‘We’d never let our son attend a scandal-hit school’

As the mother of a 14-year-old boy at a London private school, news of sex abuse at various institutions has been of great concern. It highlighted to us that no school, be it state or private, is immune to abuse carried out by its pupils.

We haven’t seen any evidence of rape culture within our son’s school, but they have taken the news seriously, informing us that any allegations against pupils will be investigated and dealt with a level of great severity.

Many years ago, when we were choosing schools for my son to sit the 11-plus we avoided a particular school because of allegations over the abuse of boys during the 1980s. The concern was that the incident was covered up and the teacher was allowed to continue working there. This, for us, was a no-brainer – there was no way that we would allow our son to attend, even though the teacher was no longer there and it occurred 30 years prior. I imagine Dulwich College, which was recently at the centre of allegations of sexual harassment and assault among its students, might also see a smeared reputation among prospective parents that may take years to repair.

All schools, whether state, private or otherwise, must deal with allegations of rape in the same way. I am positive that independent schools have far more to lose if they don’t attempt to prevent this issue: they are businesses after all. Hundreds of thousands of pounds are raised each year from the application process alone – losing out on this would be financially ruinous.

Rather than just telling our boys that rape is bad (if only that was enough) we need to encourage a sense of responsibility for male and female teenagers to protect their counterparts. After all, the first people a teenager will go to with a problem will be their closest friends and they need to have the support and knowhow to handle that. This starts with school, and it must be woven into the very fabric of the school ethos.

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