The Inquiry into the St James Independent Schools in London

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The School of Economic Science (SES / SoES)

The SES / SoES and St James


The St James schools were founded in 1975 by Leon MacLaren, leader of the School of Economic Science (SES / SoES). Unhappy with the education then offered by the state school system, a number of SES members supported the creation the schools whose aim was to educate children in an environment where the ‘philosophical’ beliefs of the SES could be applied in practice. The schools were set up as an experiment, and aimed to provide for the “spiritual, emotional, intellectual and physical welfare of every child.”  They are now promoted as the “spearhead of an exciting and vigorous world-wide movement in education”.

The 2006 Townend report found that St James (and St Vedast schools) in London were directly run by the SES (SoES) for at least 20 years, and that during at least 10 of these children were mentally and physically mistreated and “criminally assaulted”.

As well as the St James childrens’ schools SES (SoES) 'sister' organisations have established a ‘family’ of private children’s schools worldwide. The Plato children’s school in Amsterdam closed in 2002, after two Police investigations into illegal physical punishments.


Since 2005 the SES / SoES has spread its influence to state schools, running in-service teacher training through its offshoot the Education Renaissance Trust, a UK registered charity. The SES in the North East of the UK (which operates as the 'School of Philosophy') also runs parenting classes. Course are for parents of children from '0 to 10' as well as older children.

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The School of Economic Science (SES SoES)

The School of Economic Science was established by Andrew Maclaren in 1938, to promote economic justice through fair taxation and distribution of wealth.


By 1947 Andrew’s son Leon MacLaren had taken control of the organisation. A follower of the teachings of the Central Asian mystic, Gurdjieff, he steered the organisation towards philosophical study and practice. After meeting the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1961, Leon introduced the practice of Transcendental meditation, and following a meeting with the Shri Shantananda Saraswati, the ancient Vedic philosophy of Avaita Vedanta became the core teaching of the SES.


The SES introduces its ‘philosophy’ to new members by running ‘practical courses in Philosophy and Economics’open to the public. To continue beyond the first year of courses, students are expected to put the SES philosophical system into practice, attend an initiation ceremony into transcendental meditation, and follow a code including dress and diet. ‘Students’ become full members of the organisation by doing voluntary service, and attending residential events where they are expected to participate in a practice called “measure”. Studies at senior level are separated on gender lines.



The growth of the School of Economic Science (SES / SoES) and its worldwide family of Philosophy Schools has attracted considerable controversy over the past 40 years or so.


A number of overseas Philosophy Schools have received critical media coverage, and in 1983 the London Evening Standard Newspaper published a series of articles claiming the School of Economic Science was a secretive religious cult. The organisation was the subject of a critical exposé by two investigative journalists published in 1985 in the book ‘the Secret Cult’, which criticised the organisation’s views on the role of women in society, and reported allegations of indoctrinating members, and being responsible for marital and family breakdowns.


The School of Economic Science has also been criticised by church leaders, and monitored by anti-cult groups in the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland and Canada. The Belgian Branch was classified as a cult in a Belgian Government report in 1997.


The Evening Standard articles publicised the fact that the SES was running a number of schools for children, and reported claims from some parents that they were unaware of the SES’ involvement. 


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Around the world

The SES currently has ‘sister’ Philosophy Schools in 16 countries around the world.  All are autonomous, but retain direct links to the London SES, which continues to provide spiritual guidance and direct the development of the ‘philosophy’ taught and practiced in these affiliated Philosophy Schools worldwide.


A brief history


1938 The School of Economic Science is founded by Andrew Maclaren, to promote economic justice through reforming the taxation system.
1947 Andrew’s son Leon MacLaren takes control of the organisation.
1961 Leon Maclaren meets the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and introduces the practice of Transcendental meditation into the SES
1965 Leon Maclaren travels to India and meets the Shri Shantananda Saraswati, Avaita Vedanta becomes the core of the SES philosophy.
1975 Leon Maclaren founds the St James and St Vedast childrens schools
1983 The London Evening Standard publishes a series of critical articles about the SES
1983 Parents of St James and St Vedast pupils call for representation on the governing board, and setting up a Parent teacher association, following complaints about excessive physical punishments at the schools, and secrecy over their connection to the SES
1985 ‘Secret Cult’ book is published
1985 St Vedast Schools close
1998 The ‘Education Renaissance Trust’ charity is established by the SES to promote the SES’ ‘educational philosophy’ in schools worldwide.
2002 The Dutch Plato childrens school closes following 2 Police investigations into illegal physical punishments
2006 The Townend report makes findings of excessive physical punishments, mental and physical mistreatment and criminal assaults on pupils at St James and St Vedast schools between 1975-85.




Click here for links to further information on the SES / SoES, SES schools, and SES worldwide.

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