New boarding schools for ‘troubled’ pupils

The Independent is reporting today that the Government intends to establish “prestigious” new boarding schools for troubled teenagers as part of plans to renovate run-down inner-city areas. A senior government advisor says that “at least one potential sponsor” has already been found to set up these new academies.

I find this story rather confusing, particularly these two paragraphs:

Official proposals for new academies, the flagship city schools which have the personal backing of Tony Blair, include setting up boarding houses that could cater for children from broken homes or in council care. Boarding academies fit in with Mr Blair’s vision of offering parents who are fed up with state schooling the type of provision they could expect in the independent sector.

So, are these to be schools offering education to public-school standard (public school here meaning élite private school), or a new batch of special boarding schools for troubled teenagers, the like of which many closed in the early 1990s, partly (allegedly) due to the John Major recession and partly due to the change of attitudes which took place at that time?

I’m rather worried by talk of moving back to the days of removing pupils from mainstream education, and from their families, into boarding schools. In the old days, not all the pupils sent to these boarding schools had unhappy or troubled home lives; far from it. Many of them (like me) had problems entirely affecting their school lives. Boarding schools may well make their problems worse; I fail to see why a city the size of London - or any other large city - cannot sustain at least one specialist school for pupils with social disabilities, whether or not it affects their academic work.

Second, these boarding schools were often run by private corporations, others by social ideologues or “visionaries”, the most famous being AS Neill and Otto Shaw (who founded, respectively, Summerhill and Red Hill boarding schools). Summerhill was featured in a notorious TV documentary in 1992 which portrayed it as being chaotic, which according to subsequent letters in the Guardian, was the result of its focus on a disturbed group of American pupils who weren’t there very long. In 1989 when my family was looking for a school for me after my disastrous two-day stint at a local two-bit private school (Winton, which closed in 1994, good riddance), we went to look at Red Hill having heard very positive reports about it. We weren’t impressed, and I saw a fight in a classroom.

The school to which I eventually did go was Kesgrave Hall in Suffolk. I had considerable apprehension about the school; for one thing, it was the least generous about weekends home (every three weeks), the dormitories were the old-style six-to-a-room rather than the bedrooms found at some of the other schools we looked at; I found the headmaster rather creepy and I suspect my mother did too (he and his wife have the same first names as my parents, a coincidence my mother found unpleasant), and I wasn’t impressed with the geography teacher’s quick-fire conversation style. I went to the school with as positive an attitude as I think was possible, something which was shattered in my first few days there.

I don’t think it’s worth boring you all with the details of everything that happened. I wasn’t seriously abused, but as I’ve mentioned before, I remember the stress of living there and not knowing whether people were going to be friendly or at my throat. There was also quite a bit of sexual harrassment in my first year there, and one of the boys who used to do this was later locked up for molesting young girls while babysitting them. The school hired a number of unsuitable staff and also took on unsuitable pupils, and on top of this it placed boys together in dormitories who really should not have been together. Quite a few things happened which would, in a proper school, have resulted in sackings and possibly criminal charges. These included public assaults on pupils and also overt racism, including from the deputy headmaster.

The school finally folded in 1994, having been sold as a “going concern” to a group who had supposedly taken over Red Hill as well. The company had the same name as the building in which Red Hill was situated. (I later discovered that they had not managed to take over Red Hill at all.) They ploughed much money into the school - for example, a full complement of new beds were delivered in 1993, to replace the school’s often terrible existing beds. I ignored all advice to stay, and I found out in early 1994 from two “old boys” who came to my door selling things, and by chance recognised me, that the school had folded a few months before. Years later, another old boy told me that social workers came to his house during the holidays and told him to come to the school with them to retrieve his belongings, as the school had gone bust. I never found out the full details, but I understand there were “dodgy dealings” and that the “new management” had disappeared.

I don’t record all of this to seek pity from any reader. The point is that I don’t want to see more schools of this type opening up - incompetently-run schools which often make people’s problems worse rather than better. It appears that they will be state schools rather than private schools, so anyone seeking employment will have to convince the education authorities that he is suitable. But how will they ensure that these schools don’t end up as places where the troubled teenagers’ problems simply feed off each other? How will they ensure that children are not unnecessarily sent miles out of their area, as happened to nearly all the people at my school? And what will happen if their private-sector sponsors suddenly go bust, legitimately or otherwise? I concede that these schools are not inherently destined to be dumps, and one of my friends from that school was quite impressed by a school of this type he visited as a potential employee. But they need to be kept under a very close eye, and they do need to listen to the pupils.

(I should add that Kesgrave Hall school as I knew it has nothing to do with the Ryes School organisation which now runs what I believe to be the fifth boarding school in the building’s history. They are a totally different group of people.)

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  • AJ Connolly

    Interesting blog. I came across it today although I can’t remember how. Just one thing though - what led you to convert to Islam. I know this might be quite personal and perhaps that is why you havent written about it yet but if not I would like to hear about it.

  • cncz

    macha Allah nice entry. No quantitative goodness to add, just nice entry.

  • When did you attend Kesgrave? I remember Telford beating the shit out of me during activity week when we built the assault course and RC Track in the woods.

    I was there from 86-90

    Alexander Hanff

  • David Chase

    I was at Kesgrave Hall, or St Edmund’s House Shool, as I think it was then, in 1950. The headmaster was a Mr McClintock, who regularly beat the boys on their bare bottoms and organised the weighing of all pupils, naked, and in his study. He was a sinister character and the school was hopeless (for me anyway). It was owned by a Mrs Marshall. I would be interested to hear from anyone else who was at this school in the 1950’s.

  • Kesgrave Hall was a different school from St Edmunds; the only thing they had in common was the building. We still had the bell outside the front door (the “outside bell” which was rung about five minutes before the end of a break) which had the placard next to it about being donated to St Edmund’s school. KHS was supposedly for troubled but academically able boys and was set up by people who had worked at Heanton school near Barnstaple, Devon.

    The Ryes, incidentally, is (at least) the fifth boarding school in the building’s history. There were two in the 19th century, then St Edmund’s, then KHS, then the Ryes.

    Telford was one of a number of unpleasant and sometimes violent teachers and other staff at KHS. He assaulted a pupil in front of me in a maths lesson. The biology teacher was another; he assaulted me on two occasions in late 1989.

  • Ralph Gee

    Being at red Hill School from 1947 to 1953 I retained a great interest in it and Otto Shaw, and what followed. I think your observations on its closure are sheer garble. After closure in 1992 it was run as a similar thing by Kent County Council for more local children until its final demise. I suggest you contact either KCC or

    Allan Rimmer, Clerk to Red Hill Trust, Willow Cottage, Chapel Lane, Staplehurst, Kent TN12 0AN

    Tel 01580 891059 Fax 01622 844220 Email:


    Red Hill School was founded in 1934 by Otto Shaw and served the needs of disturbed children until its closure in 1992. The Trust has replaced its original objectives with the agreement of the Charity Commission. It will continue to serve the needs of children with emotional and behavioural difficulties through the allocation of grants.

    You owe someone an apology. The least you could do before shooting off at the mouth is surf the web, where the above is easily found

  • I have indeed contacted Alan Rimmer, and I don’t know how the facts as I stated them differ from what you say. Red Hill was situated in a building called Charlton Court, which I found out by surfing the web (you can find the reference here), which we were told by our headmaster was the name of the company which had bought out KHS on a three-year lease basis in 1993. We were under the impression that they had bought Red Hill too, hence the name. But as I later discovered, they hadn’t, and the school folded in mysterious circumstances early in 1994.

