King’s former school turned blind eye to child abuse for decades, says inquiry (2024)

The King’s former school was a “dreadfully abusive” and “extremely violent” place which turned a blind eye to paedophile teachers, an inquiry has found.

In a report, children boarding at Gordonstoun in Moray, Scotland, where a succession of British Royals were educated, were found to have been “exposed to the risk of sexual, physical and emotional abuse for decades”.

Lady Smith, who is chairing the Scottish child abuse inquiry, said examples of abuse included the repeated rape of a boy by an exchange teacher and multiple indecent assaults by other staff.

She also uncovered evidence of rampant racism and grooming, amid a “code of silence” between pupils, with the situation only improving in the 1990s.

Gordonstoun, which has tried to shake off a reputation for bullying after the King was said to have dubbed it “Colditz in kilts”, described the verdict as “upsetting and shocking” and issued an apology to those abused in its care.

Abuse was also rife at Aberlour House, Gordonstoun’s prep school, Lady Smith concluded after hearing evidence from dozens of former pupils and staff across both establishments.

The late Prince Philip was one of the first pupils at Gordonstoun, set up by Kurt Hahn, a German educationalist in 1934. Other Royals who were educated there include Prince Edward, Prince Andrew and Zara Tindall.

Earlier this year, the King accepted a patronage at the school while the Princess Royal is a long-standing supporter, serving in the honorary role of warden.

Lady Smith said that complaints mainly related to the period from the 1970s to the early 1990s. The King was educated at the school between 1962 and 1967.

“I have no difficulty in finding that children were abused at Gordonstoun and Aberlour in a variety of ways over a long period of time,” Lady Smith said.

“It was assumed the declaration of good intentions by founder Kurt Hahn was enough to ensure the school could be entrusted to provide appropriate residential care.

“At Gordonstoun, the assumption proved to be ill-founded, largely due to poor leadership.”

She said a “dreadfully abusive and, in some houses, extremely violent culture was allowed to take root” with bullying and cruel initiation rituals common between pupils.

“Abuse was also perpetrated by staff,” Lady Smith added. “The evidence of abuse was clear from the accounts of many applicants.

“Similarly, at Aberlour, the 1960s to 1990s were marked by a similar culture of assumption and naivety, exacerbated by the long and unchallenged leadership.

“There was a significant failure of governance with no interest in child protection or pastoral care until the 1990s.”

Over recent years, the school has begun to push back against its harsh reputation, criticising Netflix for its portrayal of a miserable young King at Gordonstoun in its hit series The Crown.

Lisa Kerr, the school’s principal, last year put forward evidence suggesting that the King had actually thrived there and cast doubt over whether he had ever uttered the infamous “Colditz in kilts” phrase.

However, Lady Smith’s report makes clear that Gordonstoun’s historic reputation was based in reality, saying its “robust ethos” did not suit all children and that “abuse and unhappiness went unnoticed.”

She said Andrew Keir, a physics teacher between 1983 and 1994, was a “predatory paedophile” who “groomed boys with a view to satisfying his sexual desires”.

When complaints reached Michael Mavor, the headmaster in 1989, he failed to take appropriate action, meaning Keir continued to abuse pupils until the end of 1991.

Mavor and his successor, Mark Pyper, then helped Keir get work in other schools despite knowing about the concerns about him.

Six other teachers sexually abused boys between the 1960s and 1990s, the report said.

Another paedophile, John Conroy, who was an English teacher, sexually abused at least four boys at Aberlour in the 1970s.

When the abuse was discovered, he was dismissed but no report was made to police.

Another English teacher, Derek Jones, sexually abused at least three boys in 1990 but parents were discouraged from pressing matters to preserve the school’s reputation.

Staff would often turn a blind eye to pupils abusing other children, the report said.

In an example of punishments for misbehaviour meted out, a female pupil was hoisted 7.5 metres up a mast of a sail-training vessel by its captain and left there for two-and-a-half hours for smoking on board.

In some boarding houses, serious abuse between pupils was “endemic”, as some children “revelled in their own brutality while others lived in perpetual fear.”

After girls were allowed to attend the school in 1972, it was “not unusual” for them to begin sexual relationships with older boys as a means of gaining protection.

The situation improved after Pyper became principal in 1990 and sought to repair the school’s “abusive culture”.

