The Kesgrave Hall sex scandal

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Every so often I do a Google search for the name of my old school, Kesgrave Hall. (Even before Google came online, I used to search for it using other search engines like Infoseek back in the mid-1990s.) The first thing I found out was that the building had been taken over by a timber company called KDM, which had turned the old dining hall into a “high-tech” timber trading hall (you can find some more pictures of the place here, mostly posted by an old boy). Then they moved on, and the building itself was taken over by the Ryes School, a special needs institution based near Sudbury. Then they moved on (because the education department decided it was too big for purpose), the building went up for sale and adverts appeared in Country Life among other places, and this year it got sold to the Milsom’s restaurant chain, which own a number of posh restaurants and small hotels in Essex. They intend to call the new place “Milsom’s at Kesgrave Hall”, which to me has a similar ring to “the Factory Lane Ritz”, the latter being the site of the rubbish tip in my old home town of Croydon.

As for the school, this week I found out something quite different, not about the building as such but about the school: a man was tried, and then convicted, this week for sexually abusing someone there. The man, just in case the newspaper’s website pulls the story, is one Alan Stancliffe, aged 68, from Pontefract in Yorkshire, who already had several other convictions dating from 1982 and 1999 for sexual abuse at Kesgrave. Admittedly this happened in the late 1970s, a decade before I arrived, but I found it somewhat disturbing but not altogether surprising.

I must admit that I was surprised at the details: that the assaults happened in the senior dormitory, namely the Norfolk room, which was composed of cubicles and occupied by fifth formers (today’s year 11; note that form means the same as grade, and there was only one class per form as it was such a small school). When I was there, the fifth formers tended to be the tougher pupils, as you’d expect as they were almost adult, and I find it difficult to imagine that someone could be sexually harassed or assaulted in there. Pretty much all the cubicles were open to view from at least one other occupant, as well as anyone who happened to pass by. Perhaps these assaults happened when the victim was alone in the room. I don’t want to blame the victim or cast doubt on his story as I wasn’t there, but when I was there, anyone who had tried it on with a pupil in Norfolk would have got the daylights kicked out of him.

This doesn’t mean that sexual harassment or abuse didn’t go on, however. On the contrary, when I was in the second year (I spent my first year elsewhere), there were three boys in particular who sexually harassed me and others, and this was done publically and was hardly disguised at all. One of these, a creepy kid two years older than me called Karl Kennell (I’m not sure if that’s the spelling), later did time in Hollesley Bay youth detention centre for sexually abusing young girls while babysitting them, so it just goes to show that such people aren’t picky. Another, who had the nickname Bent Mushroom (mushroom because of his hairstyle, bent because of his proclivities) and was in the form above mine, was far more physical - I can’t remember exactly how physical he got, but it easily included groping people’s backsides. This was done publically, and when people protested, he would pull his sweet and innocent act.

This creep was in the same dorm as me when I was in the second year, and was also a bully. Actually, it’s well known that sexual abuse is about power and not really about sex, although a friend who also suffered Bent Mushroom’s advances told me that he tried it on with people better able to fight him off than we were. Karl Kennell and the third individual, who was in the habit of telling me I had a nice arse (again, in public), were friends with, and in the same dorm as, two of the school’s most notorious bullies. Bent Mushroom had a buddy on the “care” staff, a foul-mouthed thug who assaulted boys on more than one occasion. One evening I returned to the dormitory from the bathroom and found a boy (whom I’ll call Dead President because he had the same name as an early US President) on top of Bent Mushroom, and I don’t mean in a sexual sense. I don’t know what exactly Mushroom had done but he must have given a lot of provocation. Anyway, Mushroom’s pal, Victor Harris, came in and instead of just pulling DP off, punched him first. (This was totally unnecessary, and illegal.)

Mushroom went out, and a short while later came back and gloated to DP, “huh huh, you got done”. DP replied, “only because you’ve got your head stuck so far up Harris’s [backside] you can’t get it out” or something to that effect. A few seconds later Harris walked back in, Mushroom passed this bit of gossip onto him and Harris pulled DP out of bed, said “get out there, you little sh*t” and pushed him out onto the landing, where he remained for the best part of an hour. I remarked on how long he had been out there to Harris, and he told me he was “sick of his f*cking snide remarks”. The fact that DP might have been sick of how people treated him (not very well, as I’ll come to later) didn’t seem to matter. Anyway, a few days later I related this story to another person in the same class as Mushroom. This person (known as Tango Man) said exactly what DP had said when Mushroom gloated at him: that Mushroom had his head up Harris’s backside.

Victor Harris was not the only thug on the Kesgrave Hall staff. (He was sacked in 1990 or 1991, for drinking with fifth formers.) I was assaulted twice in my first half-term in 1989 by Chris Simpson, the biology teacher who also did “care” duties. On the first of these occasions it was because I refused to co-operate when he insisted I return to the common room where someone who had been intimidating me was also in there, and there was no supervision. I also saw Bill Sutton, a care worker who joined after Christmas 1989, kick someone for muttering “sh*t” under his breath - a common enough occurrence at that school - on his first day there, and throw kids round rooms during evening prep. He ended up having a heart attack during a fight with a boy, who had complained about his attitude previously. Then there was Maurice Telford, the maths teacher who punched a boy in the stomach in front of me and another witness for calling that person a “pr*ck” during the lesson (this was illegal). Telford was also reported on Friends Reunited to have put his hands around a pupil’s throat during a fight in the dining hall.