  • Ralph Gee

    When I sounded off earlier, the Red Hill official website was not accessible. It now has a new address, so for those who wish to see your opinions refuted on residential care for troubled children, and judge the undoubted success of red Hill School, visit:

    The top-of-the-site also gives an accurate potted history of the use of Charlton Court since the First World War, and what has happened to it over the past two years.

  • Mark Phillips

    Hi Yusuf,

    I went to Kesgrave between 1978 and 1986. Yup that is eight years - my education authority, in their wisdom, decided I “wasn’t ready for the real world” after my second year at sixth form and I was retained for a third year.

    It sounds like you and I have similar experiences of Kesgrave, although I don’t recognise your name (when were you at Stalag Kesgrave btw?). My first Headmaster was Mr Sheppard (Shep to his “friends”) and when he retired to spain with his wife (matron) Mike Smith (known variously as MGS, M*ff Face - because of his goatee beard - and others) took over. I’ve read some interesting opinions of Mr Smith on the Friends reunited website. FWIW Smithy was (for me) a vast improvement over the previous incumbent.

    I find it interesting that you have strong religious beliefs - any chance of religion being important to me was beaten - metaphorically - out of me by KHS; what with the Baptist Church experiences and Little Bealings etc.

    I would be interested in swapping memories if you have the time (and if our “sentences” coincide).

    Mail me if you’re interested too…

    Mark P

  • martin smith

    hi i attended heanton school in 1969 and 1970 and have only good memories of my time there it seems i left just in time to read Mr k.j.kessler’s accounts of his time there makes me shudder. to think that roy lester used to cut my hair makes me feel that i had a lucky escape from martin smith

  • H Hall

    Also at the school in 1950s. Don’t agree with ‘Old Pa Chase’ that HM was sinister: he was a man of great moral rectitude, a scholar and gentleman. The school’s education got me a scholarship to my next place and gave me a start that has so far taken me to 4 universities…

  • Simon

    I was at Kesgrave - the beds were bought in 1976. We’re your mum and dad’s names John and trish ?

  • nick

    I attended Red Hill School from 1984 to 1988. I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that attending a boarding school which could provide the level of support that was impossible in a day school was of tremendous benefit to me. I was a failing student within mainstream education, and was destined to leave school at 16 with few (if any) qualifications. The environment provided by Red Hill School ensured that I fulfilled my potential, went up to University, and am now enjoying a successful professional career coupled with a stable home life. Of course there were bad eggs (as there are in every school) and like any environment where people live closely together 24/7 there were flash points, but in my experience these were few and far between, and the self policing nature of the social structure of the school meant that incidents of bullying were very few and far between.

    As far as I am concerned it is impossible to apply a standard solution to children who are failing within mainstream education, and I don’t think that the appropriate solution has anything to do with whether or not the child has a troubled home life or not. For me the environment provided by a boarding school was successful ( I am sure that I would have failed at a specialist day school) and I am thankful that I had that opportunity…. something which, sadly, for many failing school children today is no longer available.

  • David Greenmoor

    I was at KHS from the mid 70’s to ‘79 - passing through the fifth year twice - as I entered a year ahead of myself.

    I have mixed memories of my time at Kesgrave. A fantastic setting; some excellent teachers - Mrs McGill, Miss Goodwin, Mr Richards, to name just three - as well as a mixed bunch. Mr Leonard could be a bit of a tyrant, but he turned me from an 11% maths mock O’level to an A* within a year, and I have lot of respect for him because of that. Mr Shepherd was good to me, apart from the beatings with the plimsol, which I deserved (e.g. nicking teachers fags from the staff room). Maybe I have rose-tinted 20-20 hindsight, but on balance I’m glad I went. I got my life straightened out, and now am successful and happy.

    There was stuff that went on, but in the circumstances, you kept your head down and did you time (although I did ‘break out’ a couple of times). Sorry to hear about your experiences, but this was a school for troubled kids and in those days it was probably easier for people who preyed on kids like that to gain access. One would hope it doesn’t still happen.

  • M Risbrook

    I used to work at Martlesham during the mid 80s and I can vaguely remember Kesgrave Hall School. Last year I met up with somebody who attended the school for a few years during the early 90s and told me a bit about it. I asked him what type of children attended Kesgrave Hall School. His reply was emotional and behavioural difficulties with a higher than average academic intelligence, but he didn’t think that was what the school was originally set up for. Some of the events that took place at the school were absolutely horrifying and totally inappropriate for children with SEN. I was particularly concerned at why the school wouldn’t allow children to go home at weekends during term time unless it was for a wedding or a funeral. Does anybody know if this was true or just a scare story to enforce discipline? Another worrying matter was the number of children having to repeat a year. Surely if the school catered for children of higher academic intelligence then the school would have offered them accelerated learning. There doesn’t appear to be much information about the school on the internet.

  • David Greenmoor

    We were occasionally allowed ‘exiats’ - weekends away as a privelege - although this was not a scare tactic, most of us did not live near the school as we were from all over the UK - hence parents or other relatives/carers would have to travel and collect you.

    As for the comment about repeating a year - I did, but only because I entered the school a year above my age - precisely the type of accelerated learning to which you allude - after completing humanities in my first year I was still too young to ‘leave’ so repeated the top year and bloomed in mathematics and the sciences. I’m happy with it.

  • By the time I was there, the “exiats” were called nominated weekend, and happened on average every three weeks. (In my final year, they were every weekend for anyone who could and wanted to go.) People usually travelled home by train, not by car.

    As for people staying down, in my form it was nine out of 12, all of them (as far as I know) the right age for the form above. That’s what I was talking about.

  • andromache

    I’d like to endorse what Nick, ex-RedHill, has said above. I was there 1977-80, having refused to go to my secondary school any longer. The preferred term was ‘maladjusted boys’ and there was some selection (by interview) for good verbal ability, since otherwise it would have been difficult to cope with the self-governing structures run by the boys themselves. I can’t remember any actual bullying, though there were feuds between equals, and these usually ran their course after about a term. A certain amount of name-calling (I got some of it myself, being a loud-mouthed homo), including what our more touchy age would call racist abuse, but in those days the black boys just yelled back and felt all the better for it. I remember the mood as being fairly civilised, with quite mature friendships and a high level of what was called Community Spirit. Teaching was good if you wanted to take advantage of it; I didn’t pass any A levels, partly because of the teachers’ mistaken emphasis on the Syllabus rather than essay writing and exam technique (a secret that only posh schools seem to have stumbled on).But my curiosities and enthusiasms were encouraged, and I developed good if solitary study habits, and later did a PhD at a brand-name university. At mainstream school my VERY MILD dissent was treated as grand delinquency, I became a major ‘case’ for the education/social work apparatus, and I was heading for exclusion and the scrap-heap. Taking me out of school was the best thing, in the circumstances; butI share Yusuf’s concern about the feasibility of this on a large scale, and the basis for identifying the children you remove (consent had little to do with it, in my case - Redhill was presented as my Punishment).

