On Thomas Rawnsley’s 21st, Maisie’s tweet storm and the Kesgrave abuse inquiry

A picture of Thomas Rawnsley, a young man with Down's syndrome wearing a red Heinz tomato sauce T-shirt, holding a small birthday cake with a large '20' candle on itToday would have been Thomas Rawnsley’s 21st birthday. Thomas was a man with Down’s syndrome and autism, who was in a succession of care homes and NHS hospital units from 2013 until he died of pneumonia earlier this year. His mother had been fighting to get him individual provision in his home town, but a Court of Protection judge last year sided with those who wanted to keep him institutionalised. Thomas’s family were planning a protest outside Downing Street to mark his birthday, but had to cancel it because of a planned rail strike (which was itself, in the event, cancelled). Bringing Us Together have a collection of blog posts about Thomas and you may like to read my post from the week after he died. There is still an appeal for Thomas’s family’s costs, which have raised £4,345 (of a target of £20,000) at the time of writing. (More: Justice for Nico.)

As a reminder of why getting people with learning disabilities out of units like the one Thomas suffered in, this week a unit in Lincolnshire was temporarily closed after “a number of serious incidents”; the chief executive of the Lincolnshire Partnership NHS trust said that these were related to standards of care and patient safety. The patients have either been discharged or transferred elsewhere (which, of course, could be hundreds of miles away). So four years after Winterbourne View and nearly two years after the death of Connor Sparrowhawk, standards of care in some NHS learning disability units are still poor.

Graphic showing Maisie Shaw holding a sign saying "I miss home. I miss Mummy" with instructions as to how to participate in the tweet storm (see this paragraph).This evening at 7pm BST, Maisie Shaw’s family are holding a “tweet storm” to press the Department of Health and NHS England to re-open an inpatient paediatric mental health unit in Hull so that children in mental health crisis do not have be moved out of area to get treatment. In Maisie’s case this means a secure unit in Bury, and in at least one other case children were transferred to a unit in Cheadle which also houses young offenders as no other accommodation was available. The latest on Maisie herself is that she is being prepared for discharge but it was delayed after she disappeared on a home visit two weeks ago and was found only after she had injured herself. The police took 13 hours to respond and the local hospital did not know how to respond to a child in a mental health crisis, and in the end staff had to be called from the unit in Bury to take her back. If you are taking part in the Tweet Storm then please include the hashtag #getmaisiehome and link the petition.

On a more personal note, I heard from the police in Suffolk two weeks ago that no further charges are to be pressed regarding the physical abuse that took place at my school, Kesgrave Hall, in the 1980s and 90s; I have written about this extensively on this site in the past but another former pupil, Alexander Hanff, had a piece published on the Guardian’s website last week about the effect the abuse (much more of which was sexual than in my case) and the investigation had on him; you can read the long comment by me underneath it. One member of staff (John McKno, who I never met) is still facing charges, but the other abuse accusations were all of common assault which cannot be prosecuted this long after the event (I was told this by the police when I spoke to them, so this news was not a surprise to me), and some of the staff involved are dead, including two who committed suicide after the police caught up with them. One of the dead is Victor Harris, the abusive care worker named in a previous entry, although his death was nothing to do with the investigation. I was also told that none of the former staff are still teaching, and could not have continued to do so after being the focus of an investigation of this kind.

The two other reasons they could not pursue charges were that they could not have persuaded a jury that the staff’s behaviour was not lawful chastisement, as corporal punishment was not banned in private schools in 1987 as it was in state schools, and that reports from boys conflicted, with some old boys speaking very highly of members of staff that others said were abusive. (As I wrote in my comment, the first reason is dubious because staff knew that using force was illegal and told us this many times as an excuse for why they could not discipline bullies; they would use violence, which could not at all be confused with controlled physical punishment, in response to petty personal slights.) I didn’t particularly want to give evidence and have to prove that the abuse was abuse, while various people would have been on hand to claim I was out of control or making a fuss about nothing. I’m glad some of these men have had the frighteners put on them and that the abuse has been exposed.

We must not let things like this happen again; we must not take people from happy homes and put them in institutions when there is no need. I was sent there because the teaching community in Croydon chose to wash its hands of me because I was a bit of a handful — and yes, that’s really all it was. There must be due diligence about the sort of places we send people to when they really need residential care, but there must be an expectation that parents parent and professionals do their jobs. When these things don’t happen, people with special needs of whatever type end up on the “waste-heap of life”. It stinks. And it can’t be allowed to go on.