There was a general culture of violence and impunity at Kesgrave, and it was not really discouraged by the attitude of the staff (as you might have already gathered). In my first couple of days, for example, when I finally got Eric Richardson, the deputy head, to listen to my complaint that a fourth-former had been troubling me, the best he could do was to call that person a “golliwog” (nigger) in front of both of us. As you might have gathered, his colour wasn’t central to my complaint, although probably that individual had called Richardson “Taffy” (or other insults related to his Welsh origin) more times than he had received racial abuse from him. Richardson, in response to a later complaint from a Jewish boy that another boy had called him a “fat Jewish Yiddish M. F.” replied that he was indeed a “fat Jewish slob”. Racism, like the sexual abuse, was open and undisguised, and usually went entirely unpunished. The school’s policy towards bullying usually consisted of simply blaming the victim. If the victim had been “mouthing off”, that was excuse enough. (In my first few days, I got numerous lectures about “mouthing off” from certain staff, notably Sean Common, who told me that the aforementioned black bully wasn’t to be trifled with as only he, and one other named care “worker”, could handle him.) On another occasion, I was punched in the face, in public, by someone in the form above mine for supposedly “mouthing off” after he had tricked me into sitting on a wobbly chair after he took my decent one. I demanded that he be punished, and was told that my swearing would cost me more than his assault! He pulled similar tricks on three other occasions, and got away with it every time.

There were a couple of other factors which added to the climate of violence at Kesgrave. The first was the fact that boys with incompatible problems were mixed up - those with autistic-type conditions and “disturbed” boys. I’m not really sure how disturbed some of Kesgrave’s thug boys really were - just because they are ill-behaved and loutish doesn’t mean they are disturbed or victims of abuse or anything like that, but the school should have specialised in one or the other and, instead, mixed them up. I have a lot of resentment towards the headmaster, Michael G Smith, for inviting me to his wretched school when he knew this. He knew full well that I was unsuited for it and that I would get hurt, and see a lot of others get hurt; I can only think that he did this for money. I also must put the question of why the person in the form two years above mine (nickname: Weevil), who besides his autistic tendencies (he was a number plate expert, for example) was not all that intelligent and was a mark for terrible bullying by his form-mates, and others (sample excuse: “he was being a tw*t”), was allowed to stay there. (And if this guy was such a good judge of character, and could “read body language” as he told us, why on earth could he not work out that people like Bill Sutton were not desirable care staff when I could after five minutes in his company?) The second, particularly in my first year there, was the situation of the prefects. All of the fifth formers that year were “sub-prefects” and were entitled to go round giving orders, and often used fists on anyone who disobeyed. I recall fifth formers attacking people in the corridor in my first year, shouting “keep your f*cking language down”. I was publically assaulted in the dining hall, for example, by my table-head in 1989 for refusing to “shut the f*ck up” when he shouted at me to do this (I’d not heard this phrase before, and was offended). He wasn’t punished, as far as I know.

Later on, after the first headmaster I knew left to become the head of a “remedial” special school in Lincolnshire, Eric Richardson became headmaster. Some of the pointless rules which had made life under the old régime oppressive were scrapped, like the rule banning going through the front door, but he also decided to appoint the class thugs in my year as prefects. Richardson lasted a year (he left, to become the head of Netherton school in Devon, when it appeared that the school would close in the summer of 1993), and after him another long-standing teacher, John Williams, took over. He had the bright idea of appointing “sub-prefects” in the form below mine and the one below that. Both were obviously chosen for their hoodlum potential rather than seniority, sensibility or anything else. The one in the lower form had the nickname BAP (Bad Attitude Problem). When I heard that I knew that my decision to leave and study for my A-levels in Croydon was the right one; he clearly had no intention of doing away with the cancer of “thug privilege”. The school folded, for financial reasons, a term later.

When I arrived in the autumn of 1989, the school was not at all generous about allowing boys to see family, let alone go home. There were half-term holidays and “nominated weekends”, which took place on average every three weeks. Before Smith had taken over (and no doubt during the period when the Stancliffe abuse happened), boys boarded the whole term without remission other than, as Richardson told us, for weddings and funerals. I got the impression that he, and various others, would have liked to return to that system. During his period as headmaster, however, weekly boarding became allowed (for legal reasons, as I was told). I don’t really know why this had not been allowed before; perhaps it was so that boys who did not really have homes to go to would not be distressed by seeing others go home. However, this was at the expense of causing distress to those who did, and had to spend their weekends with people who made their school lives difficult. First and second years, while I was a second year (it changed the year after), simply had no escape. We were not allowed off-site unsupervised, we were not allowed in the woods (supposedly for safety reasons), our weekend shopping trips (usually to Woodbridge) were done in an escorted group trip, we were not allowed bicycles (also, ostensibly, for safety reasons), and there was no privacy. If I was doing something private in a room on my own, this could be disrupted (and often was) by anyone who wanted to cause trouble. Boys slept six (on average) to a dormitory, and this was a real shock to me as I had not shared a room with anyone since my parents split my sister and me up when I was 8. The conversation, particularly in my first term, was not something I was prepared for; it was often about sexual matters about which I didn’t know much, or at the age of 12, care much.

Since leaving Kesgrave, I’ve met with only one former pupil by purpose (two others came to my old house by chance in 1994, selling something or other, and told me the story of how the school had closed). However, I participated in some of the discussions on Friends Reunited, which started in 2001 when the site became well-known. Someone (who was from my home town and was in the upper 6th form when I was in the second year) posted a poem about his memories, which he said were mostly happy ones. I posted that he was welcome to his happy memories, but mine were dominated by the surly and abusive “care” staff like Sutton and Harris, the sexual harassment, the “corrosive atmosphere of continual backbiting”, the thug culture, the fact that the nice staff all seemed to leave after a while, and so on. There are those with the sentiment that the good outweighed the bad, that we “could have rotted in a local comprehensive”, and that bad memories are best left buried. For some of us, however, they are not buried and are still pretty vivid years later. My overriding memories are of the stress, the climate of fear, not knowing whether people would be my friends or at my throat from one day to the next, and the misery of living with people I didn’t much care for and who didn’t much care for me.