  • G Johnstone

    I was at Heanton 74-77? and my memory isnt very good but from what i remember it was great there are a few names that i remember, the heat wave of 76 and silver jubilee of 77, i then moved to another school called Berrow wood WORC, no fond memorys, but do remember the cane and slipper and both mr wises and Mr Johnson. I now know that the above schools mentioned were for troubled boys who were not suited to home life or local schools.. but the outcome was damaging between myself and my parents

  • M Dixon

    Having read the above I wish my Son had spoken to me about conditions at the school and I would not have let him endure all those years. (He progressed to Kesgrave from Heanton in the early 80’s) It did not have a beneficial effect on his education as he finally walked out at 16 with no qualifications, which, for someone with above average IQ was very disappointing and shows the school did not manage to do its job. It also affected our relationship which I am happy to say we have worked through and he is now a very responible loving adult Son.

  • This blog regarding boarding schools and high schools’ is really interesting. Boarding schools are very helpful in shaping the future of students.

  • Darren

    I Went to berrow wood school, Worcester from 1982 – 1985, school for maladjusted boys. With the school motto ‘your only rights here are to eat and breathe’ just about sums the place up! I think it was closed by the authorities some time later and so it should have been! Who in their right mind would sent a 12 year old boy with emotional difficulties to a place like that? Run by a bunch of thugs by the time I left Mr Morris was the head and you might have thought the children there had problems, Who punches a child with a fist? House masters well we all thought they must be x army or similar well we were only kids. I ran away when I was 15 after being sexually assaulted by one of them, I tried to tell the head, wow that was a mistake! So there we were nobody would believe a teenage thug was being assaulted by a member of staff would they, I never had a social worker call and ask me why I ran away, very few people knew, my parents let it ride they did not ask me why but they did not send me back either. What a time bomb waiting to go off when my own children got to the same age. When my eldest child got to 12 years old he had problems at school, something to do with an older student, preteen sex talk and similar. The social services who could not could not open a door without an instruction book. An abuse allegation that nobody wants to admit to making, a school file that I have been refused access to. 23 years I spent trying to forget, trying to get on with life without any qualifications etc… My wife knew, she ran off left me with 2 children. IT ALL CAME BACK LIKE IT WAS YESTERDAY. My mind was really stuffed dreaming about it putting my children in the same place. Funny odd thing , after I told the social services after suffering a nervous breakdown they couldn’t run away quick enough. Well close our cases now, let’s sweep it under the carpet like nothing happened. Oh you can’t see your sons file, he has to ask for it and we have to be sure it’s for him and not for you! Moral of my input ‘if you want a job done properly do it yourself’ the system only looks after the system.

  • richy innes

    i too went to berrow wood and was phyically abused by mr morris,then deputy head.also by other staff. the treatment of pupils was appaling to say the least.i reported it to my educational welfare officer who at the time tried to look into it.but i was expelled before i could report anymore abuse to the authorities,i also ran away in the middle of the night in pyjamas with a plaster cast on my leg from ankle to the freezing fog and gave myself up to the police who i told of my beatings and awful treatment,who did not believe me and i was dragged back kicking and screaming.i have read that some of the staff were later arrested for assault etc on pupils morris and jailed.good may he rot in hell!!!!!

  • lee moorey

    i to was at berrow wood school 1985 to 87 i forget alot of the names but i do remember mr morris and that wife of his and that son of them coz he dragged me back from surrey wen i ran away thay did not think i had the balls to run away thay all thoght i was in the farm shed in the fild.i remember little things pervert staff who i cant put names to but remeber the face in my head,1 teacher i holiday wen i could not go home took 3 of us to western super mear and tryed to get us drunk and have sex with us i cant remeber his name but i do remember he used to go to holland a lot and he slepet in 1 of the dorms the 1 wen you come in the main gate its the dorm in front of you above wot i think was the computer room and the boot room if you was ever at that school plz feel free to call me.lee 07765281513

  • lee moorey

    i allso went to boarding school in london in 1980 to 1985 the edward rudolf school it was a lovely school and i still miss it to this day sadly it was shut down in 1985 lack of funds hence why i was sent to berrow wood school

  • del

    Hi Darren i was at Berrow wood the same time as you was my name is derek huntley feel free to contact me

  • ste bilsborough

    i went to berrow wood in the eighties. i remember mr morris,mr wise and his arsehole of a son.the big fella some of you mention was a peado.i also remember a housemaster who was a jock.he was an alcoholic.would love to chat with 81/82.anyone who was there around 81/82.

  • gary caunter

    i went to berrowood school from 1978 to 1981,i remember mr morris,jonston,peter wise,my house master was mr quinn,who was a good footballer,also remember mr dixson wood work teacher,mr griffiths who has died 2 years ago………bye

  • S. Peirson

    Seems the emphasis has been taken off of KHS (Kesgrave Hall School), and I would like to return to the subject of life at this establishment. I was a “student” there between 1983 & 1986. I was interviewed by the then Headmaster, Mr. Sheppperd, though when I started the school, Mr. “Muff” Smith had taken the job! Think I would have prefered Mr Shepperd! As I understand it, I was a maladjusted person, who failed to “fit in” whether in social or educational circumstances. I think “they” might have been right. Before KHS, I failed to excell in school, even though my IQ suggested otherwise, I was pretty much a loner, who found making friends a big problem, and I was a future criminal………………. unless I received the correct education. Hence the 3 year sentence to Kesgrave!!!!!!! I did a runner not long after my sixteenth birthday. NO-ONE, asked why! No social worker ever came and asked why I did a runner, even though it was those bastards that deemed that school an acceptable place for me to attend. It was the only place offered. Muff Smith can rot in hell, every time I smell cigar smoke, I think of him! If I ever see Mr. Telford again, I will punch him in the face, He did that to me when I was 14! Mr. Simpson, well he was just a twat who figured he was bigger. There were decent staff, Mr and Mrs Kenworthy, the House Parents, Mr. Johnson, a House carer, Mrs. Brunning, Secretary, Mrs. Goodwin, geography, Miss Stegman, biology. There are other staff who were ok too, its just my memories are clouded by all the grief I got from the other staff, who were meant to care! Sorry if this comment is long winded, just good to get these feelings off my chest once in a while. Thanks for taking the time to read.

  • Denis Unwin

    Attended Berrow wood from age 11 to 16 1974~1979. Jesus christ that place was Hell on Earth. I remember the place and people well, it has left me emotionally “Scarred” and to this very day, suffer from “flash backs”. I have been on anti~depressants since 1993. I can honestly say that I was NEVER sexually abused there, but definately emotionally scarred! Bullying and abuse was rife there, not only by the inmates but also the staff. It just DOES NOT work having maladjusted kids alongside children who are constant bullies and thieves and anti social behaviour. During my time there, a few staff were sacked for Child Molestation. I cannot remember all the names of these perverts but Mr. Wells was one of them. The only way to survive in that Hell hole was to be grade 1, which I can safely say, I was all my years there!!! I remember Mr.Wise & his son, Mr. Morris, Mr. Johnston, Mr. Griffiths, Mr. Brown & his wife, Mr. Phillips, Mr.Dixon, many faces in my head, but cannot remember the names. The only good thing I can say is that from a very early age, you are taught to be self efficient and respectfull. I remember MANY inmates there, but far too many to list here. There were some good ones, but many if not most, were absolute bastards!(you know who you are!)So…..the place got closed down did it? I wonder what it is now?…..Maybe a run down lunatic asylum!!!