A graphic composed of lines and words. A stick figure of Thomas says 'I am Thomas, I am human'. Beneath: 'NOT a piece of rubbish to be labelled & warehoused in the WASTE HEAP OF LIFE. IT STINKS'. The 'waste heap' (with lines indicating steam rising' reads: 'Learning Disability, Autism, Down's Syndrome, Learning Disabled, Assessment & Treatment Units'.

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  • M Risbrook

    Riaz thinks that you somehow manage to remember obscure minutiae about KHS, so are you able to help him with the following queries?

    1. The names of the care staff employed when he started in 1990. Was Victor Harris one of them?

    2. Was it the teaching staff or the care staff who were in charge between 4:15 PM to 4:30 PM weekdays?

    3. Riaz says that when he was in Y9 the kids got 7 hours of prep a week. Do you think this was too much in comparison with what kids in state schools got? He also claims that when he was in Y11 the Y9 kids only got 3 hours of prep a week minimum and about 4 hours if the extra stuff was included.

    4. What exactly was the original purpose of KHS back in the 1970s? Riaz has some suspicion that the school was primarily intended for kids who had problems at home with their families (and any problems they had at school had origins in their situation at home) more so than kids from stable families who had problems at school such as SEN. He mentioned something about how kids weren’t allowed to go home during term time apart from a wedding or a funeral and wondered if it had something do with isolating kids from their problematic families.

    5. How many Jewish kids attended KHS during its entire period of operation? Riaz finds it intriguing that there were three Jewish kids there during his time considering that Jews make up a tiny fraction of the population. Was it just an unusual co-incidence or were other factors at play? The three kids originated from different LEAs but all were in Greater London.

    1. I can’t list all the care staff that were there at any given time. In mid-1990 when he arrived, I believe Malcolm Stores was in charge of care, Fred Miller and Sean Common were still there, Mr Price (who had joined at the start of 1990), but I can’t remember any others. Victor Harris was definitely there when Riaz joined but he was sacked not long after, after drinking with fifth and/or sixth form boys in the Black Tiles.

    2. I think that was the changeover time when we had our hot chocolate or Ovaltine after the last lesson and before the first activity/prep session. IIRC the care staff were in charge (though some teaching staff may have hung around, and some of them, e.g. Chris Simpson, also did care duties).

    3. Perhaps it was too much, but then, it was a boarding school and perhaps it was done to keep us busy, and perhaps it was down to the necessities of the evening arrangements, i.e. two sessions either side of tea. Also, maximising lesson times was how the school managed the long holidays, and perhaps prep was part of that. KHS fancied itself as Eton for problem kids (Smithy’s 1990 prize-giving speech ended up being cited in an independent schools’ magazine as an example of an overblown or pretentious school speech). My biggest complaint about prep wasn’t that it was long; it was that it was frequently disrupted. We were sometimes allowed to go into the common room if we’d finished our work.

    4. I’m not sure what the real purpose of KHS was. The prospectus said something about old Heanton boys being “badly served” by the schools they went to afterwards. Some of the older teachers mentioned that the school was the only family some of the early boys had (as if to say those of us with families of our own who didn’t want or need to be there were ungrateful bastards). There were no weekends home or half term holidays until after Smithy took over; perhaps LEAs would not send kids there if they were expected to board for all 12 weeks, and perhaps they couldn’t get enough of the kids who were in care or from troubled families.

    5. I don’t know, apart from those three. One of the care staff (Mr Davis, from South Africa), who was there briefly in 1990 I think, was also Jewish (this was revealed when a boy told him “I bet you’re Jewish, aren’t you!” and he whipped out his Star of David on a necklace). A lot of the boys were from Greater London, Essex and Kent because of its proximity.

  • M Risbrook
    1. The only care staff that Riaz remembers when he started was Malcolm Stores and Fred Miller, although he claims to vaguely remember Victor Harris but isn’t 100% sure. Did he wear glasses and previously served in the Royal Navy?

    2. The exact changeover time was required for some legal case that Riaz was involved with. When he attended KHS it appeared that both teaching staff and care staff were on duty during these 15 minutes (because both wielded authority) although officially it was probably one or the other. Riaz wondered at one time during his stay whether the teaching staff were officially in charge downstairs and the care staff were officially in charge upstairs.