But indecent assaults by boys on other boys continued with the most recent expulsion in the 2000s.

Ms Kerr issued an open letter, co-authored with David White, the chair of governors, in which they offered a “heartfelt and sincere apology to all those who suffered at the school.”

She added: “[The] report is upsetting, and it is shocking to read of the abuse that children in the past experienced and the enduring impact on their lives 30, 40 or even 50 years later.

“Since reports of historic abuse came to our attention in 2013, we have taken a proactive approach, addressing matters openly and offering whatever support possible.

“We know how important it can be for survivors to know how things have changed, and Lady Smith describes the ‘good and effective school leadership’ since 1990 as ‘committed, enlightened and child focused’.

“We agree with Lady Smith, however, that we must never be complacent; instead, we are always seeking to learn and improve.

“This is no more than the children in our care today deserve, and it is the least we can do to honour those survivors whose testimony led to today’s important report.”

King’s former school turned blind eye to child abuse for decades, says inquiry (2024)


King’s former school turned blind eye to child abuse for decades, says inquiry? ›

King's former school turned blind eye to child abuse for decades, says inquiry. The King's former school was a “dreadfully abusive” and “extremely violent” place which turned a blind eye to paedophile teachers, an inquiry has found.

What are the five effects of abuse? ›

Child abuse can lead to behavioral issues during childhood and young adulthood. Victims may have emotional outbursts, changes in mood, changes in behavior, sadness, withdrawal, aggressiveness, violence, hyperactivity, bed-wetting, low self-esteem, etc. Some of these behaviors can continue into adulthood.

What are the reasons people abuse children? ›

Family crisis or stress, including domestic violence and other marital conflicts, or single parenting. A child in the family who is developmentally or physically disabled. Financial stress, unemployment or poverty. Social or extended family isolation.

What abuse does to the body? ›

Some abuse causes injuries that you can see, like bruises, cuts, or broken bones. Some injuries need medical care. Abuse also causes emotional hurt and deep stress that you can't see. This deep emotional stress is called trauma.

What happens to your brain after years of emotional abuse? ›

Early emotional abuse could cause changes to the hippocampus that make it harder to empathize with the emotions of others. Self-awareness. Emotional abuse is linked to thinning of certain areas of the brain that help you manage emotions and be self-aware — especially the prefrontal cortex and temporal lobe.

What causes someone to be a child molestor? ›

The major factors that differentiate child molesters from other offenders concern sexual deviancy and attitudes tolerant of adult-child sex. Interestingly, the developmental factor that most strongly differentiates child molesters from non-sexual offenders is a history of being sexually victimized during childhood.

What conditions are most common in people whose childhood was abusive? ›

Children who experience abuse may develop mental health concerns, such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD. They are more likely than their peers to engage in risky behaviors and experience a range of stressors, including early pregnancy and suicide attempts.

Why do parents have a favorite child? ›

Parents tend to favour a child that is most like them, reminds them of themselves, or represents what they view as a success of parenting,” she says. “Younger children are most likely to have been raised by a parent who, over time and experience, is more confident and skilled in their child-raising.”

What are 5 effects of emotional abuse? ›

feeling, expressing and controlling emotions. lacking confidence or causing anger problems. finding it difficult to make and maintain healthy relationships later in life. higher levels of depression and health problems as adults compared to those who experienced other types of child abuse.

What are five harmful effects of violence? ›

Impacts of violence
  • Injury/ disability.
  • Eating disorders.
  • Sleeping disorders.
  • Pregnancy complications.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Drinking/ drug use.
  • Depression.
  • Anxiety.
Mar 5, 2021

What are the 7 areas of abuse? ›

Types of Abuse
  • Physical Abuse. Physical abuse is the use of physical force or mistreatment of one person by another which may or may not result in actual physical injury. ...
  • Sexual violence and abuse. ...
  • Psychological / Emotional Abuse. ...
  • Financial Abuse. ...
  • Institutional Abuse. ...
  • Neglect. ...
  • Exploitation. ...
  • Domestic violence and abuse.

What are 5 or more consequences or effects of violence on the victim? ›

Those who experience or witness violence may develop a variety of problems, including anxiety, depression, insecurity, anger, poor anger management, poor social skills, pathological lying, manipulative behaviour, impulsiveness, and lack of empathy.

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