  • Denis Unwin

    Here I am again…After writing the above yesterday, I was all “put about” the whole day, and floods of unhappy memories tormented me, infesting my mind like a disease, which is why I felt compelled to return to this bullitin board again! I feel I must continue with my feelings here, as people needs to know the TRUTH about this Hell hole. Yes….a very beautifull house indeed, BUT a house of HELL!!! Serious questions needs to be asked as to WHY this house of hell existed for as long as it did???…and WHY were there NEVER any thorough checks and inspections of the premises???…and WHY was the house master staff not properly checked and vetted??? Berrow wood boarding school was a paedophile’s wet dream, and the owners of the premises just turnt a blind eye on the abuse and disgusting activity which took place there. In the 70’s this behaviour was all “hush hush” so to speak. These days, this would NOT be tollerated. But jesus christ…the memories are flooding back again, and NOT happy ones. Do you see what I mean here regarding the long term psychlogical trauma and effect that this house of hell has had on me??? Remember the film “Scum”??? Well that is about Berrow Wood!!! That is the harsh reality of the place. I am VERY interested to find out what has happened to pupils that went there, and how they have turnt out. It would be fantastic to maybe arrange a meeting of fellow pupils of that Hell hole, where we can all see each other now we are all adults, and exchange our experiences and discuss our lives since leaving that dreaded place. I would be very happy to arrange something, no problem. If any of you are interested then PLEASE contact me. Surely I am not the only one who has suffered psychlogical trauma all these years??? During my 5 year sentence there, there was a certain individual, a pupil by the name of “Jan Rimmer” from High Wycombe, who ALWAYS used to brag & praise how fantastic Berrow wood is, he absolutely loved the fucking place!!! Well Mr. Jan fucking Rimmer….You were THEE ONLY ONE!!! Yeah, the Disco boy who loved the pathetic film “Nightfever”, who was always seen in the games room strutting his stuff & boogeeing on down, you sad individual!!! Just shows your mentallity doesn’t it eh. Yes I can still see you now all them years ago, with your travolta hair cut….Jesus christ, you were a tosser mate. Anyway, sorry about that, just floods of memories infesting my mind still. But like I say, if anyone is interested in getting together for a meeting & a coffee, then please do not hesitate in contacting me. Don’t worry, I’m NOT a bad person, I was only explaining the ONLY individual in all my years there who “Loved” the place!!!(I shake my head in disbelief!) But what has happened to everyone who went there? This is VERY interesting to find out. I hope that pupils that attended the House of Hell will eventually read all that I have written, for it is the truth. The premises may have closed down………but the trauma & psychlogical scarrs NEVER go away, they are always there to haunt you.

  • Yes I agree that there are worries that you wouldn’t find a friend,there are also hesitations in going to a boarding school.But definitely it has positive effects also it will make you learn responsibility above all.

  • LeedsLad

    You are a survivor D Unwin, I hope you go on to do well for yourself and others.

  • Ed Austin

    Berrow Wood School…. well Mr Johnson was a fair decent man and was headmaster when I was an inmate. However when I left (81) I believe Mr “Psycho” Morris became Head Master…. jeez man that must have been a NIGHTMARE. The Guy was a total sadist.. as was Mr Dixon… my teacher (CSE Class) was a Maths Guy… he was OK… Mr Quinn was sound as well… Mr Carvell was an decent guy… Mr Kruitoff was OK’ish… as for inmates… my old mates Russell Southgate, Chris (forgot last name), Dorian Hamer … all decent lads…. but the school was like a Warzone… In my time 79-81 a few bullies but most of the kids were just trying to survive the staff!!!! Keep up the spirit lads!! PS. Mr Morris and a few others jailed in late 80’s for child cruelty!!!! So there is Karma!!!

  • Ed Austin

    Well… to add to the above… I finally graduated from Edinburgh University B.Sc. Engineering Sciences back in 92, worked as a Management Consultant - but have always maintained a healthy distrust in Pseudo Intellectual Socialist do-gooders (as did Mrs T!) - the kind of people who sent me to Berrow in the first place! The School offered no intellectual encouragement beyond a façade of preparing boys for the old CSE qualifications (and then only a selected few). Finally entered Uni 5 years behind my contemporaries. Screw Berrow Wood Lads!

  • philip scrivin

    Denis Unwin i was at Berrow wood the same time as you was my name is philip scrivin

  • Michael Guilfoyle

    Hi all,

    Very interesting…. I was just surfing the net and though I would do a search on Berrow Wood School. To see if it has be thrust under the carpet like everything else to do with that school, and to my surprise there are still some fighting spirits out there.

    My name is Michael Guilfoyle. (Now Michael Gallagher) I was a pupil at Berrow Wood School from around 1983-84 until around 1987

    I was part of around 300 defendants who participated in a court case that was aimed against the school. I was the last one who kept the case going up to the Court of European Human rights.

    I watched Philip Grey, Larner, amongst others sentenced for their part in the abuse.

    The only person who was left out of the mess was Mr. Peck (Photographer) Who in my opinion was up against it like the rest of us…

    Unfortunately and due to timing and politics my case was finally stopped due to politics and worry from the institution that it would create a floodgate of similar complaints etc…

    Anyway the point being that there has never really been closure for individuals who attended the school, forget about the individuals who state that the school was great. I am not sure what kind of mind set they have or what kind of individuals they turned out to be, however the pain of that school has never really left me and that is why I am writing a book about this experience.

    Please understand it is not case of raking up the past and blaming current circumstances on this experience, rather it is going to be work that will hopefully assist others in identifying the tell-tale signs of a possible problem.

    This includes so-called social workers and expert care professionals that are supposed to be qualified in this arena. Unfortunately I have no time for these people as I believe the people that we can learn from are the ones that have been there and can express themselves so that we can all add parts to a puzzle and together present to the institution through public media our story.

    If you have interest in this, please let me know. You can contact me through the following email:

    Would like to hear from some of my old mates if still around, Paul Carter King, Mathew Luendon plus others

    Mike Gallagher

  • Denis Unwin

    Philip scrivin….The name rings a bell, but I cannot picture you, but yeah your name rings a bell definately! How the bloody hell are ya mate??? How has your life turnt out???

  • Denis Unwin

    In response to Michael Guilfoyle….That is definately a good Idear compiling & writing a book about your experiences of Berrow wood. There are MANY people who has to know the truth, and more Importantly……Many answers need to be given as to why this establishment ran for as long as it did??? The obvious reason was a money making scam. Good luck with your creativity & I wish you all the best. Do not hesitate to contact me if you desire to do so. After all, I spent 5 long years there!!!

  • Denis Unwin

    One thing is for sure……Whoever & whatever takes over the property at Berrow wood, it shall forever be haunted from the past. Faint “whispers” will be heard in the corridors and where the “lock up room” used to be, will always be a “Cold spot” in the property. The past has left its mark, even if I was rich, I would not purchase it due to its reputation. That house would make an excellent set for an atmospheric psychological disturbed film!!! Now were talking business!!!

  • Darren

    Michael Guilfoyle / berrow wood school When you have written your book please tell us, or for that matter let some of us have some input. I’m not going to name names but I was there from 82 - 85 and suffered abuse from staff and run away as a result in 85 age 15.