    3. When Riaz was in Y9 the kids got the following prep assignments:

    2x English 2x mathematics 1x art 1x biology 1x chemistry 1x French 1x German 1x geography 1x graph com 1x history 1x physics 1x RE

    Each lasting for 30 minutes. IMO it looks commensurate with the subjects that were studied (bearing in mind I attended a grammar school and received a similar amount of homework) but Riaz thought it was more than what most kids who attended state schools had. In Y10 and Y11 he never really thought about whether he had too much prep or not.

    “Smithy’s 1990 prize-giving speech ended up being cited in an independent schools’ magazine as an example of an overblown or pretentious school speech”

    What magazine was this? How did you find out about it? Riaz wasn’t aware that this speech was recorded so how did it find its way into a magazine?

    1. “Some of the older teachers mentioned that the school was the only family some of the early boys had”

    Riaz vaguely remembers a teacher briefly mentioning this. At the time he didn’t think anything special of it but now he suspects that your statement “perhaps they couldn’t get enough of the kids who were in care or from troubled families” could well be true. During Riaz’s time at KHS the school started accepting kids of lower academic ability in order to keep the place going, but could they have been casting the net wider for many years by taking in kids who had problems at school and no problems at home with their families at some point during the 1980s?

    If the original purpose of the school was for kids who had problems at home with their families more so than kids from stable families who had problems at school such as SEN, then it will go a long way towards answering many questions about KHS.

  • M Risbrook

    Why have you closed to comments the other three Kesgrave Hall School discussions?

  • M Risbrook

    You mentioned on another KHS discussion that:

    “The problem with Smiffy is that he encouraged parents to send their children to his school knowing they would get hurt. He did disguise the facts with flowery language, to the effect that the boys’ mouths would get them into trouble (indicating that he knew that his school was a violent place), but at the end of the day it was the parents who made the decision to put boys there. He didn’t go to anyone’s houses and drag children away. Parents did it because they wanted their children out of the way. They are at least as much to blame as he was.”

    I’m unable to comment on this myself but Riaz holds the view that Smiffy certainly was an eloquent speaker with a high degree of charm and persuasion which could dupe some parents into thinking that everything is fine; or that students are exaggerating things and there really are no problems; or he will act on troubling issues when he won’t. Riaz also said that his father thought that Smiffy was a man of false promises.

    There are two other complicating issues that you have overlooked.

    1. Students who bottle up their feelings and experiences of KHS and never tell their parents what KHS is like in reality, so they have no idea of what corruption and injustices are taking place. Riaz says there were several such students during his time.

    2. Divided opinions where one parent is in favour of sending their son to KHS but the other parent isn’t. Riaz says that there was some anecdotal evidence that this applied to a couple of the students during his time.

  • M Risbrook

    Former teacher John McKno has been jailed for 14 years after admitting sexually abusing five children.

    http://www.ipswichstar.co.uk/news/exsuffolkschoolteacherjailed14yearsforabusingchildren14534940

    http://www.edp24.co.uk/news/crime/formerteacherfromalbyjailedfor14yearsforabusingchildren14534984

    Will Smiffy be the next one to go down or is he too slippery?

  • No idea. I saw him assault pupils and he knew full well about the culture of violence at the school. I’d like to know who the woman who informed on Lee Woolcott-Ellis about his letter home was - was it Mrs Brunning, the secretary when I was there, or someone else? Either way it was Smithy’s policy and I saw him physically drag a boy out of a class for mentioning in his letter that a “nosy cunt” might read it, in front of Eric Richardson, his deputy, who did nothing (and also assaulted boys, including me, on multiple separate occasions). But I don’t remember Smithy sexually assaulting anyone, or ever being accused of doing so.

  • M Risbrook

    Any idea who has been supplying information about staff to the police about the KHS abuse inquiry? Riaz mentioned that all the staff so far named were from long before his time and he had never met any and only knew the name of one of them. Some of the staff were also involved in previous schools in the 1970s. Has it been the students from these schools supplying the bulk of the information about them?

    Nothing appears to have surfaced from the time when yourself and Riaz attended KHS. One teacher, Chris Simpson, was allegedly involved in child abuse back in 1992 that was reported in the papers at the time. Has he been cleared or is he still being investigated?

  • Well, I’ve been contacted by the police as part of the inquiry on numerous occasions. I was told specifically that they couldn’t prosecute anyone about the abuse when Riaz and I were there because (i) the assaults were common assaults, and these are matters for the Magistrate’s Court and there is a time limit of, IIRC, 6 months and (ii) that they were not sure they could prosecute because the defence would be that such assaults were legal as it was a private school, regardless of all the boys being on local authority placements (and the fact that they were not a matter of discipline, but of thugs assaulting people who caused them petty annoyance). This is the reason why the thug Chris Simpson was not prosecuted, as well as numerous other staff, including Smith and Richardson. Simpson hasn’t been cleared — that requires a trial. He’s just not been prosecuted.

