldn’t have been any scarier than the horrors I was about to have inflicted on me for 18 whole months) and locked away til the end of term. The day before we broke up, I was reading Richard Matheson’s “Hell House” (I had by then been judged by an outside adjudicator of some kind to have an “adult reading age”) which belonged not to me but my Dad’s best mate, and because it hadn’t been packed into a suitcase ready to go onto the train from Barnstaple to Exeter, it got yanked out of my hands and flung in a bin. On another occasion, another pupil (Steven Goldsmith? Golding? I don’t remember, but I do remember he was fat, blonde and from Plymouth, and later that term he broke my nose) lent me a copy of ‘65 Great Tales Of Horror’ by Mary Danby: that too got confiscated, merely because I hadn’t put it away in time at the end of break. I never got hold of another copy again until 1998, in a bookshop in Hampstead: my girlfriend dumped me the same day and I didn’t care. I had got the book back. I had defeated Mrs Kenworthy and won, 14 years later.

    But having one’s property confiscated is small fry compared to most of what went on- indeed, if that were the sum total of the school’s misdemeanours, I might have quite enjoyed it. Rather, it was the constant feeling of dread and torment that almost crushed me: getting up in the morning and realising it was either tinned tomatoes (yuck) or prunes (double yuck) for breakfast, dependent on the day of the week, or braised steak with broad beans (which you had to eat ALL of, even the crackling and bones) for lunch, and you would be FORCED to eat it, even if it made you physically sick, lest you bear the brunt of Downing’s wrath and be forced to write another 100 lines while everyone else went to Saunton Sands for the day. Admittedly, some of the food- fish fingers, shepherds pie, bacon and eggs etc- was fine, especially after Gary came to work in the kitchen- but it was the enforcement I objected to. You could put your pinkie finger up as the ladle went round to indicate you wanted a ‘small’ of something you didn’t like- but if uber-sadist Bleasdale was on duty, he’d insist that rather than any preference for food that didn’t make you spew, it meant you clearfly weren’t hungry- and therefore had to have a small portion of the main course as well, which usually turned out to be something more edible. And of course, the ‘small’ you got of that would be TINY, as opposed to the only marginally-reduced portion of whatever food it was that gave you instant nausea upon consumption.

    That’s if you even GOT any breakfast, again, if Egghead (Downing) had caught you even MUMBLING after lights out the night before, he’d have you stood up against the wall with your hands on your head for three or four hours before sending you back to sleep, and woe betide you if you stated to lean sideways, scratch your arse or look remotely tired, as he’d soon come flying out of the ‘duty office’ at the end of the corridor and shake and batter you repeatedly in the most damningly painful manner possible, to the point where you nearly felt you were going to be killed. Then in the morning, you’d have to stand against the kitchen wall during breakfast and do it all over again, before eventually sitting down when everyone else had left to rancid tea and a slice of dry cold toast. Which, of course, made you late for lessons, meaning Bleasdale or Thompson or Kenworthy would have another go at you.

    And so it went on. Although, admittedly, Miss Rawle, the English teacher, wasn’t that bad- not only was she quite good looking and the source of a few schoolboy crushes (although I preferred Miss Alvsaker myself, as she looked like Joan Jett and took us to her family’s farmhouse for boating expeditions) she was less ‘unreasonable’ than the rest. Sure, she yelled at you a few times, but no more than any other member of staff with a gaggle of unruly youths would have done. For the second term, she was my ‘house’ mistress- all schools have houses of course- and very good to me when I was on the ‘plus’, but very scornful when I found myself, towards the end of term, on the ‘minus’ The thing is, none of us- my housemates Andrew Foster and James Brignam included- could ever work out what we’d done to suddenly be put on the minus in the first place. It was almost as if they were deliberately, randomly and arbitrarily adding and deducting points just to fuck with your heads. Which, of course, they probably were.