  • G Johnstone

    Hi again and just sifting through various names i was there from 77/78 to 81/2 and and i now remember mr kruitoff he was the fat dutch twat who has a ford taunus and a bit of a bully boy,mr griffiths who dealt with all the chickens, mr quinn who smoked woodbines and was a celtic supporter, and i cant remember her name but she was a south african blonde teacher in her 50,s and she were lovely, now mr johnson who was the headmaster and he died in the early nineties, but to be honest he was a fair headmaster, i remember going to his office for the slipper across my ass and i would have a magazine down me pants and would have gotten away with it if i hadnt sniggered on my way out of his office…. yes i remember jan rimmer/alan horseman/micheal davey/chris payne/russel southgate just too name but a few but we werent names, we were NUMBERS, i have recently been in touch with a chap you may recal him as kurt manley and he remembers most of the number with names.. and yes berrowwood was for me a learning curve and gateway for the future, it helped me pave a path to hate my parents,and take the road that no normal kid would dare take complete with care order until i was 18,then i travelled to hell and back and it was great, it was stand up against those who want to hurt me (physicaly/mentally),Hate the system, basically FTW and all those in the system…

  • G Johnstone

    Hi again and just sifting through various names i was there from 77/78 to 81/2 and and i now remember mr kruitoff he was the fat dutch twat who has a ford taunus and a bit of a bully boy,mr griffiths who dealt with all the chickens, mr quinn who smoked woodbines and was a celtic supporter, and i cant remember her name but she was a south african blonde teacher in her 50,s and she were lovely, now mr johnson who was the headmaster and he died in the early nineties, but to be honest he was a fair headmaster, i remember going to his office for the slipper across my ass and i would have a magazine down me pants and would have gotten away with it if i hadnt sniggered on my way out of his office…. yes i remember jan rimmer/alan horseman/micheal davey/chris payne/russel southgate just too name but a few but we werent names, we were NUMBERS, i have recently been in touch with a chap you may recal him as kurt manley and he remembers most of the number with names.. and yes berrowwood was for me a learning curve and gateway for the future, it helped me pave a path to hate my parents,and take the road that no normal kid would dare take complete with care order until i was 18,then i travelled to hell and back and it was great,this also taught me to stand up against those who want to hurt me (physicaly/mentally),basically FTW and all those in the system…

  • G Johnstone

    Hi again and just sifting through various names i was there from 77/78 to 81/2 and and i now remember mr kruitoff he was the fat dutch twat who has a ford taunus and a bit of a bully boy,mr griffiths who dealt with all the chickens, mr quinn who smoked woodbines and was a celtic supporter, and i cant remember her name but she was a south african blonde teacher in her 50,s and she were lovely, now mr johnson who was the headmaster and he died in the early nineties, but to be honest he was a fair headmaster, i remember going to his office for the slipper across my ass and i would have a magazine down me pants and would have gotten away with it if i hadnt sniggered on my way out of his office…. yes i remember jan rimmer/alan horseman/micheal davey/chris payne/russel southgate just too name but a few but we werent names, we were NUMBERS, i have recently been in touch with a chap you may recal him as kurt manley and he remembers most of the number with names.. and yes berrowwood was for me a learning curve and gateway for the future, it helped me pave a path to hate my parents,and take the road that no normal kid would dare take complete with care order until i was 18,then i travelled to hell and back and it was great,this also taught me to stand up against those who want to hurt me (physicaly/mentally),basically FTW and all those in the system… now i am going off the subject but the reason for this reply was the shool is now a private house, the recreaction building is gone, and the boot room/ class room/ come alley way is all gone, as i say its a private house, i did call roughly about 1995 on my way down the country… also there is a website with loads of names on which i think its called friends reunited and probably facebook… but i gotta say i am not bothered about getting in contact as it may dredge up some old skeletons, which could do damage..

  • Denis Unwin

    Thats right Gaz….We were all but just a number….not a person or a life or someones son. Like I say, the place had its very few good points. ie, self respect, how to look after ones self from an early age. But to put all them kids in that place with SO many different dissabillities & problems, walking side by side, & living together with thieves, bullies, disruptive psychological disturbed children & perverts, just DOES NOT work! The main building was a lovely tudor house though, elegant decor & stained glass windows. Would of made a brilliant atmospheric set for a Ghost or Psychological film though!!!

  • Denis Unwin

    Mmmmmm, dont know a Kurt Manley, but knew a Brian Manley there! What happened to him?????????Anyone know????????? & what about Roy Goff??????what happened with his life after he left?????? I bet none of you remember him! He’s way before YOUR time! The memories………the memories……the horror……!!!

  • M Risbrook

    I’m surprised that the owner of this blog is not involved in home education considering his unhappy experience at school.

  • Involved in what way? I’m 33 and have no children to educate.

  • M Risbrook

    You don’t have to have children to participate in the home education community in one way or another. I know plenty of home education activists without children or have children that are no longer of school age. Some of which had unhappy or disappointing experiences of school themselves.

  • Pingback: Indigo Jo Blogs — Why wouldn’t you want to be autistic?()

  • M Risbrook

    Careful, careful. Broad sweeping statements like that run the risk of being sued for libel.

  • M Risbrook

    Has the owner of this blog ever known or met the person who wrote the Forward to this article?

  • Yes, I was in the same class as him from 1990-93.

  • M Risbrook

    In that case the rumour must be true…

  • What rumour?

  • M Risbrook

    About you and your blog.

  • I have no idea what you’re talking about.

  • M Risbrook

    I have no idea what you’re talking about.

    Everything will be revealed when the time is right.

    Another point I have to make about KHS is that a history teacher was an outright liar. Armoured cars were regularly used in WWI.

  • There’s nothing to reveal, except a few small bits of tittle-tattle which nobody who knows me today will be interested in.

    As for the history teacher (there was only one of them, and after summer 1991 there was none), I’ve long forgotten whatever that little detail refers to. The hardware of WWI doesn’t interest me much now. (The poetry I remember rather more vividly.)

  • M Risbrook

    I will inform you that this very person scoured your blog earlier this year then, more recently, announced at a political meeting that your mind is wrecked by the mainstream media judging from the terminology used in your articles. Definitions and terminology is a subject that he has been very interested in from a young age.

  • I don’t care what you or Riaz thinks about me. You are full of crap and, by the sound of things, so is he. So my head isn’t full of nonsense from the conspiracy fetishist community? That’s not a bad thing in my opinion. Oh, and he certainly wasn’t interested in that subject when I knew him.

  • africana

    @m risbrook, good grief so that’s what you class as a revelation, is it? next you’re going totell us that you do a line in graphology, too. drawing attention to something like lexical choice which the writer, being as this is blog, has made no attempt to hide seems like an odd sort of revelation.the language we use is hardly an exact science, anyway and is affected by many factors such as readership, upbringing and the company we keep.

  • M Risbrook

    the language we use is hardly an exact science, anyway and is affected by many factors such as readership, upbringing and the company we keep

    There’s certainly much truth to this…

    One thing that I have been aware of for many years is that the mainstream British press has a passion for using certain terms in political articles that are colloquial; imprecise; ambiguous; colourful or catchy but not necessarily accurate or meaningful; or those which officially violate the rules of English grammar.

    Even the title of this blog post contains one of these terms.