  • M Risbrook

    What I can’t understand is why nobody did anything about the assaults by the staff at the time.

  • M Risbrook

    Riaz asks, is this Chris Derrett, the head of science at Reepham High School, the same person who was the chemistry teacher at KHS?

    http://www.reephamhigh.com/index.php/how-to-contact-staff

    His email is cderrett@reephamhigh.com

    If so, then has he been quizzed by the police as part of this inquiry, although Riaz says that he will be one of the least likely people to be nabbed for child abuse?

  • No idea; why doesn’t Riaz contact him to find out? Without a picture I wouldn’t know, not that I can really remember what he looked like. I don’t know if he was questioned and he was never abusive.

  • M Risbrook

    Riaz asks, is this Phillip Yourell the same person as one of the members of care staff at KHS? Judging from his DOB then his age correlates with that when he was at KHS. If he is the same person, then he has a string of convictions, including imprisonment for wounding and driving whilst disqualified, prior to starting at KHS.

    https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachmentdata/file/509579/prohibitionordermrphillip_yourell.pdf

  • I asked someone else on FB who was there at the same time as I was. I didn’t know Mr Yourell’s first name, but he wasn’t one of the worst members of staff and I don’t remember him being violent or inappropriate in the way described in that PDF. The worst I remember hearing of him was to do with drunkenness (though I didn’t see it), and he was known by such nicknames as “the dwunken pwat”.

  • M Risbrook

    Riaz coined the nickname of Pwep Blewell. He remembers him being a fast driver.

    Having such a huge string of convictions raises the question as to whether KHS actually checked the past history of staff they employed. I’m actually quite soft on convicts myself and don’t have many issues employing them in the computer industry unless their crimes are heinous, but I would find such a large number of offences that Phillip Yourell committed hard to stomach.

  • I haven’t had a reply, and yes I do remember the fast driving (the back lane that led from Rushmere, just outside Ipswich, into Martlesham village was where that usually happened). TBH I suspect it’s not the same person, because I never remember him being abusive or inappropriate with boys and people who do this are usually repeat offenders, especially if they work with kids over a long period. But KHS employed far worse people who showed their abusive true colours within hours of arriving (Bill Sutton in 1990 springs to mind) and swore and threatened boys in public.

  • M Risbrook

    According to Genes Reunited there is a Phillip Fitzpatrick Yourell born in the third quarter of 1966 and registered in Scunthorpe. The correlates well with the person in the report.

    Riaz was unaware if the member of care staff had a middle name but he knew that he was referred to as Phil. There are no other people on Genes Reunited with a name that matches, so we both assume for the time being that he is the same person.

    http://www.genesreunited.co.uk

  • M Risbrook

    If Riaz had viciously assaulted Chris Simpson whilst in year 9 to the point where he was so badly crippled that he could no longer continue his career as a teacher then would you have viewed Riaz as a hero?

  • No, but what’s your point?

  • Yes. What’s your point?

    A year 9 pupil (not Riaz) did indeed injure a member of staff (not Simpson) who was also physically violent (from his arrival, and never said a kind word to anyone) when I was there, resulting in his having to go to hospital. Simpson’s behaviour was more mixed, but he did use physical violence for no good reason, as I described on my blog.

  • M Risbrook

    My point is that if what Riaz says is true then the way that both teaching and care staff treated kids at KHS is very distressing and totally unacceptable.

    I do not condone violence towards staff by students but there are times when I think that if staff were attacked by students and left crippled then they probably deserve what they got.

  • M Risbrook

    Unsuitable school fit linked with teen depression, study shows

    Canberra Times

    http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/unsuitable-school-fit-linked-with-teen-depression-study-shows-20140405-3663u.html

    “IF your child is unhappy at their school, there is no point toughing it out, with research showing dissatisfaction at school is one of the greatest predictors of teenage depression.”

    It’s an Australian article but I agree with the author that there is no point toughing it out.

    I don’t know the author of this blog personally but he makes me wonder why if he hated KHS so badly to have to write about it 20 years after leaving he chose to tough it out for four unhappy years?

  • Is that aimed at parents? You seem to have forgotten that I was the child, not the parent.

