Boarding schools apologise for ‘shame’ of historic abuse

Pupil writing (close up) Historic abuse “shames the sector” says Boarding Schools’ Association chairman

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The Boarding Schools’ Association chairman is expected to apologise later for the “shame” of historical cases of child abuse.

In a speech to the BSA annual conference, Ray McGovern is expected to say he is “unreservedly sorry”.

Revelations of historical sexual abuse of pupils “cast a long shadow over today’s schools”, Mr McGovern will say.

But he will argue that boarding schools are open and safe places and should not be judged on events from decades ago.
“I have been chairman of the Boarding Schools’ Association in a year when we have been reminded forcibly of times in the past when not everyone working in boarding was there in the best interests of the children they were supposed to serve and protect,” Mr McGovern will say.

“All of us are shocked when evidence of abuse comes to light.

“It shames me and it shames the sector that behaviour such as this happened or was allowed to happen and for that I am unreservedly sorry.

“I am sorry to those who were affected directly and to those who placed their trust in individuals who could not be trusted.”

However, Mr McGovern, who is head of St George’s – a state day and boarding school in Hertfordshire, will say that today’s boarding schools are “in terms of safeguarding and students welfare, unrecognisable from the institutions of the 1950s, or 1960s or even the 1970s”.

“If boarding schools then were closed worlds, in which power was unequal and concern for the school’s reputation took precedence over the welfare of a child, none of this is now true,” he will say.

He is expected to say that as well as changes to legislation, regulation and inspections, “all of us here share a genuinely different attitude to looking after children”.

He will challenge parents, inspectors, journalists and television cameras “to come into any of our schools and see the difference: see the ethos of genuine concern for the children in our care”.

“Today’s boarding schools should not be judged by their predecessors of generations past.

“You wouldn’t judge a hospital now on the basis of how it was in the 1960s,” he will add.

“In the trauma and anxiety of dealing with such cases it is important to remember that these circumstances were not of our making.

“The responsibility lies squarely with the individual responsible.”

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