  • africana

    you and riaz do seem to be unacnnily similar..both nationalists, both with an interest in home education, both with a sceptical attitude toward the value of certificates of secondary education (as per riaz’s petition)and now it would seem with with people’s lexical choices.

  • Africana: well spotted. I checked Risbrook’s domain name in the whois database, and it’s registered in Riaz Sobrany’s name to his home address; he uses “info@ ” that domain name, an address normally used by the site owner. I had been wondering if they were the same person for some time.

  • M Risbrook

    I can assure you that we are two separate people although we are both members of Dissident Congress and a few other political groups. Riaz is the domain name holder for at least a dozen functioning websites and holds many more inactive domain names that he may sell or use in the future. He never registers his websites to his home address because of the potential security risk involved. Instead he uses either his parent’s address or that of a commercial premises.

  • M Risbrook

    both nationalists

    With differences. I have always thought of myself as a straightforward traditional British nationalist who has never had any involvement with nationalists outside of Britain. I support Palestine but have never had anything to do with Palestinian activist movements.

    Riaz, on the other hand, has a stronger interest in the nationalism found in certain foreign countries including Iran, Russia, and parts of the Middle East. He has met nationalists from overseas countries on his travels. Something he has brought up more than once at meetings and on internet forums is establishing a Palestinian activist movement for nationalists in Britain.

    sceptical attitude toward the value of certificates of secondary education

    I disagree with this statement. It’s widespread knowledge in home education movements that around 8 years ago Riaz entered some kids he tutored for GCSEs as independent candidates and one 10 year old got an A grade. He currently has an interest in IGCSEs. They are the same as GCSEs but don’t have coursework.

  • jason chapman

    hello to all who went to berrow wood, i just thought i would cheer a few of you up by telling you that i beat up the headmaster Mr Morris in his own art room, i was only stopped proper battering him coz Alan Gorton came in and intervened. I later offered Gorton a chance at the title outside the dining room in front of the whole school and he wet his pants.Im so glad i started boxing back then lol. Indeed such is the nature of the bully mentality, i always found it fascinating which is why i got a degree in psychology. From Jay the bully killer lol

  • ken

    never heard of berrowood but im tryin to find out about the whereabouts of teachers who were at heanton school,a south african woodwork teacher mr.morris and his wife, tom bleasdale, mr hockley(headmaster) john downing. I have tried to find info on this place but it seems all info has been wiped from history(77-80) I really wanna track these people down..or any pupils who were there between those dates????

  • Russell Southgate

    Hi All. My name is Russell Southgate and attended Berrow Wood from 1978-1980 I had a cry whilst reading all this, and for those of you who knew me, that would surprise you. The lonelyness and fear of knowing that the people who are supposed to take care of you, are the ones that are hurting you. The mind numbing realisation that vulnerable children were being preyed upon and bullied on a day to day basis, just makes me so sad. I am 45 years old now and although the nightmares are only once or twice a year now, i still have nightmares about the place, waking up during the night sobbing uncontrolably. I have so many stories of the place that need to be told. I remember the guys that have mentioned my name on the responses above and many many others. I will return to write more in a few days. Reading all this has left me a little emotional. So……… “Be Strong”, because we “Survived” but must carry the scars forever. “The Berrow Wood Survivors Society”

  • Del Huntley

    Hi all Do you remember me Derek huntley Mike if you need imput for this book let me know. I was there at the same time as you. I used to hang around with Paul noakes. I always used to be fighting with Sean Parks. Please get intouch even for a chat any one of you. As for Gary Jonstone I can back up all said by you. Lets all have a get together


  • Del Huntley

    I forgot to put my email on here

  • Andrew Holder

    I was a pupil at Berrow Wood School from Thursday 5th January 1967 to Wednesday 29th March 1972 and also I was being bullied a lot when I was there and also I remember that very well that used to make us changed our underpants and socks,etc ONCE A WEEK

  • M Gale

    Oh wow, Berrow Wood. My fondest memory, asides the almost ritual abuse?

    Probably when a couple of lads were planning on doing a runner and that bald headed so-and-so Phil Gray decided that everyone is going to bed naked for the next two weeks.

    Yes seriously, stripped naked every evening and you got your clothes back in the morning.

    I was there when the place got shut down. The worst part is that being in a place like that screws with your mind. Of course we were little shits, of course there was no place out there better for us! Hell, when the social services came to take a few of the kids away before the Summer hols that year, some of them were legging it into the 48 acres of woodland to hide.. Stockholm syndrome or what?

    That place was pure evil.

  • gary johnston

    1st time on i was it school from 82-85 it all right what you lot say am sad now

  • Andrew Holder

    I remember that all the shoe checks we had at Berrow Wood School,because of some of lads kept on hiding other peoples footwear from time to time

  • ken

    where the hell are the comments from myself and keith kessler gone??? dont tell me that this place is bein monitored by someone who cant stomache the truth!! unless it concerns them that is

  • Byron Cooper

    I was at Berrowwood school….. 78 to 81 number 72 malvern (red tie)…..slept in all the dorms in them years, 13 over morris’s classroomdamm even shared with alan horseman once…..friends well….had a few lol… i remember the night watchman riding that yellow moped, morris, miss de’plurney, griffis, johnsons, wises…worked in his garden many a occasion….saw mr wise a few yrsa back in tewkberry market….we all worked in the kichen or laundry room at some point …. and slaved out to local farmer to pick weeds out of the crops…… still it beat drain clearing outside the wall…..just a note to all i’m still about(alive and kicking)…. yes there were some bad times….and good….its what we made it……like mr tennent….would light a ciggarete, so some would not ger caught smoking…the woods, malvern walks..ect…. mr carvel used to look after our 85p pocket money…had a little note pad in pocket…. fire drill……..why go to the class hallway….it was made of wood ????….i have good and bad memoires….the place toughened me upfor the big world out there…..drop me a note.. would like to hear from some school numbers…………

  • Mr A Holder

    some of the staff when I was at Berrow Wood School were nasty

  • Catherine Caunter

    i was there 1978 to 1982 gary caunter,the school has new houses on it now

  • Dave Dawson

    I attended Edward Rudolf School in Dulwich 1956 - 1960. It was an excellent experience, one every kid should have the chance of. So sorry for all those who went elsewhere and didn’t get the terrific time we did with Head Mr (Uncle) Chapman and his Wife (Auntie). Great place, great times and wonderful people.  

  • Leroywalker 39

    i went to berrow wood  86 92 all you say about the place is correct is was racialy put down by staff phil gray for years

  • Leroywalker 39

    philip gray phil morris peter larner alan gorton all staff at berrow wood school all sent down for abuse at wton crown court any one know where they are know i have case running against the place .

  • Leroywalker 39

    lee zac harris would like to get in touch with you

  • Leroywalker 39

    what you heard was true they all got sent down at wton crown court

  • Sara

    is there noone out there who knows where these ex teachers have gone to? I shudder to think what they might be up to. They may well be quite old now but a leopard never changes its spots.. john downing,roy lester, mr morris probably all escaped without a second thought for the lives they destroyed…

  • Kieran devlin

     afraid not, if you find out or get them in court let me know where and when.kieran devlin.would like to ask them a few things.

  • Dave

    I was at Berrow Wood in the late ‘80’s until it closed. I went to the trial and gave was ready to give evidence until they plead guilty. Bastards. It was a truly horrible place. I hope they demolished it.