    Another regular occurrence, which in the end became more enjoyable as you realised it was a way of getting out of lessons, were Bogfish’s “investigations”- endless, slow, tedious attempts to solve which boy had committed some minor misdeed such as dripping soapy water on the floor of the corridor outside a washroom, or knackering a cubicle doorhandle. These events, which sometimes lasted for days betwixt bedimes, were akin to scenes from Agatha Christie novels, with the entire school (there were only about 60 of us, after all) made to sit cross-legged in our dressing gowns and pyjamas in a cold assembly hall with no dinner while the staff attempted to coax either information out of their grasses or confessions under duress. And of course, in accordance with the crushing inevitability that is human nature, half the people claiming they’d seen so-and-so kick a door in or threaten someone were merely joining in a concept of “shared memory” or “chinese whispers”- something the press and police would do well to consider these days every time some opportunist attempts to boost their flagging bank balance by claiming a rock star once accidentally fondled their knee at a gig in 1971. Especially when, as we ex-Heantoners know, the real abusers mainly still originate from the educational system…

    Part 2 to follow.

  • Darius Drewe

    Part 2 (see part 1 below, they post in reverse order on here)

    So, why DIDN’T we tell our parents about any of this? The answer is a three-pronged one. 1) Many of us did, verbally, during ‘exeats’ or the school holidays, but we weren’t believed, because in those days, kids were to be seen and not heard, and adults were infallible. This was a particular bone of contention for me when they quite clearly lied about me on my end-of-term report, claiming that I ‘buried my head in my macabre books’ rather than paying attention in lessons- the same macabre books, one supposes, that they’d confiscated off me at the start of term!! I notice that when I swopped my love of horror for a love of stories about war, soldiers and blowing people up (Jack Higgins, Alistair MacLean, Desmond Bagley etc) they had no complaints whatsoever… 2) Several kids, such as the ones who went to the ‘reunion’ at the Dog & Trumpet in Carnaby Street in the 90s (I missed it, but heard about it later on, although ironically, on the day in question, I had been working just round the corner at the Hellfire Club in Oxford St- god alone knows what I’d have done had I turned up) didn’t actually think their treatment was that bad, and thus didn’t cause a fuss.

    This last explanation was definitely true of Nick Mutton, a boy who I had bonded with due to both our parents being from the BBC: one morning 15 years later, in London’s infamous Goth hangout the Slimelight, I happened to mention my education to someone who transpired to have known Nick later at Kesgrave, and he put us in touch. During the phone conversation that ensued, he, despite my own take on things, didn’t seem to have any complaint about the way he was treated at all- even though his voice had clearly still not broken at the age of 28, and he was living, quite possibly as a closeted gay man, alone in a small Welsh town with few friends and drinking heavily. But each to their own.

    The third explanation, though it sounded far-fetched and fantastical when you said it at the time, has been since borne out by the fact of it being later documented as having happened elsewhere: namely, that we DID write to our parents, every Sunday on letter-writing day, week in week out, and complain about the treatment we received- but of course, as the staff (in particular Morris and Downing again) would always read them first before posting them, nothing ever got through. The general belief at the time was that if anything untoward DID appear, they’d simply forge our handwriting and write to our parents telling them what a wonderful time we were having. Or just not send it at all- which is why when I phoned my Mum (conversations which I believe were also bugged) she always asked why it had been so long since I’d written.

    For her, who apparently used to cry openly onto my Dad’s shoulder after every phone call, the last straw came in 1984, and finally, after looking into other London boroughs only to find that ‘maladjusted’ kids from all of them had been sent there as well due to the GLC’ s umbrella system (making Snatcher Thatcher’s later abolition of it the only decent thing she managed during 12 years in office) she decided the only thing for us to do was to up sticks, piss off to her home city of Birmingham, and start afresh. Admittedly, things didn’t exactly go well for me there either, and by 1985 I was back at another ‘special’ school- but at least this time, it was a proper one, run by qualified teachers who cared, one of whom spotted my disabilities and had them diagnosed in weeks, and whose aim was to get you back into mainstream education by age 13 rather than just keep you trapped in a musty old building. And eventually, in 1987, I DID return to mainstream, leaving three years later in 1990 with some good GCSEs under my belt.

