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The Inquiry into the St James Independent Schools in London

   
 
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Limitations of the Inquiry
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  Setting up the Inquiry
Limitations to the scope of the inquiry
  Download the Inquiry Terms of Reference
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Limitations of the inquiry

The St James and St Vedast inquiry was instigated by the Schools' governing body itself. The initial proposals were widely criticised for being too restricted. Pressure on the Schools from a number of quarters led to the scope of the inquiry being widened slightly and enabled greater participation. The inquiry however remained focused on investigating complaints it received about " past discipline policy and practice” mainly from the period 1975 to 1985.  In our opinion these restrictions are reflected in the inquiry's findings - which were unequivocal about mistreatment and harsh punishments but didn’t address a number of other areas of concern.

Setting up the Inquiry

The inquiry Chair and his report were wholly independent of the Schools; however, the Schools approach to setting up the inquiry has led some to question their motivations.

The Governors’ initial proposal excluded all parents as well as former pupils of the Girls' schools and only allowed complaints relating to the specific period 1975-84. the inquiry would only look into complaints about "discipline policy and practice". The Schools were also initially slow to contact former pupils. The original choice of an ‘independent’ Inquiry Chairman was felt by some complainants to be inappropriate as he was understood to have a connection to the Chair of the Board of Governors. The Schools’ subsequent statement, that their consultation with some complainants led to changes in the final terms of reference, should not be read to imply they were willing to make these changes. In any event, as the Inquiry Report states, the final terms of the Inquiry were “not wholly accepted” by some participants.

We are aware of a number of potential complainants who were not informed of the Inquiry and that some complaints relating to the current Schools were not submitted due to the presence of the Schools’ solicitors at the Inquiry hearings. Nevertheless, 81 complaints were submitted to the Inquiry including from former teachers.

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Limitations to the scope of the Inquiry

With the inquiry’s scope limited to “complaints about past discipline policy and practice” at the Schools, significant concerns about other aspects of the Schools could not be fully addressed. The Inquiry was able to establish the extent of the relationship between the School of Economic Science (SES /SoES) and St James and St Vedast Schools up until at least 1995. It was not, however, within its remit to investigate whether the SES’s ideology, propagated through the Schools, was detrimental to children - nor was it able to asses the whether the SES is using the Schools to recruit children. Aspects of the SES’s ‘philosophy’ which have been criticised in the past include its views on homosexuality, its disposition to the disabled and the role of women in society and the family. In our opinion the occurrence of marriages of a number of former St James and St Vedast pupils to teachers at both Schools raises other concerns.

The inquiry focused on establishing how children were disciplined at the Schools during the period 1975 to 1985. Key questions - such as at what at what point the mistreatment stopped, why it stopped, and what lessons could be learnt - were largely left unanswered.

Click here for the Inquiry Terms of Reference (74KB)
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