  • M Risbrook

    I interpret this as you bottled things up how bad it was at KHS and put on a false smile at home with your parents.

    Riaz says that several kids at KHS did this.

    Remember the ecstasy tablets.

  • M Risbrook

    Was Smiffy religious or not? He never showed up at church on Sunday.

  • You’re right, I don’t remember him ever being at church, either at Little or Great Bealings or Kesgrave. I don’t know, is the simple answer. He did have this wooden block with the name “Jesus” carved into it on the window-sill in his front room, but apart from that I never remember him mentioning religion at all.

  • M Risbrook

    Riaz concluded that Smiffy was not religious (and may even have been completely atheist) but held a view that Christianity had a use for instilling discipline in kids.

    Riaz also claims that Smiffy was the very first genuinely anti-Islamic person he met. Specifically anti-Islamic as opposed to a conventional racist who is opposed to Pakistanis or cannot see any differences between Asian Sikhs, Hindus, or Muslims as was commonplace in the early 1990s when race rather than religion was the main issue. Strangely enough, Smiffy had a soft spot for Jews and made a reference to Winston Churchill’s love of the Jews.

    Smiffy previously lived in Coventry and Leicester so it’s likely that he had come into personal contact with Muslims.

  • I don’t remember Smiffy ever expressing a view on Islam one way or the other. I do remember a care staff member, who later joined the teaching staff (Ken “Jaffa” Lowe) making very derogatory remarks about Muslims, such as that they “lived like pigs” and “had no brain”. He attended an “ecumenical” church in Felixstowe, as I recall, and presented for their radio station.

  • M Risbrook

    Maybe you didn’t know what went on behind the scenes at KHS. I find it noteworthy that Islam was not taught in the religious studies lessons in year 7 to year 9 yet every state school taught it. Could this have been a result of a decision by Smiffy? Riaz says that more than one kid asked if the school could teach other religions like Islam and Hinduism in year 9. I can vaguely recall that the religious studies O Level from the early 1970s only covered Christianity and the Bible and even had questions involving translating ancient Greek scriptures into English. Very few students took it back then.

  • M Risbrook

    Riaz says that he had a Pickthall Qu’ran confiscated by one of the care staff. Another one he had was destroyed by kids. Did the school or any other kids have copies of the Qu’ran?

  • No idea. I wasn’t looking back then.

  • M Risbrook

    Riaz says that staff at KHS appeared to turn a blind eye to the number of kids taking antidepressants brought in from outside. Even 11 year olds had tablets stashed in their lockers. Had I known this at the time I would have tried to invoke an investigation into the matter. It’s common kids in mainstream schools to take antidepressants nowadays but it was very rare during the early 1990s.

  • M Risbrook

    Riaz, asks how many times have you corresponded or conversed with Smiffy after he left KHS in 1992? When was the last time? Have you ever met him in the flesh again after he left?

    Also, exactly which magazine cited the overblown or pretentious speech Smiffy gave in 1990? How did you find out about it?

    1. Once, in 1995.
    2. No.
    3. He mentioned it in his prize-giving speech the following year. I don’t remember the name of the magazine.
  • M Risbrook

    Did Smiffy ever teach or was he just a pen-pusher and a figurehead like most head teachers are? If so, then what subjects could he teach?

  • He could teach (English) but mostly didn’t.

  • M Risbrook

    Did he have a passion for Shakespeare? If so, then do you have any idea how many of Shakespeare’s plays he has actually read? Experience tells me that many teachers who openly display their passion for Shakespeare have only read around 6 or 7 plays - usually the more well known or well taught ones - and have not even looked at the poems. The way I see things is that Shakespeare is the sort of subject speciality for head teachers who don’t want to teach but just have to claim to know something in order to get into the job. It’s rare to find head teachers who don’t want to teach who’s subject specialities are sciences or fine arts.

  • He did teach us a Shakespeare lesson or two - Henry V it must have been, as that’s what we studied. He was not bad at it. I don’t know how many of Shakespeare’s plays he’d read or seen. School level Shakespeare teachers don’t need to have read his entire body of work; he wasn’t supervising us for a PhD.

  • M Risbrook

    Where did Smiffy live? Was it in the local area or did he commute to school from Ipswich or further afield? I know very little about this man. I have seen a photo of him but I cannot ever recall seeing anybody like him around the Kesgrave or Martlesham areas in the 1980s. Nobody mentioned anything to me about him at the time.

  • He lived in the bungalow, on site. I’m not sure why you never saw him around Kesgrave or Martlesham, but he was a JP in Ipswich and also performed with the local Gilbert & Sullivan Company.

