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Shocking extent of sexual abuse in UK boarding schools revealed in new documentary

View profile for Malcolm Underhill
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The true scale of sexual abuse in UK boarding schools has been exposed in a new ITV documentary that has revealed hundreds of people are accused of abusing children in some of the UK’s leading private schools.

The documentary, part of ITV’s Exposure series, sees journalist and author Alex Renton investigate private schools where abuse is alleged to have taken place, in some cases over many decades. Renton was himself the subject of sexual abuse while a pupil at leading independent school Ashdown House.

In the documentary it was revealed that, since 2012, 425 people have been accused of carrying out sexual assaults at UK boarding schools with at least 160 people having been charged by police resulting in 31 ongoing investigations. Of those accused, at least 171 relate to historical child abuse while a minimum of 125 involve more recent attacks. However, these numbers are based on responses from just over half of UK police forces, meaning the actual numbers are likely to be significantly higher.

There are around 480 independent and state boarding schools in the UK, accommodating around 75,000 boarders. It is estimated that in the region of one million UK adults were educated at boarding school. With the documentary suggesting that the abuse and failure to deal with it was so widespread, it is impossible to know just how many people have been affected.

Numerous abuse survivors were interviewed for the programme, with many revealing the failures that meant paedophiles working in boarding schools often went unpunished, with many allowed to continue teaching, posing a further danger to children.

A fact likely to shock many is that it is not a legal requirement for UK schools to report abuse allegations. This has led to suggestions that some private schools are willing to disregard student safety in order to protect their reputations.

Schools are required to have safeguarding arrangements in place to prevent abuse and these arrangements are regularly checked in inspections. However, Exposure’s analysis of the most recent inspection reports for every boarding school in England showed that one in ten either failed to meet the minimum acceptable standard or did not achieve a ‘good’ rating.

Robin Fletcher, Chief Executive of the Boarding Schools’ Association (BSA) (which represents 90% of UK boarding schools), was interviewed for the documentary. Mr Fletcher said:

“Everyone who works in boarding today is professional, caring and doing everything they can to make safeguarding their number one priority. There's no doubt, that there was a period where some people at some schools experienced some appalling abuse. And it’s absolutely shocking. But in my experience, there isn't any school out there which doesn't want to listen to victims and, where it can, as quickly as possible, say sorry.”

In 2017, the BSA issued rules requiring its members to report any allegations of abuse, but also suggested the government needs to make this a legal requirement. This is a move supported by leading organisations, including the NSPCC, the Independent Association of Prep Schools and the Independent Schools Council.

Compensation for sexual abuse

If you have experienced sexual abuse, either recent or historic, while attending boarding school, IBB Claims’ highly experienced child abuse solicitors can help you take action. We offer an empathetic and effective approach, dedicated to ensuring anyone who experienced abuse is able to achieve justice.

Our team can help to make sure your abuser is exposed and assist you in claiming compensation for child abuse in boarding school, which can be essential to support you in rebuilding your life and being able to move on.

Call us today on 0333 123 9099 today, for a free and confidential conversation. Alternatively please email or complete the online form. Please be assured, that we will treat the issue sensitively and not ask you any detail about the abuse.  We only need to have a general indication of what happened to you, to advise if we can assist.

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