    I was one of the lucky ones. I escaped, and though I had to give up a home I loved in a nice street in the suburbs of the capital, my Dad had to bankrupt himself with commuter fares (making himself the most fatigued man in the Midlands in the process) and my Mum had to forsake her circle of ‘theatrical’ and ‘artistic’ friends for an altogether more prosaic crowd who no doubt wondered why she’d come back after having forsaken them to live in ‘that London’ 20 years earlier, at least I never had to have Bogfish bounce my head off a wall shouting “I’ll show you bloody temper” again, or Downing yelling “YU- AAAARE- ONNNNN- DETEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEENTIAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANN!! AAAAARE YU NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT?” repeatedly in my face whilst threatening me with a cane. And at least I missed out on Kesgrave, which was supposedly even worse (though how that could be possible beggars all belief)

    When I tried to explain my story to the teachers at my new ‘special’ school in Brum, I was understandably met with a certain amount of incredulity, particularly by one teacher (himself not the nicest bloke in the world, but nowhere on the Heanton scale) who kept asking “did the D.E.S close it?” The fact remains that the D.E.S (Department of Educational Science, as it was then) didn’t even KNOW about it- because, obviously, someone somewhere high up was taking backhanders to keep fucking quiet.

    When I first went to view the place, I was shown round by a lad called Kevin Morley (who I see from this site had been similarly ‘abandoned’ there by being told he was going for a ‘day out’, only to see his own folks’ car disappear out of the driveway before being whisked off by the Hockleys, who I never met as they’d gone by the time I turned up in ‘83) while my Mum & Dad, who had been assured by the cowbag that ran Redbridge Education Dept (a Ms Ruth Gordon) that it was not any kind of ‘special’ or ‘naughty’ school at all, just an exclusive private school in the country, were shown round by Bogfish. It was only then that he dropped the bombshell on them of what kind of school it actually was, showing them the paperwork to prove it. Of course, unbeknownst to me (who quite liked the look of the place and kept asking when I was starting there) they immediately started going about doing everything they could to make sure I didn’t go- but the wheels were already in motion. SOMEONE on the school’s payroll was clearly sending out missives to local education authorities (LEA’s) saying something along the lines of “do you have any non-conforming, ‘malad’ kids in your catchment area? If so, send them to us, and we will instil discipline into them” Furthermore, this was obviously NOT just in Greater London, as, like I say above, one kid I knew came from Plymouth, another from Portsmouth, one (Jason White possibly?) from Yorkshire, one (I think Brignam) from either Man, Lindisfarne or some extremely remote Hebride, and Wakeling from St Helier (the one in Jersey, not the council estate near Morden) So it was obviously widespread. There were also two kids there (twin brothers I think) whose names escape me now, who appeared to have come from a gypsy/tinker family of no fixed abode, and had thus had no prior education: whenever you complained about your treatment, you were constantly reminded how well the school had done for them, who had only had ‘one pair of pants and a toy car between them’ or somesuch, and what a positive effect it had had on their lives- as if they had been placed there FOR that purpose.