  • M Risbrook

    Any idea if John Springbett is dead? Riaz received some info that John Springbett died in Australia back in 2011 age 36.

  • It does appear that the “Jay Dee Springbett” who died in Australia in 2011 was the same as the one at Kesgrave. He didn’t start calling himself that until after I knew him (he went by Jay Springbett on FB and I saw him contribute to the KHS group as that), but it appears he was quite famous there, a record industry A&R guy who was a talent show judge, but died of a drug overdose.

  • M Risbrook

    Can you remember John Springbetts birthday? Was it 27 June? Jay Dee Springbett was born on 27 June 1975. Was John Springbett’s father a vicar also called John Springbett?

  • No, I don’t remember his birthday. June 1975 is consistent with him being two years above me, which he was. I didn’t know his father.

  • M Risbrook

    Was John Springbett adopted then had his surname changed to that of his foster parents? I can’t find any birth record for him under the name of Springbett. It is an uncommon English name but Riaz used to think that it was African because it sounds like springbok.

    Riaz says that he never saw his (black?) parents but vaguely remembers him being accompanied with a white couple at his annual review.

  • I presume he must have been adopted, then. I didn’t know his life story.

  • M Risbrook
  • Like I said, I don’t know his life story and I don’t care. I last met him more than 20 years ago and didn’t know he was famous until the other day. He was a bully (he was the guy who came in when I was setting the tables and started throwing things around the dining room, and then when I protested, his friend on the care staff Sean Common turned up and started lecturing me about “mouthing off”, but his and his friends’ treatment of Steve Wilson — a boy in his form with an obvious learning disability — was far worse).

  • M Risbrook

    Why did KHS do end of year exams when no state school did them? Even my grammar school didn’t have them.

    Riaz told me about the large number of kids who had to repeat a year (something I find cause for concern) because they failed exams but these exams almost certainly were not recognised by the LEA officials. Therefore bad results could have prevented kids from taking particular subjects for GCSE, as this was the discretion of the school, but they would not have been effective at convincing an LEA to allow a kid to repeat a year. Can you remember what was the pass mark for these exams?

    There was definitely no communication between KHS and the Riaz’s LEA about exam results. In fact, the LEA officials were not even aware that KHS even had end of year exams.

  • I’m not sure the reason kids were kept down was because of end-of-term exams. (Some schools do have EOT exams; my Catholic junior school did, for example.) I certainly never remember being told that if we didn’t do well in our exams, we would be kept down. The majority of kids who went down a year did so in their first year or so at the school (one boy was in the year above ours when I started, then came down into our year, then left for a while, and came back and went into the year below that; one boy came up into our year as well). Significantly, our form, which in its final form had 12 members, had 9 who had been kept down from the year above and when I started I was the only boy in his right year; nobody, to my knowledge, who started in my year went down. I have long believed the school did it so as to get extra money from local authorities.

  • M Risbrook

    Are you serious that 9 out of 12 kids in one year group had to repeat a year? That looks very bad.

    “I have long believed the school did it so as to get extra money from local authorities”

    That’s my cynical view but it wasn’t exactly easy to convince an LEA to allow a kid to repeat a year and provide funding for a residential school. Results from end of year exams would not have carried any weight due to lack of quality assurance as the school set the exams rather than an external body. I’m making a guess that Smiffy’s ability to talk sweet was effective at persuading (or deceiving) LEA officials to enable kids to repeat a year and he conned parents into thinking it was best for their kid so they agreed with it.

    Riaz mentioned that he took exams at the end of year 8 only a few weeks after he started at KHS. He did badly in some exams because he had not studied certain material taught at KHS whilst he was home educated although he managed to come top in one subject. Personally I believe it was unfair on him having to take exams for every subject and they should have restricted them to English language, mathematics, and science.

    I am wondering whether poor exam results because of major differences between what kids learned before starting at KHS and what was being taught at KHS created an atmosphere of smoke and mirrors that deceived parents into thinking that their children were less intelligent than they actually were.

    Do you have any knowledge of which subjects kids in the first year or so tended to get poor exam results in and subjects they tended to get good exam results in?

  • Repeating a year was actually a lot more common then than now; nowadays, a school would not even think of having almost a whole cohort of pupils not sit GCSE exams in their 15-16 academic year, especially a school ostensibly for academically able pupils. I repeated my 3rd year in junior school, although I then skipped the 4th to join secondary school at 11. How Smithy justified it I don’t know. I suspect in some cases it was for social reasons, to separate ‘weak’ boys from bullies, but this was to the cost of the former.

