The Inquiry into the St James Independent Schools in London



St James & St Vedast Independent Schools were established by the School of Economic Science (SES / SoES) in 1975 as ‘an experiment’ to give children a unique education based on the SES’s philosophy and teachings. Critics have claimed the SES is a cult. Controversy over the SES’s influence on the schools and allegations of pupils being mistreated have dogged the schools. An internal inquiry set up in 2005 by the Governing Body found there had been excessive use of corporal punishment, physical and mental mistreatment of pupils and "criminal assault” by teachers in the past. The findings of the Inquiry also pointed to serious failings of the Governing Body.

The Parents and Pupils Action Group are working to ensure that the inquiry marks a turning point for the St James Schools, accelerating the process of positive change on which they have embarked.
***Leaked report condemns management failure and SES control of St James [Click here]***

Townend Inquiry abuse findings: school must act

The Parents & Pupils Inquiry Action Group have broadly welcomed the publication of Mr James Townend QC’s Inquiry Report and its findings that there had been excessive use of corporal punishment, physical and mental mistreatment of pupils and “criminal assault” by teachers at St James and St Vedast Schools in London.  

We continue to call on the Schools to act decisively in response to the Inquiry (read more). The SES and the Schools’ governing body must take responsibility for the mistreatment of children under their care. The Chair and other governors (who presided over the schools at the time) must acknowledge their failings and resign.  We remain concerned about a range of issues relevant to the current schools including the failure to take action against teachers who were named by Townend in a second confidential report. We also question the current role of the School of Economic Science (SES / SoES) in St James - particularly after the revelations in the leaked "St James Report" about mismanagement and the SES's influence in the 1970s to 1990s.

The Schools' response to the Inquiry

The Governors of St James have set up an Inquiry website on which they issued a statement accepting the Inquiry's findings, apologised and stressed their support for reconciliation between former pupils and teachers. Subsequent statements have been issued in reply to questions and concerns raised by us and others. On 26 January details of the action the Governors planned to take and an outline of their reconciliation process were published. In early February they issued a "Clarification of Key Questions". In March they outlined how they had dealt with the issue of current teachers who were named by Townend in a second confidential report.

In summary, the Schools response to date has been to:

  • attack PPIAG and victims of abuse as "hardened activists".
  • reject calls for resignations or for any change in the current management or governance of the schools.
  • claim the relationship and influence of the SES is transparent and that critics are misinformed.
  • confirm that "there are currently no plans to remove" any current teachers who were named in the confidential Inquiry report. 1 teacher has received a written warning following a review by a panel of governors.
  • address in detail the extensive efforts the schools have made more recently to ensure that they comply with statutory requirements and best practice for child protection and welfare.

After growing criticism, a special report on Channel 4 News and an open letter from nearly one hundred parents and pupils (past and present) calling for action, there has been an apology from the Head of the SES but no admission of the organisation's responsibility. There has still been no response from the Education Renaissance Trust (ERT) or its Chairman Nicholas Debenham (former headteacher of St James).

Click here to read more about the action we are calling for the Schools’ response to the Inquiry and what you can do.


(120KB) Click here for the Governors' "Clarification of key questions" (12/2/06)
(126KB) Click here for the further statement from the Governors & follow up actions (26/1/06)
q (41KB) Click here for our full response to the St James & St Vedast Inquiry (16/1/06)
(210KB) Click here for the Governors' & Headteachers' statement (14/1/06)

For more information about the Parents & Pupils Inquiry Action Group Click here contact us To contact us click here
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Headteacher David Boddy on Channel 4 News in 2006 - teachers "may have been overzealous"

David Boddy, then SES spokesman, backs teacher in 1983

School of Economic Science (SES) headquarters, London

Concerns about SES control first

publicised in 1983


The Armenian mystic Gurdjieff - one of many whose teachings have influenced the SES / SoES