    But what, more importantly, was Heanton’s purpose? This question has haunted me for 30 years, to the point where I still expect somebody to pull up in a black car one day, take me aside and explain it to me. Was it some kind of strange psycho-sociological experiment in human behaviours, with us as unwitting guinea pigs? Was it a child abuse ring? (I personally believe that such things, much like the ‘Illuminati’ are a social media myth, although obviously abusers themselves are not) A religious sect? A group of teachers sacked from other schools for being too strict who believed in the ‘old methods’, clubbed together to buy a crumbling old house off some hick estate agent who was only too keen to get it off his books, and then set up as a school thanks to corruption and pecuniary advantage, paying off the mortgage with fees from parents? And on that subject, if LEAs were sending kids there (or at least farming them out) how did it justify being a fee-paying school anyway? More to the point, who were the strange group of people from some local ‘round table’ or other, who took us all out for a day at some leisure centre in either Barnstaple or Bideford, then a slap up meal, after which (despite us all having been on our BEST behaviour) we were then told we’d ‘disgraced the school’ and would have all our privileges stopped (yeah, like we had any, except staying up on Thursdays to watch Top Of The Pops)

    What led it to be eventually closed (did, possibly, the exposes mounted by Esther Rantzen on THAT’S LIFE a few years later cause ripples) only to reopen elsewhere as Kesgrave, which apparently had some link or other with another insititution (forgive me if I’m unclear on the details) called Berrow Wood? And what happened to the lads who didn’t escape before seniors like I did, and ended up staying there til school leaving age? You were only supposed to be there til the age of 13, but some lads- including one called Tom something or other, who was the first person to ever play me Beach Boys, Doors and Grateful Dead tapes and show me copies of ‘Oz’ and ‘Bogey’ he’d got off his elder brother) were at LEAST 14 by the time I left. What became of them? I know that the atrocious ‘Write In English’ and ‘Hey Maths!’[ textbooks they lumbered us with couldn’t have been doing them that much good.

    Of course, Nick Mutton would have had me believe, from our phone conversation in 1999, that the whole thing was in my imagination. I know it wasn’t- and reading about Downing’s other ‘exploits’ (I do seem to remember hearing of ‘midnight feasts’ but had no idea that masters were involved) plus the comments from other ex-pupils, have proved that they weren’t. Yet, despite the article bringing back a few unpleasant shudders, it has also had a beneficial effect- in particular, I was relieved, even this far down the line, to see a post from Tony ‘Pandy’ Sandilands, and discover that he’s still alive, even if emotionally scarred for life. The last time I saw him, after one of his particularly violent outbursts of anger and terror (can you blame him?) he had been put into solitary confinement from the other lads, before being taken away in a car by two sinister-looking people claiming to be ‘friends of his parents’ (though he didn’t recognise them) and driven off to god knows where, presumably to be experimented on further. In fact, some claimed that the staff were deliberately putting behaviour-altering drugs in his food and drink, and though schoolboys do have overactive imaginations 50 percent of the time, in this case, i wouldn’t put it past them. Besides which, leaders of educational institutions have used that excuse to get away with sometimes far worse activities for far too long already…

    I’m also pretty sure John Smith ‘vanished’ for a while as well before reappearing, although I have a feeling that he actually went on to become some form of vicar (which would explain why he and Mr Downing, himself a head choirmaster, bonded so well over their love of ecumenical texts) There were also at LEAST two occasions when a group of three or four boys did a runner, before being eventually caught due to their own stupidity: on one occasion, they tried to break into nearby RAF Chivenor and get on a plane, and the other, they actually managed to knock unconscious and overpower a local sailor, nicking his not-inconsiderably-sized boat and attempting to sail across the North Atlantic to god-knows where (Ireland? The Azores? Liverpool?) before being caught by the coastguard about two hours later and dragged back to the school again. So, they must have wanted to get away from SOMETHING badly…

    I even tried it myself once during ‘run detention’, getting as far as the station before stupidly asking the inspector ‘how do you get on a train without a ticket’, as if the fact that I was in my PE kit wasn’t giveaway enough. I also remember one lad trying to do a runner, foolishly, during a school trip to the bird sanctuary on Lundy Island..I guess seeing Mr Bleasdale (whose first name incidentally was Tom, NOT Alan- he’s a famous playwright) throw Martin Wakeling against an electric fence just for asking what he considered to be a ‘stupid question’ was a bit too much for him. Unfortunately, there’s not really anywhere to run to on Lundy, and as you have to book your trip in advance anyway with a full complement of names, it wasn’t long before they collared him.