  • I was at Berrow Wood from 1979 - 1983, I have no idea what the hell you are taling about mate

  • Harry Hamilton

    I went to berrow wood school from 1971-1974 I had a number like every one els number 14 and I also had a nick name I was hammy as in hamster. all I can tell you about the time I was there is of good times yes there was sad times aswell but mostly good I would love to find some of the lads who was there in the years that I was there can anyone help ?

  • anthony sandilands

    downing still lives in torrington by church

  • Chris

    Sorry to hear of your troubles.

    I went to Red Hill from 1977-84, (11-18yo) so had left by the time you visited. I can certainly remember a few fights, (was in a fair number myself over the years), but you have to expect that in a school of above average intelligence yet ‘maladjusted’ kids, as the terminology was back then, we certainly always considered ourselves to be “nutters and proud of it”.

    I found it to be a great school, did me a world of good. Took a while to settle in but got sorted out there better, I believe, than anywhere else. I feel that closing these sorts of schools was a terrible mistake. When I was there Red Hill dealt with kids that could not continue in mainstream education due to totally having rejected it and its totalitarian regimes.

    The idea that the kids I was at school with, or myself, being left in standard school classes, or worse still a special unit, i.e. a portakabin on the sportfield fills me with horror. In a school like Red Hill the very abnormality that set you apart as different, weird and fucked-up in a standard school is what made you feel fully accepted as ‘one of the gang’ at Red Hill.

    Alan Rimmer was a great headmaster, he fought for the school and the kids,was available 24/7 with the great ability, rare in a headmaster, to listen without talking or judging, an all-round top bloke, sadly missed.

    The big problem was, as always, funding. With funding/fees for at most 60 kids, (and sometimes less) yet over 20 staff to pay, plus of course the upkeep of a building with the main part dating to the 1600’s and the grounds the fees were more than the best public schools in the country.

    Despite the cost I feel that these sort of schools are desperately needed to deal with the kids, like myself, clever but bonkers, mental and a sometimes a little dangerous, I don’t know if I can say that going to Red Hill saved my life, but I think it’s fair to say it may have saved the life of others

    Good luck in the future dude


  • ThePostMaster

    Problem is, when you are a child, no one cares. You are just a burden, a problem, a product of someone else’s lust. You don’t belong. And you are VULNERABLE. Vulnerable to the wants and desires of the PURE and MAGNIFICENT. Personally I went to Heanton School and I have a BAG OF NAILS AND A HAMMER for all the staff at that school. If you treat a child like an ANIMAL, then an ANIMAL is what they will become. HATE is something I learnt at HEANTON SCHOOL, I didn’t learn it from my family. My parents were THREATENED with having both their children taken into care, and losing all contact with them if they didn’t AGREE to me being sent to HEANTON. We were a middle class family indistinct from any other, other than we were RIPE FOR EXPLOITATION BY THE SYSTEM. On my first day I was told by “Mrs. Hockley”, “Your parents hate you, they are bad parents, they have dumped you here and don’t want you any more!” What kind of EVIL MOFO’s do that kind of thing to ANY family? Can you imagine the harm that did to my family bond? My experiences at HEANTON SCHOOL still haunt me now. I don’t think I will ever be FREE of the RAGE & HATRED that the staff in that place instilled inside me. I AM AN ANIMAL! I was once BEATEN continuously until I said, “I am an animal sir”, forget the “sir” and that’s worse than blasphemy. I DESPISE RELIGION IN ALL IT’S FORMS. All boarding schools should be CLOSED and it should be a CRIME to send any child overseas to a boarding school. If you don’t want children, if you don’t want to educate & care for them your self, then DON’T HAVE SEX! And it should be a CRIME to pressure any parent into giving up tutelage of their child to the state or any other person/organisation! FUCK THE SYSTEM!

  • LizL

    Hi Denis,

    I am a journalist, and looking into what happened at Borrow Wood and was hoping you might be available for a chat about it. I’d be very grateful if you could let me know. My email is many thanks

  • LizL

    Hi Gary, I was hoping you might be free for a chat. I am a journalist and looking into what happened at Borrow Wood. Please let me know if you’re happy to have a chat. My email is many thanks

  • LizL


    I am a journalist trying to track down people who went to Borrow Wood school, particularly in the late 60s/70s/early 80s. I would be grateful if any of you who might be happy to have an informal chat with me on the phone would get in touch. My email is Many thanks, Liz.

  • Russell Southgate

    Hi Liz. My name is Russell Southgate. I can remember many of the pupils , some of whom are listed below and the teachers who executed their vile actions upon extremely vulnerable kids. I live in Thailand now but am happy to pay for the international call myself.

  • Russell Southgate

    And by the way, “What the hell is Kurt Manly talking about”, he wasn’t blind and he wasn’t deaf. I should be more tolerant, maybe he was a victim himself and is protecting himself by removing it from his memory. He was there whilst I was there and there is an interesting story to be told about him.

  • Russell Southgate
  • Russell Southgate

    Sorry about the grammar, its is 3 am in Thailand and despite being very tired, I wanted to make a post.

  • Russell Southgate

    its is……. “There I go again.

  • Daren Elkins

    hey dude how goes it?

  • lesley

    the house is split into 3 dwellings and several large houses were built around the site. As a local who moved into the village in 1986 I remember meeting several boys and having a chat over my gate

  • Arturo

    I went to Heanton (77-81) and then Kesgrave (81-83). I have a VERY similar emotional state and outlook as you do about my time at both. E-mail me and we can talk.

  • chris

    I went to Berrow wood school in 70s my number was 33 Il never forget that has long has I live Going to Berrow wood Broke me fissical and mentaly Im an alcolic and have drug proplems Ive never had great convidence in my self Relasionships don’t seem to last Ialso feel social serves have to look at there part This place was not a place for helping and teaching It was all about dissaplin and the grop thing 1=2=3=4 if you were in group 4 you did not get much of a chance to be picked to go on Saturday outing groups 1=2 had first choice Ihated the fucking place Berrow wood school burn in hell

  • Andrew Holder

    is that 33 Christhoper Cooper started at Berrow Wood School on Monday 14th September 1970

  • Arturo Jose Gonzallez

    Hi Anthony, its Andrew Frame. I remember you from the Hell of Heanton. Get hold of me sometime mate, it could be advantageous.

  • Paul

    He’s just recieved 21 years in prison and found guilty on all sexual abuse charges! Justice has finally been dealt. Hope this helps all you guys like me that suffered at his hand at Heanton.

  • anthony oakley & matt lewenden

    does any of you remember mr may! berrow wood school ? hypnotic man!! ? ex detension center officer ! 1986 + big hands !

  • anthony oakley & matt lewenden

    This page is about the hell hole of berrow wood school !!! not other places ! sorry everyone needs to be heard!

  • Actually it isn’t. I’m the owner of this blog and I went to Kesgrave Hall School. I wasn’t aware of Berrow Wood’s existence until people started mentioning it on here. I haven’t stopped anyone talking about Berrow Wood, so please don’t tell people not to talk about other schools.

  • anthony oakley & matt lewenden

    mat lew & myself anthony oakley were sent to berrow wood school because we both had family problems back home and we were constantly told we were malajusted ! Through out the time we spent thier we were open to the strict sick rygeme of mr wises ways of runnining a boarding school ! we were catagrised on entry strait away,beinng told we were a grade 5 ‘from then onwards ‘we had to earn our points to climb the lader to normality ! we wre young boys i innocent but made to feel guilty!