    The school’s financial trouble was known of well before it actually closed; I heard someone say that the school was “in deep financial shit” as early as 1990 (no new first years were brought in that year). If those nine boys had left in 1992 instead of 1993, the school would have folded at least a year earlier.

  • M Risbrook

    “Repeating a year was actually a lot more common then than now”

    I attended school before you were born and I never knew of any instances of kids repeating a year. Neither did Riaz who attended school at the same time as you did until he started at KHS.

    You didn’t actually repeat a year at your junior school. You just spent time with a class in a lower year group but were in the correct year group according to you LEA.

    ” How Smithy justified it I don’t know. I suspect in some cases it was for social reasons, to separate ‘weak’ boys from bullies, but this was to the cost of the former.”

    If that is true then it is distressing and kids that had to repeat a year because of bullying should have mentioned it in the KHS child abuse inquiry.

    “The school’s financial trouble was known of well before it actually closed; I heard someone say that the school was “in deep financial shit” as early as 1990 (no new first years were brought in that year). If those nine boys had left in 1992 instead of 1993, the school would have folded at least a year earlier.”

    Riaz was aware of financial difficulties before he even started. Smiffy mentioned in his interview that the 6th form was going to close in the next few years.

    It is plausible that Smiffy made kids repeat a year to even out the demographics of the school. Riaz believes that this was the reason why Smiffy wanted him to repeat year 9 rather than failing an end of year exam because he knew that nearly half the school was going to leave in one go in 1993 and the school could be forced to close as a result because they could never replenish that many kids in the time it had. His parents would not have stomached the idea of repeating a year.

  • I did actually repeat the 3rd year at a different school to my old one. The plan was that I’d be at that school for two years and then go on to secondary school a year late, but that changed during the repeated year and I never really learned the reason why.

    It’s possible that some parents refused to accept a repeated year. I’d already had that experience at junior school and my parents told me later that we’d been “shafted” because the school just didn’t want me dragging their 4th years down, and perhaps they weren’t willing to tolerate an extra year of me being away from home, having to travel long distances for visits etc. It was never suggested to me that I repeat a year; not sure if my parents were approached with it.

  • M Risbrook

    I’m disgusted to the core with the way that Smiffy told Riaz, in a 1 to 1 in his office, that he would have to repeat year 9 because he failed an exam but he hadn’t realised that Riaz had contacted his LEA beforehand and they would not approve it. Smiffy was furious with Riaz that he had outsmarted him. From then on Riaz could never trust Smiffy and considered him to be a liar and a con artist.

    In the year 9 annual review Smiffy said something about Riaz leaving KHS and returning to a secondary school in the future. Riaz knew that this was also a lie because his LEA had the funding in place for KHS until the end of year 11 and almost nobody left KHS to go to a secondary school.

    From the information I have about Smiffy, I regard him as a truly sick and twisted individual. Possibly a child hater.

  • M Risbrook

    Do you know who was responsible at KHS for deciding on which exam board was used for different subjects? Was it the subject teachers or was it Smiffy? Riaz told me that:

    Biology, Chemistry, and Physics were MEG Mathematics was LEAG French and German were NEAB

    Can you remember which exam boards were used for other subjects?

  • No idea whose decision that was. LEAG had become ULEAC by then (it subsequently became London Examinations and then Edexcel). All the boards have been incorporated into other organisations (like AQA and OCR) since we were at school.

  • M Risbrook

    Riaz suspects that Simpo decided on MEG for science subjects but he isn’t certain. Did KHS use LEAG for mathematics before Jan Cameron started? Any idea which exam boards were used for English, geography, history, and religious studies?

  • No idea. Riaz still has his certificates somewhere, doesn’t he? They’ll say which exam board issued them.

  • M Risbrook

    I mentioned this before. Riaz never received his certificates. He also doesn’t know his grades.

  • M Risbrook

    Seen this?

    https://forums.doyouremember.co.uk/threads/19949-Approved-Schools-Borstals?p=215386#post215386

    Difficult to tell who both people could be but the one who attended KHS is another Smiffy hater.

  • No idea who that is or if they’re talking about me, Riaz or someone else entirely. And I dispute that academic standards were all that high. All talk and no trousers. One or two decent teachers and a lot of mediocrities who hadn’t updated their knowledge in at least a decade.