    Have I survived the Heanton experience? Well, judge for yourself. I have about eight disabilities of a mental health nature, all of which combined mean I can only ever be ‘self employed’, and will therefore probably be poor for the rest of my days unless one of my books sells a zillion (highly unlikely) and for the next three years immediately after leaving, my behaviour had become so institutionalised I didn’t think I’d EVER get good grades again. I have also, since 1984, nursed a deep-seated mistrust of ANY kind of authority figure, to the point where if ANYBODY, even my girlfriend or best mate, starts telling me what to do, I immediately disassociate myself from them. But at least I’ve had friends and girlfriends, and jobs, and not been a drug addict or alcoholic- from what I read, other ex-pupils have not been so lucky.

    I have tried to contact a few of them over the years (even the ones who were right bastards to me when I foolishly mentioned my fear of molluscs, and put snails in my locker) to see how they feel about things, but, apart from my aforementioned chance encounter by phone with Nick Mutton, all has been to no avail. I remember hearing that Charlie Griffiths had gone to prison: on Facebook, I found Bod (Phil Dubois) and it was UNMISTAKEABLY him, but he never replied. Sticking with the ‘unusual names first’ idea, I had also tried both he and Darren Buezeval many years before via directory enquiries, and managed to get in touch with one of their Grans (I forget which) but was politely told the lad in question was now married and didn’t want to be reminded in any way of his time at the school. I can’t say I blame him. The same also appears to be true of others I have seen on FB. Some, though in their 40s like me now, are immediately recognisable by their faces- but if they don’t want to dwell on their past, or even achieve closure over it, I can’t make them.

    Which is a shame, because, despite the hell we suffered, we did eventually bond and make good friends: because I had a quite posh-for-then tranny radio, which I carried at break and lunchtimes and evenings (often finding myself nestled ‘neath the rockery with it on free periods, my one piece of sanctuary) a lot of the boys used to hang out with me so we could listen to DJS like ‘Woo’ Gary Davies play the latest hits from Culture Club, Nik Kershaw, Paul Young, Howard Jones, Bronski Beat, Madness and the Thompson Twins etc, all of whom we loved. Then there were the older lads who preferred to listen to John Peel (although strictly, we shouldn’t have even had the radio on in the dorm that late, and our ability to listen depended on which staff members were on duty) through whom I got my first taste of The Fall, the Cocteau Twins, The Blue Nile, Eyeless In Gaza and other bands who would soon show me the world outside the top 40.

    And it would be good to recall those times- possibly the only times that kept us sane- as much as it would also be good to recall our ‘Singing Together’ sessions on Tuesday afternoons with Radio 4 (‘The Bay Of Biscay-O, The Drover’s Dream etc) our dormitory story-telling, joke-telling and song-singing (‘The Parable Of The Green Phlegm’ ‘Gotcha Gotcha Now I’m Gonna Eatcha’ ‘Habbabamoushtika’ etc) and our slightly childish and unneccessary mickey-taking of Wakeling (‘Diddlo Man’) Chapman (‘Bread Bap’) Foster (‘Bandy Boster’) and Paul Williamson (‘Willyip’) - all of whom were in the same boat as me, and none of whom, therefore, deserved their life being made any more miserable. I’m sorry, lads. My nickname, incidentally, was ‘Poo Shitman’ or ‘Brew Brimmon’ - but then again I always was. My current bird calls me ‘Mr Poo’ to this day.