  • Darius Drewe

    Copied in from another similar thread, excuse double post but it’s worth repeating as it’s just as relevant here:

    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, Miss Alvsaker, 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: (sorry if the spacing goes a bit funny again- I don’t know why it’s doing this)

    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’d first gone to view the place in ‘83, I’d been shown round by a lad called Kevin Morley (alongside another kid, 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: thankfully I never met them, as they’d gone by the time I turned up, but their hideousness was already the stuff of legend) 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- yes, not ALL the terrors were inflicted by staff…) 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 first ‘stirrings’ (usually directed at Bogfish’s daughters- be honest, who else WAS there?) Jade the Basset hound, 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 (Brigden?), and anyone else I’ve forgotten, are you out there? If so, you can always email me at, 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.

  • george

    I was there, From 1989 to 1992..It closed shortly after, because of allegations of physical abuse which I can believe. My No was 12 from what i can remember, Didn’t mind it near the end cos there were not that many pupils left, So had star treatment - And the sadistic Mr Grey had finished working there.

  • george

    Doesn’t ring a bell

  • george

    Fishing for scandal are we?

  • george

    i left there in 1992, When i went to my 2nd school in Oxfordshire there was a member of staff there who went to Berrow Wood called Dan Mac - Not sure what the ‘mac’ stood for though - He was probably there in the 1970s he was in mid to late 30s back in 1992

  • george

    Dave maybe we’ve met. I was there 1989 to near the end 1992

  • george

    If Mr Grey is still alive, I wouldn’t mind 5 mins with him!

  • george

    Yes i remember Mr Gray, standing there with his clip board like he owned the place - As for Allan Gorton the principle, Never met a nicer bloke, comforted me when upset, wish i told about Mr Gray though, Mr Morris did hit some of the lads, but was OK with me,some he liked, some he didn’t - but it was Mr Gray that you didn’t know where you stood, often depended on what mood he was in. Someone mentioned Phil Larner, He was OK with me, Though he didn’t take any cr*p, He wasn’t sadistic like Phil Grey: If he could see me now, I would crush him! P.S Mr Larner was living in Hereford, At least when i saw him in supermarket there back in 2003

  • george

    I still get Christmas cards from the ex-principal, He’s old now, Mr Gorton but was a nice bloke - Yes he lost his temper sometimes, but you knew where you stood; But as for Mr Grey, it as like walking on eggshells, I remember Morris and Grirriths, again, they were OK with me, that’s all i can say about them.

  • george

    Didn’t know he died, He was the Agricultural teacher and nice bloke R.I,P

  • george

    What do you want to know?

  • george

    I remember Zac, we met there after it closed, The principal was still there.

  • henryroot

    Russell is that you? How the heck is the table tennis and the running…. you beat me at both… every time!

  • henryroot

    Scandal? the Place itself was an entire f——— Scandal!

  • george

    I don’t entirely disagree

  • Roger Naylor

    I was at berrow wood from 76-79 saw and received plenty of abuse fuckin nonces,

  • mark highton

    i was at berrow in 84 recognise some of the names……it wasnt a good place

  • Gordon Bath was Saunders

    Hi Darren would you be Darren lamb the Notts forest fan who slept opposite me in the dorm in central bed on the right as you came into the second dorm where the showers were?

  • Gordon Bath was Saunders

    Here here I went to bw and I watched as Phil Gray punch the shit out of some guy it went to court and before I got called to witness, Gray confessed and pleaded guilty I wasn’t called in and basically had a wasted journey only person I remember seeing at the court was Darren Lamb with a can of coke and that was last bw boy I saw so if u read this daz email or bell me 07597759707 as goes for anybody that remembers me also I want 10 minutes with the nonce boy that used to have me sit on his hand or ask me to sit next to him on minibus trips to Tewkesbury so he could put his coat on his lap n get me to touch him in secret after promises of paying me £50 every week the filthy cunt I was only 7-8 years old you Bastards I’m now scared for life have depression and have tried suicide 6times since u know who the fuck u are thanks to my loving and understanding wife and 3 gorgeous kids I get through life just fine now

  • Gordon Bath was Saunders

    Do u remember the pe kits when I was there we had black shorts and long sleeve shirts with thick socks both were red and itched like cunts Lol

  • Gordon Bath was Saunders

    Berrow Wood Approved School Abuse Claims | Jordans Solicitors any body want revenge or a payout look here I’m plugging for compo

  • Gordon Bath was Saunders

    Look up jordans solicitors/Berrow Wood Approved School Abuse Claims and compensation I’m going for a claim as I was a witness and I was abused by STAFF and a pupil aswell update if successful to follow

  • Gordon Bath was Saunders

    hi Leroy I remember u hopefully u may remember me too

  • Gordon Bath was Saunders

    i remember some of the kids in my dorm i remember Adrian Friar, Chris (ginger haired boy} cant remember his sir-name, Danny Black, Domanic (Aston Villa Fan), Jason Wragg and a Darren big fat guy with a heart of gold sir-name is a blank though telling me stories of a metal pipe to the back of the legs if you was caught talking. I never got the pipe but do remember been made to stand against the wall (until u almost collapse) just for saying goodnight to & also by the duty staff member. my best experiences of BW was motor bikes with the 3 fingers on the 1 hand teacher (Not sure of name but Mr “Sammy” Samson springs to mind) if anyone knows the name of the teacher please correct me or confirm if right) on the field next to the school (where the animal husbandry teacher (enter name in a comment if you know please) kept the sheep in the spring. Cross country in the woods and getting goosed by the geese over the road next to the football field and also playing Catch The Fox (possibly Also known as Kick The Can) the above games which i remember as Olly Olly Oxen Free was a little like Hide & Seek in the Dark up until 11:30 sometimes even as late as “am in the morning if you was a senior pupil (I was allowed to play until 8:30pm as I was only 7-8 years old) if any body remembers other past times please comment

  • Gordon Bath was Saunders

    share your storey as i or somebody else may remember and confirm it too

  • Gordon Bath was Saunders

    Lee Moorey I remember you and it was the Bottom Landing I think as it was the first Landing I joined before going to Middle when I turned 12-13 If my memory serves me correctly There were 2 houses Malvern and Cotswold we wore grey jumpers with either a Blue Tie for Malvern and a claret red tie for cotswold (I may have them wrong way round) and Gaynor Griffin was the dorm staff she had redish hair and was always into watching the boys shower I remember once seeing Phil Gray, Her and Alan Gorton ripping a tall kids Y-Fronted underpants off in the shower room that lead out to the classrooms because he wanted to shower alone as he was shy about showering with other boys while the duty staff watched the kids wash (fucking predatory cunts) my favourite teacher of all was the one who had a boat in Tewkesbury Marina and she often had pupils stay at weekends in her flat during the holidays if they were unable to go home at end of term (I think her name was Miss Campbell) she wasn’t like any of the residentual staff she actually cared for the pupils like we were her children she was 1 of 3 staff that actually made me feel wanted and loved at that hell hole BW School

  • Eric Burns

    From Eric burns I remember. That school well manged until recently to bury that place deep very deep on the hole a lot of good memories but some prity shit ones too especially the punishment