  • M Risbrook

    Riaz says that it’s impossible to say who from KHS it is. There are no other references on that forum to KHS or anything which could identify the student. There were some real dinosaurs at my school including a history teacher who used to wear a tweed jacket and refer to Islam as Mohammedism, and a chemistry teacher who used to smoke a pipe in class and light it from a Bunsen burner that a kid was using in an experiment. There was a German teacher I never had with a beard and a monocular like Patrick Moore used to wear. Was one of the mediocrities a wee Scottish teacher with a short temper who taught history, religious studies, and English(!!)?

  • M Risbrook

    Riaz asks: Are you willing to name any of the mediocrities who hadn’t updated their knowledge in at least a decade?

  • Yes: Goodwin was the main one, particularly on geography. She had read bits about what goes on in various parts of the world, but a lot of it was old stuff which had changed. She didn’t know, for example, that the Chinese communes had been abolished in 1982 and had a kind of stereotypical view of caste in India, and still called low-caste people Harijans (a term coined by Gandhi but which they rejected later — well before 1989). This may seem obscure, but when you’re a geography teacher, you should know these things in case someone puts something you told them in an exam answer. When it came to the developing world, she had a very black and white view; it was of a small number living in luxury while everyone else was dirt poor and lived with several families in a small hut, which was a huge exaggeration. Also, when Fred Miller (one of the care staff) told us what his sister had told him when she went to Malawi to teach (namely, that the dictator there — Dr Hastings K Banda - ruled with an iron rod and people could be arrested and then disappear for making quite good, constructive criticisms of the government), I told Goodwin this and she said “Hastings Banda is an old man (true); his people call him Kamuzu which means ‘old venerated father’ (not true: it means little tree root and was part of his given name); he’s nothing more than a figurehead (definitely not true)”. She was also very fond of the former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, claiming she had met him in a swimming pool as he was in a plane going to a meeting of some sort in the north of the country, caught sight of the pool and decided he wanted a swim, so he did. She said he was a good president “until he went down with syphilis and gonorrhoea, then he went mad”, which was also not true (he was crazy from well before he took office). The Scottish teacher you referred to generally knew what she was talking about and some of her lessons were quite interesting. She was also short tempered and given to flying around the room to attack people, jabbing people with her finger or a biro and pulling people’s hair, and people would take the piss out of her very openly. Goodwin was thought of as some sort of fount of all knowledge, and people took her very seriously when quite a lot of what she taught was bollocks.

  • M Risbrook

    Any more?

    Riaz told me some funny stories about a physics teacher and a Welsh deputy head.

    The wee Scottish teacher could never accept that she was wrong and had an I’m superior attitude.

  • M Risbrook

    I think you will find a secondary school geography teacher who is bang up to date with all that is going on in the third world are as rare as hen’s teeth even today with the internet as a resource. Back in the early 1990s most teachers had to make do with National Geographic unless they were lucky to have personal contacts or other offbeat sources of information like newspapers from African countries.

    When I was at school we were still using old pink maps of the British Empire long after most countries had been granted independence!

    Out of interest have you ever used a Peters projection world map? Riaz says that there weren’t any used at KHS but did you use them at school in Croydon before you started at KHS? I’m aware that ILEA was very hot on them in the 1980s but I have no knowledge about Croydon LEA.

  • M Risbrook

    Riaz told me that he spent a year doing technical drawing with a pencil and a drawing board. I thought that was a bit of a blast from the past. I did it at secondary school when computers still used punched cards but Riaz had been using AutoCad to draw things before starting at KHS.

  • The physics teacher would be Roger Adams, known for supposedly being senile although I suspect he’d just given up trying to control boys who were beyond control or correcting people who were taking the piss (hence the correct mark given to an answer that included “over the hills and far away” instead of a serious scientific (or numerical) answer. He actually did know his physics. The Welsh deputy head was Eric Richardson, about whom I’ve written quite a bit on here. He also taught the TD, and the equipment was old-fashioned but we’d used pencil and slide-rules at the local comprehensive too. Certainly not AutoCAD which was expensive.

    Sent from myMail for iOS

    Friday, 3 November 2017, 00:22 +0000 from Disqus :

  • M Risbrook

    Was it true that Riaz wrote Scottish on the cover of an exercise book instead of English?

  • How would I know? You still know him, ask him.

    Saturday, 4 November 2017, 08:03 +0000 from Disqus :

  • M Risbrook

    I thought you were in the class with him when it happened.

  • I don’t remember every incident where someone wrote something stupid on an exercise book.