Eric Richardson, in one of his morning lectures, once told us that he would be quite happy if one of us said to him, “thanks Taff”, after leaving the school, but he did not expect anyone to say such a thing to him then and he certainly didn’t want to hear “Taff”. Frankly, I don’t know what gratitude he, or most (I admit there were some good ones) of the staff there expect. They did a job, not very well in a lot of cases, and got paid for it. End of story. I’m not grateful, least of all to them. My time there feels like four years ripped out of my life and thrown to the dogs. Yes, it’s true that there were good times - the two trips to Germany and Fred Miller’s mystery tours, for example - and the food was good, at least when it wasn’t contaminated by cigarette ash or insects, and the disasters and the less inspired servings, like the luminous green mousse known as “Sizewell Tart” after a nearby nuclear reactor, gave some of us a good laugh. I’m not saying I was a saint or that I never deserved to get punished or that I didn’t get corrupted by the culture myself to some extent, but I also believe I wasn’t in the best of positions to change that culture, and I am not just talking about what I suffered. I have a sense of being cheated; I went in with good intentions and with a sense of a new start, and had a rude shock when I got there. Kesgrave was not really a special school, despite what some of the newer boys believed. It did not live up to its sales rhetoric at all. It was, essentially, a dumping ground.

I promised to come back to Dead President, so now here I will. He was expelled from the school in the summer term of 1993 (weeks before he would have left anyway) for a drunken assault on a former teacher against whom he had a grudge, carried out on a weekend trip to Felixstowe. I am not entirely sure what drove him to drink; perhaps it was his family problems, or perhaps it was the abuse he received from other boys, who bullied him for the cigarettes he was addicted to but not allowed to have. On top of this, people generally regarded him as a worthless, dirty individual, called him scum and suggested that he had been fished out of the toilet by his mother rather than flushed down it as he should have been. I shared a dorm with him for most of my fifth form, and he was a nightmare to live with because of his unpredictable, drunken behaviour. Now, Mike Smith told me to have compassion for him because of all his problems etc., but back then I didn’t feel in a position to do so (and besides, others were paid to care for him; I wasn’t). Nowadays, I can see that he got that way in large part because he had been treated like filth for the past several years, but that’s as easy for me now as it was for Mike Smith to say it then.

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  • Old Pickler

    What a horrible, horrible place. Bad enough some of the boys behaving like that - bullying goes on everywhere - but the staff condoning it makes it much worse.

    Boarding school would not have suited me, but I know people who went - probably older than you - and were reasonably happy. I think the trend now is to encourage weekly boarding, and of course communication is so much easier now.

  • Muhammad Faqir

    A lot of what you went through probably prepared you for your eventual acceptance of Islam. Shaykh Hamza Yusuf briefly mentioned similar going-ons at the boarding school he attended in the United States. It was in a book that came out well over 10 years ago called “American Jihad: Islam after Malcolm X” by Steven Barboza.

  • M Risbrook

    I was in contact with someone who attended the school during the early 1990s. He has a bitter grudge towards Michael Smith and regrets that he didn’t viciously assault him and his bitch of a daughter.

    The school broke the law concerning church services. SEN schools that are not controlled by a religious body are NOT allowed to force children to attend church services, or request that parents send an exclusion notice. I have a copy of the school’s brochure and it even mentions that all children must attend a church service. How the school got away with this eludes me.

  • Indigo Jo

    I’ve heard the complaint about Smith’s daughter on this site before, and I can’t understand what offended him about her. She was only a child - about 8, if I remember rightly, when I got there in 1989. I think “stuck up bitch” was the phrase used, but if she was a bit stuck-up at that age it is only her daddy’s fault. My complaint is with Smith himself, because he is a scoundrel who mis-sold his wretched school to people it couldn’t possibly help.

    As for the school breaking the law by forcing us to go to church, well, the school broke the law in numerous ways, such as allowing kids to get beaten up in public with impunity. Are you sure it was against the law in 1989? It was stopped in the final year or so, for legal reasons. However, remember that Kesgrave did not look after mentally deficient children (other than the aforementioned “Weevil”!) so perhaps the law might have been different. The whole idea, I think, was to require from boys what they would of other kids, rather than using the SEN as an excuse.

  • M Risbrook

    According to the brochure, the school was for children with EBD and not other types of SEN. It appeared to be very traditional and disciplined - possibly modelled along the lines of a public school. It was quite common practice for children with other types of SEN such as dyslexia, dyscalcula, Asperger syndrome, autistic spectrum disorders, and ADHD to have their conditions misdiagnosed as EBD back in the 70s, 80s, and 90s and sent to schools for children with EBD. Many LEAs steadfastly believed that dyslexia didn’t exist and was a poor excuse for low standards. Asperger syndrome wasn’t known about in Britain until 1991 and didn’t become an officially recognised condition until 1995. Allegedly, many of these EBD schools could not effectively cater for children with other types of SEN. They were often subjected to unjust treatment and harsh punishments from both staff and fellow students. Sometimes these EBD schools caused more harm than good because the techniques and tactics used for children with EBD are ineffective for children with different types of SEN. I’m wondering if anybody at Kesgrave Hall School had SEN other than EBD that wasn’t diagnosed.

    I shall investigate that law about weekly boarding because I’m sure that a school cannot ‘incarcerate’ its students or stop their parents from picking them up outside of teaching hours.

  • M Risbrook

    Be careful what you say. You could get sued for defamation or even libel for this blog. If someone fires a lawsuit against you then the burden of proof that something happened is on you.

    Like it or not, the laws relating to libel and defamation now apply to the internet just as much as print media. People have got sued in recent years and I would expect to see more prosecutions in the future. Blogs and discussion forums are treated by the law as no different from any other website and the OWNER is more likely to get sued than the person who posted the libellous or defamatory statement because he is reponsible for ensuring his website remains clean and legal.

    I don’t know any of the people you have mentioned so I am unable to comment whether or not what you have written is legal. However, don’t think you can get away by using pseudonyms like Dead President or Bent Mushroom in situations that might be risky because you can’t.

  • Mark Phillips

    Hi, I was at this school from 1978 until 1986 (I think!) and have many bad memories regarding staff and fellow pupils. I also have fond memories of some staff and pupils and even had my first kiss during one of Mr Shepherd’s few “modern” innovations - the Xmas School disco.

    I thought you might be interested to know that the building has been bought by the hotel chain Milsom’s and will be opened as a luxury hotel/restaurant this year (2008) on April 30th. It would be a weird experience eating in the dining hall again (assuming they even use the same room!!) Check this out for more info:

    I’m probably going to go and eat there - just for the weirdness factor…

    Mark P.