    But at last, with the conviction of Egghead, it’s starting to look as if justice is about to be done. So, all of you who HAVEN’T yet posted on this blog, one last roll call- Darren Buezeval, Philip DuBois, Charlie Griffiths, Anthony Harris, Jason Baird (Ginger Cat) Graeme Barnes, Paul Rixon, Stephen Golding, Martin Wakeling, Paul Williamson, Robert Chapman, Jason White, Robert Nightingale, Kevin Morley, John Smith, James Brignam, and anyone else I’ve forgotten, are you out there? If so, you can always email me at godofwiddly@hotmail.com, add me as Darius Drewe on Facebook, or text me on 07500 390762. Better still, ring. And hopefully, we can try and make some sense out of all this together, as we discuss being at the only school to ever discover the secret of time-stretching (making 18 months seem like five years) and the one responsible for making “Lord Dismiss Us With Thy Blessing” and “Lord Behold Us With Thy Blessing” my favourite and most-hated hymns of all time respectively. Trust me, if you were there, you’ll know the reasons why.

  • Darius Drewe

    I’ve posted a whole long schpiel above about my own experiences- and I mention both of you lads a couple of times, although I was convinced your name was ‘Brignam’ Unless I’m thinking of something else. Glad to hear you’re still around, both. Do get in touch. Drewe Shimmon (these days an author under the name ‘Darius Drewe’)

  • Darius Drewe

    On a shorter, more humorous note though, I did love the Morris’ dog Jade (a basset hound) and fancy the arse off their daughters (who were NOT gargoyles, as has been written by another poster below) But then why wouldn’t I? Although clearly too old for me, they were the only girls around for miles…

  • Nigel Beardsley

    Hi Lee. Don’t know if you remember me, Nigel Beardsley? I was at Heanton with you. I was part of the trial of that bastard, Downing. How the hell does one get compensation for that? I have been trying but have a shit lawyer who is to lazy to find out who the owners of the school were in order to proceed with a case! And who can one get compensation from? The local authority? The school owners? Banging my head against a brick wall trying to get some form of compensation for what I went through.

  • Lee Woolcott-Ellis

    Hi Nigel. There are two options - Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority. This is a problematic route with hostoric cases as there are time restrictions in place. You would need to get a solicitor to argue your case with that on grounds of mental health, etc. The second option is a ‘no win no fee’ arrangement with a firm of solicitors who would agree to take on the case. You would stand a better chance suiing the local authroity that placed you at Heanton. The school company, the directors and the insurance companies are a no go now. That option has a 50/50 chance of success. If your solicitor is not working well for you, you should think about changing. Hope this helps.

  • Eric Burns

    So I’m not the only one who still has nightmares about that bloody thing

  • Eric Burns

    My name is Eric burns I was at heanton from 77 to 1980/81 I came up from Cornwall and I don’t have that many good memories from that school but the ones that are good are very good. But of late the shit one have reard there ugly heads Mr bleasdale horrible bastard and Mr downing who I’m now glad is in prison. miss Kenworthy the amount of times I felt her mindbender Ive lost count as she enjoyed using it so much Mr Keith a star I used to enjoy walking with him(and his rubber over shoes) Mr Lester in his modeling room all those air fix models hanging from ceiling the only place I felt really safe at heanton that or up a tree. The two blue commer vans ota and mta or something very similar and the trips to the burrows to hunt for blank ammo or crowpoint via saunton sands. Unfortunately we’re far to many badtimes that I’m no speaking to a counsellor about the beasting we got if we got from whole saturdays or sundays in bed toand I got out of line a lot. Miss Rowe spot on teacher and her little place in Ilfracombe a I used to hate meal time as forced to eat food that you didn’t Like anther beating opportunity bleasdale would bang ur head against the high back stalls in dinning room he also enjoyed stress punishment akin to escape and evasion training later on in life out to ur sides (ie crusifix) with a book on each hand and God forbid if you ever dropped one sometimes without. much clothes on. the only one that never really got punished were his favourites but we all no y now If there are any of u out there that want to talk my email is cornish42@btinternet.com I’ve got a lot of fragmented memories that I need sorting out Eric burns

  • Simon Nicholls

    Hi antony I was there when I fell out of the tree