Violence very much in the past

3rd February 2006 at 00:00
Your report on the Townend inquiry into past discipline policy and application at St James and St Vedast schools has done a disservice to governing bodies of schools facing similar difficulties and to the present St James schools ("Inquiry reveals culture of violence", TES, January 20) The report made no mention of the groundbreaking process activated by the governing body of St James schools to investigate the difficult issues involved when complaints about incidents 20 or 30 years ago started appearing, most anonymously, on websites.

Mr James Townend QC, who chaired the inquiry, described the process and transparency of it as unique. Why would other governing bodies and heads, faced with similar difficulties, contemplate a similar process, if the outcome is to be distorted in respected journals?

Your report gave several misleading impressions.

1. It implied that there is to be a new investigation of the present schools by child protection agencies and the police. In fact the current headteachers have been working with these authorities for nearly a year.

There are no complaints or causes for concern relating to today's schools.

2. It implied in the headline that there was to be a full-scale police investigation. In fact only one incident relating to a former teacher and pupil, now in his 40s, is being investigated. It has nothing to do with today's schools.

3. It buries the report's comments on the present schools, which are described as successful and happy places, and makes scant mention of the governors' real desire to create a platform from which reconciliation with past pupils can take place.

As headteachers, who joined the schools long after the events complained of, we can tell you how hard these things are to deal with. But as Archbishop Tutu points out there can be no reconciliation without first establishing the truth and apologising for mistakes.

The Townend Report has established the unhappy truth that wrong was done.

The governors have apologised fully and so too have a number of teachers to their past pupils.

Having a sensitive, serious issue clouded by reporting which cannot distinguish past from present, inspires caution, not the courage essential for anyone seeking to heal hurts of the past.

David Boddy Headmaster, St James senior boys, Twickenham

Laura Hyde Headmistress, St James senior girls, Olympia

Paul Moss Headmaster, St James junior schools for boys and girls, Olympia

The editor replies: The original TES article on January 20 emphasised on several occasions that the inquiry only centred upon alleged incidents at the schools between 1975 and 1985. It in no way intended to lay any blame at the doors of the current schools, or their staff, which were praised in the report by James Townend QC.

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