  • Indigo Jo

    Hi Mark, I was aware of the new Kesgrave Hall website and thanks for the link. The dining room has been renovated at least once since either of us last ate there - the KDM timber firm turned it into a “high-tech timber trading room” and I guess the Ryes used it for one purpose or another. There was supposed to be a disco the first year I was there (1989) but it got called off because the wrong people got invited; I remember Smithy saying in the assembly in which this was announced, “there are condoms floating round the school as if this was going some sort of borDELLO!”. Others were pissed off but I hate discos and I was glad, not that I told anyone, and there wasn’t another.

  • kevin mackintosh

    hi long time since i was there but i remember 1 such disco where a girls school came to the school and a fifth year pupil was caught by mr kenworthy in the cdt clasroom outside having fun with a girl ..we all found it rather amusing…

  • Chris Wells

    I just stumbled over this by accident today but so much identify with so many of the things that were mentioned in the blog. I dont talk about it much to people because people would think that I was lying or exaggerating. I don’t want to add to any of the experiences but suffice to say violent actions and attitude of teachers and general climate yep totally agree. Was I suited to it? nope. some good mates and nice to see Mark posting further up. have contact with Steve Whitby in America a bit as well but generally not a nice experience. Might also try out the new restaurant some time Mark. Well weird.

  • Troy

    Hi All, yep I to would admit strange goings on. Overall I have good memories of Kesgrave hall and most if not all of the kids there. I have never had any contact since my unprompted exit and wondered how everyone else got on way back then.

  • David Morris

    What happened to my earlier response? Did you not like someone saying that their experience had been ok, but recognised the problems that others talked about?

  • Is your comment still showing on this entry? It may have been because I installed a remote comment management facility, which hid several comments, but I’ve disabled it now.

  • Troy

    Hi All; Dave, well not all of my experiences were ok, I left because of Stan the man. Some of you might know what went on.

  • KHS Old Boy

    I found this blog via the link from the Wikipedia page on the school. I will say having read your posts on your time at the school; you seem to want to blame the school for all your ills. I and the other ex-KHS’s I am still in touch with, believe the school did us well in difficult circumstances. It may be true that you were not best suited for the school, but you cannot blame either the school or the staff for that. You were at the school while I was there and my only real memory of you, is of a rather hyper-active and very strange kid and looking back on it, I can see why you were maybe not best served by being placed there. Your complaint should be with your parents, educational welfare officer (if you had one) and your local educational authority who sent you to the school and NOT the school trying to do the best for you.

    Bullying happens at every school, my younger brother was bullied at the local comprehensive and much worse than anything anyone at KHS was subject to. As for the “abuse” from staff, you have to balance that with what the pupils gave out to the staff, on numerous occasions I saw pupil’s assault staff.

    I have decided to stay anonymous in this post, purely because I have seen how you treat some of the ex-pupils in this post, for which I think you, should be really ashamed of yourself – it is both unnecessary and demeans you.

  • M Risbrook

    KHS Old Boy has valid points to make. If any student is unhappy to attend a particular school, or feels that it does not meet their needs and requirements, then they should discuss the matter with their parents or local authority officials. SEN schools are not prisons. Nobody is incarcerated there and every student has a right to leave the school if they wish to do so. The head teacher and the governors can try to persuade parents to keep their child at the school by saying “it’s best for them” or “they won’t succeed elsewhere” or any other nonsense, but they have absolutely no power whatsoever to force them to stay at the school. The power and the decision are in the hands of the parents who can withdraw their child for any reason whatsoever and they DO NOT have to tell the head teacher why.

    Another point I will make is that the rumour that a student leaving a SEN residential school who wishes to attend a mainstream state school has to repeat a year is a hoax that still sadly circulates even today. State schools allocate students to their year group by their chronological age and nothing else.

  • MR: I never heard of that particular rumour. What I did hear of was that people who left KHS or were kicked out were likely to end up in a “DC” (detention centre). Many boys were actually kept down a year at KHS, including three quarters of those in my (large) form.

    It’s not that the others mentioned don’t share any of the blame, but Smithy in particular knew what KHS was like and still encouraged my parents to send me there. I know he didn’t force them, but he had the chance to discourage them and did the exact opposite.

  • KHS Old Boy

    So what you are saying is that the headmaster at the time should not have taken you. You need to remember that KHS was a business and as such they were not going to turn away any who could have benefited. Before you say they put profit before the kids welfare, that was never true in all the time I was there.

    I am not for one moment going to try and speak for anyone else, but has it not crossed your mind that perhaps he did feel you could have been helped ?

  • Maybe he did, but he knew full well that he was in no position to do it.

    Perhaps he believed the school couldn’t afford to turn me away, what with RB leaving. But that’s no excuse.

  • KHS Old Boy
    Maybe he did, but he knew full well that he was in no position to do it. Perhaps he believed the school couldn’t afford to turn me away, what with RB leaving. But that’s no excuse.

    I don’t understand what you mean, if you don’t mind me asking, why was KHS in no position to help you? and what makes you think Mr Smith knew that when you started?

    I also don’t know what/who RB is ?

  • RB was a boy who left shortly before I arrived, in October 1989. He was two forms above me and had a reputation for being a deranged bully with certain unpleasant personal habits.

  • KHS Old Boy

    Can’t remember him at all, but think it unlikely that hand any effect, anyway as I said :

    Why was KHS in no position to help you? and what makes you think Mr Smith knew that when you started?

    I am genuinely interested in knowing.

  • Troy

    Hi guys, some of you are right, when i started at kesgrave 77 I was moved up a year as I joined mid term too young for a senior school such as kesgrave. I then redid that year. When I left I was placed into a main stream comp; mid term again third year. I was then held back and made to do that year again, and made to leave school at 15. My failure in the system, I certainly don’t blaim Kesgrave hall just Stan the man. I never knew that he left; soon after me, if I knew that when I left he was leaving I would have stayed.

  • Codf1977

    So then Matthew, I hope you are not up to your old tricks. Here you are making accusations about someone, in this case Mr Smith, and you are seem unwilling to back your claims up, come on put your money where your mouth is.

  • Codf1977

    Matthew, you should either back up you claims or admit that they are not true - which is it ?

  • KHS Old Boy

    While I don’t think codf1977’s brash tone is the way to go about it; I do however think you (indigojo) owe the readers of this page and other ex-KHS’ers an explanation as to your comments about Mike Smith.

  • Troy

    Hi Just wondering could I have some clues as to who KHS old boy and codf1977 are.

  • KHS Old Boy

    Hi Troy - what would you like to know ? as I said on my first comment (August 31st, 2009 at 12:15 pm) I am an ex-KHS boy, who was at the school at the same time as Indigojo.

  • Codf1977

    Who or what I am is not the issue, nor is how I know Matthew. I see my role on this blog as being that of “Leader of Her Majesties Loyal Opposition” someone that points out when Matthew’s comments are wrong or where he misses the point or fails to consider the alternative view.

    My point here is, he has made an accusation about someone (the headmaster) and is not able or willing to back it up when challenged to.

  • Codf1977

    So Matthew - as I suspected, you seem unable to back these accusations up. Is “world” therefore entitled to treat them as totally bogus and unsubstantiated?

  • Lee Ellis

    You decided you were unable to publish my last reply to your spurious thread - at least have the back bone to post this reply. The argument on whether abuse took place at KHS or not - has been settled on a number of occasions by the trusted and time served justice system we employ in this great nation. Accusations have been proved and up held by juries , who have deliberated after sitting through weeks of debate and being presented with argument and evidence. Convictions at Crown Court Trials are not gained easily!!!! Stop talking about these things in such a manner, stop trivialising it - take a minute and think about the individuals who have had there lives turned inside out by KHS and the abuse they suffered there.

  • Codf1977

    My understanding, and please correct me if I am wrong, is that only one person has been convicted of any abuse at KHS, that was of a one Alan Stancliffe (Teacher guilty of sexually abusing pupil) for offences committed in the 1970’s and early 1980’s and was at a time when Matthew was only 6 years old and not there.

    However Matthew has made both in this post and other post accusations about his treatment which he is unable (or unwilling) to elaborate on and I think it is initially reasonable to assume that they are “totally bogus and unsubstantiated” and made, like so many of his posts, to court attention.

    A person who worked at KHS at the time that Matthew was a pupil has written: “Matthew Smith was (is) someone who, whilst intelligent, was emotionally unstable and without the correct medicines to correct the chemical imbalances in his brain, ceased to function as a human being ” (see here) I should point out in the interest of balance that Matthew has denied this is true. However if this is true it would go some way to explain his actions.

  • Lee Ellis: I did not dispute that abuse took place at KHS then or at any other time. I merely expressed my surprise that the victim was a fifth former and not somebody younger, since (a) it is normally boys in the period immediately before puberty which are most at risk from this kind of abuse (this was definitely the case with the abuse I witnessed, and experienced, while at KHS) and (b) because a fifth former might be better able to fight it off, and I would not expect others to tolerate it going on around them, given that homosexuality was not exactly a prized virtue when I was there. Given the culture and the relative lack of access to the outside world that junior boys experienced, I am surprised there was not more.

    Codf1977: I have no duty to explain myself to you or anyone else who does not care to reveal his or her name. The person who claimed to be an ex-KHS staff member at the Durotrigan blog is a liar, since he claims I had to be calmed down with medication, which is simply not true. (It has only happened once in my life, in Cairo in 1999, when I was crying in pain while having my leg sliced open to treat an abscess.) I believe Smithy knew I was not suited to KHS because he would have gained some measure of me by speaking to my parents. I do not need attention from any ex-KHS boys. For all I care, most of them can, in the words of Ani DiFranco, “take a puddle dive”.

  • shaun

    I could write a book about the various forms of abuse I witnessed and endured at KHS, but life is far too short for that.

  • shaun

    Indigo, if possible please give my email address to Troy who commented on this blog, I believe he was the one who stood up with me against my first abuser (male teacher) at KHS.

  • M Risbrook

    I have been informed that the medication was Thyroxine. It is taken by people who have an underactive thyroid gland. No mind altering or mood controlling medications were ever given out at Kesgrave Hall School this side of 1990 although I am unable to confirm whether they were given out before then. I believe that only doctors are allowed to give out most of these medications to patients.

  • I told anyone at KHS who asked what my medication was. I have mentioned the fact on this blog and elsewhere in the past. It’s not a secret. Thyroid deficiency is not uncommon and doesn’t produce psychosis — it’s more likely to make someone sluggish and miserable. In a child, it produces stunted mental development and growth.

  • Codf1977

    IndigoJo : “I have no duty to explain myself to you or anyone else who does not care to reveal his or her name.”

    What is your obsession with someone’s name – If I was to say my name was Joe Blogs would that change things?

    IndigoJo : “I believe Smithy knew I was not suited to KHS because he would have gained some measure of me by speaking to my parents.”

    That may be the case, but what my point is, what should the head teacher have found out from either you or your parents that would have made him sure the school could not have helped you.

  • Gareth Flower

    I was at KHS for just one year from 1982 - 83. I had come from Heanton which was the happiest time of my schooling, After a year at “Kidsgrave” I refused to go back. I was beaten senseless by Lance Morland (same year as me. Forced to smoke by the same. (It took me 26 yrs to pack that one up) Mr Shepherd the head was a psycho. he’d drag boys out of the dining hall and beat them up in the hallway, Every morning there would be a queue outside his office to be slippered. He was blind in one eye and would stand on your foot so you wouldnt move when he tried to focus. Still mainly got you on the base of your spine tho, “Eppy Sheppy” was his nickname for his temper, “Joey” Miller the deaf housemaster would get frustrated and lash out cos he knew the boys were taking the mick but he didnt know what they were saying. Mike Lafford the deputy head was another Psycho. As for not taking emotionally disturbed boys. I think Joseph Macdonald is a case in point on that one. poor bastard. there were no half terms and we had one visiting weekend per term. to make up for it we had very long hols, four weeks at easter and christmas and 8 in the summer. There may be a case for corporal punishment but putting 50 hormonal teenage boys with behavioural problems in a closed environment for three months at a time with virtually no access to family (even letters home were censored, and destroyed if “unsuitable”). and then systematically beating seven shades of s**t out of them solves nothing. As for sexual abuse, Glad I was ugly, got to be thankful for small mercies i suppose, Anyway, I’m 40 now, married and very happy. because of my childhood or in spite of? and does it matter? If you are still suffering a quarter of a century on, please get help, they have won if they manage to f**k up your entire life!

  • LeedsLad

    Interesting. Life must have been hell for coloured kids in those corporal punishment days. I am sure they would have prefered to be molested than beaten up ^_^.

  • M Risbrook

    Gareth Flower

    I think I would prefer to live in Gaza. How on earth could parents even want to send their children to a school like that. Did most children come from stable families or was it a school catering mainly for children who were neglected or abused by their families?

  • Gareth Flower

    The term “maladjusted” was widely used to describe anyone the authorities couldnt pigeonhole, Anyone that gave the mainstream school system a bit of a headache. dyslexia, asbergers, adhd, I was simply labelled as “disruptive”.so long ago now I cant even remember why. I still tend to be fairly vocal against obvious unfairness. I think the powers that be simply didnt know what to do with us, so they removed us from the system for a few years and then dropped us back in when their responsibility ran out. what they understand now is just a result of better science, 150 years ago no-one without money got an education and 6 year olds went up chimneys. Kesgrave was just a phase in that evolution. Better than Dickens but worse than now. I bear no grudges as long as the lessons are learned.

  • M Risbrook

    I think it was commonplace for children in the 1970s and 80s with conditions like dyslexia or Asperger syndrome to be misdiagnosed as having EBD, or simply labelled as maladjusted. The residential schools they were sent to had a philosophy of using harsh discipline to make the children behave and comply. The children did not always get the help and support they needed.

  • Henry

    As a former member of staff at KHS I read the bulk of the comments above with sadness, but not surprise. I left the school not being happy there. I was neither given special training or any support from senior members of the team, academic or boarding. Was I perfect? No! But I did try to get youngsters out of the school to various activities, (smuggling out day wear) so they were not shown up in uniform all the time. I did manage to co-organise a holiday out of term time. The rules were strict and numerous, and very OTT, and I decided as a “pleb” member of staff, I had no say in things, and no acceess to improve anything, so I moved on.

    I did not witness any sexual abuse while there, nor was I aware of any. I am sure that some of the boys there in my time were bullies, and took out their aggression wrongly on others. The slipperings etc were way over the top, BUT probably, not much kore or less than other schools, state and boarding at the time. that does not make it right of course. There was no “reporting” system, and child-protection issues nowhere near the top of the agenda as they are supposed to be today. There was not one jot of training given to staff at KHS, in either how to care and teach boys of varying needs, or is sexual or physical abuse and the signs to watch for.

    I gather things never really improved after I left and the school eventually closed, and re-opened under another name for a short period, before the end. I recognise that various people reading this from the school will have had a range of experiences and emotions on a sliding scale. I also recognise that many will be and still are affected to this day.

    It was shocking to read of convictions of a former staff member, who I did not know. As regards other allegations that people make, just be careful about launching into print making allegations against people. I don’t doubt the various stories printed here and unprinted are true. Just be mindful of the laws of libel. Friendsreunited is not as popular as it once was, but it was pretty fair at removing disputed information, partly as in publishing allegations that may or may not be true, could be deemed libel and an offense.

    Obviously some students left the school and don’t seem too affected. Clearly others were not so fortunate. I was unable to enhance any improvements while there, but I took away with me what I had learned and was ablle to make sure that practices in other schools and bodies elsewhere were improved through better working practice and staff training, for teachers, social workers etc.

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  • RB

    okay, i am RB (Richard Bain), and what you say about me is possibly true, but how would you know if you started two years after my leaving? Have you actually spoken to anyone who claims to have been bulied by me or are you just perpetuating a misguided chinese whisper? as for the personal hygiene issue, what your source didn’t tell you was that i was a sexually abused youngster myself resulting in my being nocturnaly incontinent for many years. think back, were you ever embarrassed? now try covering yourself in excrement and waking up in a room with five others staring and sniffing the air. i suffered every day, i blamed myself, when the truth is there is so much that could’ve been done that wasn’t. i don’t blame kesgrave, it was the whole system that failed me!

  • Tim Lovelock

    a great problem up until the 90s was the sheer lack of information that we were given as pupils. We lived very much in a fishbowl and assumed that what we experienced was “normal”. I come from an “unnormal” family and I found Kesgrave fairly easy to deal with, i.e. my aggression was at first tolerated by the staff and even encouraged on the sports field. Later on I tried to use the resources available to me to keep the less suitable staff in check, which included punching several members of staff over a period of time in response to their abuse of others. I finally ended up being dragged around the kitchen by my ear whilst on the end of a very furious tirade by one of the more caring staff. That was an event which was seminal to my development, although very similar to the advice from a senior teacher, namely Mrs Magill.

    The care staff was easily divided into completely unsuitable and into suitable but not empowered groups. As for the Headmasters and their deputies, I agree with anyone who was dissatisfied and unhappy. I found a path that suited me, i.e. doing things which brought me some peace and privacy from the other pupils and from the staff that I could not abide.

    There seemed to be no help given to the pupils or any sort of career guidance from the teachers. There were however some very caring people there who did take the opportunity to help me in my development and who helped me mature - exactly the same as in any other state school I presume. This is whining, but I feel that any other school would have some checks in place to help. I finally and gladly left KHS after 7 years to start living my life.

  • M Risbrook

    a great problem up until the 90s was the sheer lack of information that we were given as pupils.

    There seemed to be no help given to the pupils or any sort of career guidance from the teachers.

    A former KHS student I’m in contact with seconds this. He told me that all the senior staff really cared about was the behaviour of students and whether they had done their prep on time. Help and advice was difficult to find and neither did the staff seem to take much interest in the long term future of students after they finished at KHS.

    This is whining, but I feel that any other school would have some checks in place to help.

    The former KHS student said that there was a total lack of communication between KHS and his LEA. It appeared as if the LEA did not care about his education or welfare but left KHS in charge. Neither was his statement updated to reflect changes that took place at KHS.

  • In response to the two recent comments, it’s true that we weren’t given much (or anything) in the way of careers guidance, but some of us couldn’t think about what we would do after school - that was another world, and although I knew I wasn’t going to stay at KHS a day longer than was necessary and wanted to go to university, apart from that I didn’t think of anything further ahead than the next trip out or the next weekend home or holiday, simply because of the stress of living there.

    Also, it’s true that in the late 1980s and early 1990s, there wasn’t the Internet (or at least, the public didn’t have access to it), but some of us knew that what went on at KHS wasn’t normal - I had been in normal schools and special units, and at none of them did I experience anything like what I did at KHS. It was definitely illegal even then; it persisted because we had limited access to the outside world and often we could not pass on what we knew for days or weeks after the event.

  • M Risbrook

    it’s true that we weren’t given much (or anything) in the way of careers guidance, but some of us couldn’t think about what we would do after school

    Neither did my school provide much in the way of careers advice, and that was just an ordinary secondary school. I wanted to work with computers but none of the teachers nor the careers advisor knew anything about the IT industry. I think the majority of secondary school students have no idea what they want to do after they leave school so KHS is far from exceptional in this instance.

    Also, it’s true that in the late 1980s and early 1990s, there wasn’t the Internet (or at least, the public didn’t have access to it)

    You have raised a valid point that the former KHS student I’m in contact with has also raised. Would KHS had existed in the form it existed in during the late 80s and early 90s if the internet had been as popular back then as it is today?

    we had limited access to the outside world and often we could not pass on what we knew for days or weeks after the event.

    The student had many contacts outside of KHS, which possibly explains why although he is angry and disappointed with certain aspects of KHS, he isn’t traumatised by it. Something he found worrying was that some students had been at KHS for several years and had very few contacts outside of the school. They probably had no friends back in their home town so KHS had effectively become their life.

  • David Ben Judah

    As an Ex-KHS boy I view this blog, and all the others on KHS I have found, with nostalgia and mirth.

    We all had problems be they anger, violence, boredom, distraction, sexual, or otherwise. How is there any surprise that this mix of personal and mental health issues combined with hormonal development and isolation in an enclosed environment would lead to harsh conditions?

    When I entered KHS I had the advantage of having spent 5 years at Heanton, latterly under the care of the Africana’s regime. This didn’t soften the blow much, especially the physical one, but it did help.

    I will not offer up a rosy or revisionist version of the the events that took place but I will say that I and many others survived to become fully functional, employed and productive members of society and loving and caring parents. I, as with many others, came out of the system without too many scars, real and emotional, and have had a good life including further and higher education, a military career, a civillian career and a family.

    I remember many of the people who have posted here and elsewhere. Tim Lovelock I remember as a quiet hairy giant who would step in to protect smaller kids, Gareth Flower I remember from way back at Heanton - and drumming in Pompie - we were close friends until his disappearance. I also remember some of the names mentioned here, Lance Moreland in particular as he is the reason I am now a Krav Maga instructor who teaches both children and adults to defend themselves. With sadness I also remember others who are no longer with us due to suicide and accidents - I feel that time at KHS may have had something to do with some of these.

    I hold no grudges against either pupils or staff, including those who tried to do me mental or physical harm, and wish them all the best that life can bring.

    I did return to the school about a year after I left to see old friends and to thanks the staff for my time there - Yes, I did shake his hand and say “Thanks Taffy” which he did appreciate (he even smiled and hugged me).

    We were not in a unique environment or situation; the same types of things, and worse, went on in other private schools as well as in state schools. Bad things did go on at KHS, some sexual, some physical, some mental and emotional, but nothing near the scale, intensity, or regularity suggested here and elsewhere. As has already been stated there has only been one conviction for abuse by a member of staff and none by a pupil.

    It is time for us all, those who can, to come to terms with what happened, to analyse what effect it has had on our lives, and to move on. If anyone feels that their lives have been so effected by their time at Heanton or KHS that there is a need for mental or emotional healing I would suggest that you seek help through a doctor, a counsellor or psychiatrist. If you feel that you have a strong enough grievance to be able to go to law then I suggest that you do not post across the internet but construct a case with the help of a solicitor and a barrister.

  • africana

    hi david,

    i would be grateful if you would explain this reference as i wouldn’t want my online identity to be in anyway associated with matthew’s former school.


  • africana

    “Africana’s regime”

  • Africana: as he mentioned on another entry, that Africana was a man whose surname was Morris, and was at my school in the early 1980s.

  • africana

    ok, thanks.

  • Actually “Africana” in that context could mean “Afrikaner”, meaning a white South African (although Afrikaners are of Dutch descent, and Morris sounds British).

  • africana

    it is an odd expression,unless morris was a female from rhodesia. (i’m not, btw)

  • What I meant was, the term used was “Afrikaner” but he spelled it “Africana”. An Afrikaner is a white South African of Dutch ancestry who speaks Afrikaans.

  • africana

    right, i see…but as you say with a name like morris, it’s unlikely that, even if he was south african, that he was a south african of dutch descent.

  • africana

    now that was a diversion.

  • David Ben Judah

    Thanks for clearing that up.

    Mr Morris had spent many years in Rhodesia and South Africa, he described himself variedly as either Rhodesian or Afrikaner on occasions, and had developed a small accent and a big White Man attitude. As I stated in another thread he was a bully, and a racist.

    My apologies for any confusion or misspelling.

  • cookie

    I have just found this site and blogs on it read both sides of my time at kgh and the problems discussed above bar none were very real and present all my time there,which saw the end of slippering,etc .i want to know if the fat man(suppossed care staff) who fled one night after i,rg and a few others fronted smith with his activites was the one charged ?certainly he affected other pupils in my year upto and including 5th form.I survived by my temper and fists which soon disuades most bullys and hiding up the tallest trees i could find.lance never had my respect,anyone who has to kick a defensless animal(a hedgehog)to earn his peers respect aint worthy.I believe some staff tried,i agree a lot of kids then were misdiagnosed and needed better.I am glad i found this site as some of this stuff is still with me now and not spoken about for 23 odd years.I definately want to try the kh restaurant experience.

  • Cookie: the guy who was charged (Alan Stancliffe, AKA “Stan the Man”) left KHS in the early 1980s, several years before Smithy arrived.

  • cookie

    yeah thanks,I found some news reports just after i blogged you.Definately not who I was talking about.I forget the fat mans name the last time I saw him he was driving out of khs grounds with his stuff in a white van,just after we reported him..Smith should have had him charged.This one event destroyed my already flimsy trust in adult authority and I left after gcse year.

  • cookie

    Entitled “Self Realisation” or “People in Glass Houses…” (whichever you prefer!) I’ve. read my own comments of last week,and want to leave a footnote.After some thought I realised with regards my critisizm of Lance(based on new boy third year experience) made me a hypocrite.At the same time the suggested hedgepig abuse occured,I spent most of my summers with an airgun killing small defenseless animals and birds,who then is worse? Which brings me to bullying.As a junior I received my share,and as a senior I am chagrined now to say I did my share.However, as an adult my life has had it share of probl;ems,most my own fault,and cannot be blamed on earlier life experience.To blame the past for present problems is to deny life now,yesterday may have been harsh but tommorow will only be better if you take responsibility for yourself.If you were bullyed,please get training to protect yourself, but when you get that strength please remember not to repeat the mistakes of your tormentors or you are no better than them.’enuf said.PEACE.

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  • Scarred but healing

    I was a student at KHS in the early 90’s and was repeatedly beaten for “mouthing off” also i was repeatedly sexually abused by other boys (JC if i ever meet you again you will rue the day) and the staff didnt care they passed it off as “kids experimenting” i remember some of the characters mentioned in the article. I remember Dead President he had his problems but he was a nice guy at heart, he always claimed (to me at least) that he got expelled protecting me although i never knew what or who from. In my time there a few members of staff were fired or vanished with all sorts of rumours oddly enough though the members of staff that went never seemed to be the bad ones.

    I was only at the school a couple of years but its an experience that I will never forget, I was emotionally scarred for years and ended up with serious violent tempers which thankfully i dealt with eventually.

    But despite all the pain and abuse some of the staff and boys there were amazing and ill never forget them.

    I did have a lot of fun there sometimes and thats what i try and remember more than the bad.

  • I’m at a loss to work out who you’re referring to. The only “JC” I remember was the (female) maths teacher, and the person I called “Dead President” was expelled for attacking another woman teacher that he had a grudge against, and had threatened before. He had also attacked several others, including me, while drunk. I don’t remember him defending anyone.

  • Yes, I remember now. Joined in the form above in 1990 but moved down into the same class as Riaz and me. I don’t remember him ever being accused of sexual harassment though.

  • M Risbrook

    I have no more information about him - and it probably wouldn’t mean much to me anyway as I have never knowingly met him. Riaz hasn’t told me anything so far about sexual harassment taking place, but if it did happen, why didn’t parents intervene?

  • Scarred but healing

    There was no intervention because i was around 10 years old and scared for my safety, despite repeated complaints to staff they pretended it was all a bit of harmless fun, i couldnt tell my parents at the time i dont know why whether it was fear or embarresment. i may be wrong about DP but im pretty sure its the same person im thinking of, i never did quite believe him i saw him at the swimming pool we used to visit after he was expelled but the guy im thinking of had the same starting letter to his surname as the acronym, had a serious nicotine addiction and lots of issues but was underneath it all a decent guy.

    The accusations were never taken seriously but repeated sexual assaults took place in the darkened art room after hours when he threatened my life. i still dont know how he got the key.

  • Scarred but healing

    im happy to give full details but not in public i am worried i have already given too much information

  • I now know who you think I mean by Dead President. Dead President’s last name began with a J, not a P (the name is meant to disguise him, but it refers to there being a former US president by the same name; Dead Presidents is Black American slang for money, after the pictures of dead presidents on their banknotes).

    The person you are thinking of was in the form below mine and was expelled in 1991 or 1992, after a long campaign of violent behaviour, including against me, among other people, but his principal victim was someone in the form below his who had been accused of a sexual assault and it was an attack on that person which got him expelled. I do remember meeting him at Crown Pools after he was expelled. He had no idea that I would have been glad to see the back of him, like he couldn’t remember repeatedly attacking me for no reason in the toilets (“I just like to hear you scream from time to time”).

  • Scarred but healing

    ahh then i believe you know exactly who i’m thinking of, he was a bully for sure but i dont think he knew any better (no excuse i know) i now also have a good idea who he attacked and why he thought he was protecting me, but although something happened there it wasnt in the same league as the other person i mentioned and i dont believe it was done with malice although a complaint was made at the time and yet again ignored

  • M Risbrook

    Out of curiosity, did you ever know Riaz?

  • TheresaJayne

    I don’t remember hardly anything anymore but Eric Morris was The Heanton Head after the original head left. (he started at heanton the same term i did)

    I saw Shepard - he kept going on about his England caps and such - but i cant find any reference to who he actually was..

    Then there was Smith and his daughters, + Sinclair C5 :)

    I was bullied a lot at Kesgrave and before at Heanton. But i was never Sexually abused, although everyone continually called me gay. Well i wasn’t gay - however i will get to that shortly,

    I remember a lot of the boys named below, Moreland, Hurworth, Dixon, Mutton, Grant/Hebburn (I later worked with him and he and i didnt recognise each other even though we were working opposite shifts on the same boat.

    But then i started at Kesgrave in 83 and left in 86/87

    Since then i finally realised why i was being called gay, - I was actually female and not male at all… Anyway i am now completely female and happy. just wish i had never been sent to those schools (to turn me into a man and stop me being so emotional) ha! in other words i was acting like a little girl…

    I have added some of you on Friends reunited and if you search for my name left here you may remember my full name, if not Nick M can help.