Child Abuse at Boarding Schools

Compensation for Child Abuse in Boarding Schools

Children as young as six years of age are been sent to boarding school in Britain. Recent statistics show that about 70,000 children (of which around 4,000 are under 11) are boarding in the private sector. The country’s 38 state boarding schools accommodate 500 children aged 11–18.

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Abuse in boarding schools

Child sexual abuse scandals in independent boarding and public schools have been making headlines in recent years. In January 2014, Andrew Norfolk of The Times reported a "surge in criminal prosecutions", citing 130 private schools linked with allegations of sexual offences against children. He also reported that teachers from 62 fee-paying schools had been convicted of sex crimes against children in the past 20 years.

If you are a victim of emotional, physical or sexual abuse at boarding school, or are representing a child who has been abused, you could be entitled to compensation. IBB's child abuse solicitors will deal with your case with sensitivity and compassion. We will support you along your journey to gaining justice, healing and recovery.

Financial compensation cannot make up for your painful experience at boarding school, however it can provide the long-term support and resources required to help improve your physical, emotional and mental health. Our solicitors provide you with free initial advice to discuss your case and the possibility of claiming compensation for the abuse. We offer a No-Win No-Fee Agreement so there is no financial risk involved if you are not successful. To discuss your case or to make an appointment please contact us on 0333 123 9099. Alternatively, please email us at or complete our online form.

How does child abuse affect people?

That childhood abuse leads to mental and physical health concerns is well documented. Survivors are more likely to suffer depression, anxiety disorders, addictions, personality disorders (Spila, Makara, Kozak, & Urbanska, 2008) eating disorders, sexual disorders and suicidal behaviour (Draper et al., 2007). A study by Palmer, Brown, Rae-Grant, & Loughin (2001) with 384 survivors of childhood abuse found that they tended to be depressed, have low self-esteem, and had relationship and family problems. Another study found that almost 76% of adults who reported that they had experienced child physical abuse and neglect had at least one psychiatric disorder in their lifetime, and nearly 50% have three or more psychiatric disorders (Harper et al., 2007)."

We were asked to write an article on "The Effects of Child Abuse" by the Help For Adult Victims of Child Abuse (HAVOCA) website.

The unique complexities of abuse in boarding schools

The guilt of privilege

Boarding and public school pupils deal with high expectations from parents and teachers. Failure to meet these expectations can often lead to anxiety and depression. In an article, therapist and a leading authority on child abuse in boarding schools, Nick Duffell, wrote for Therapy Today in his article: Old School Ties: “Both as children and adults they are subject to an internal shaming linked to the costly privilege and consequent expectation of success which such an expensive education represents, and they frequently begin to doubt themselves, self-negate or fall silent.

Boarding school syndrome

Children in boarding school miss out on parental attention and support, and experience separation anxiety and resentment towards their parents. They can also suffer physical violence, bullying and intimidation at the hands of other pupils.  The boarding school experience, can lead to a range of emotional and psychological conditions such as emotional suppression, anxiety, depression, anger, low self-esteem and a poor work-life balance.

Therapist, Joy Schaverien PhD, calls this collection of symptoms: Boarding school syndrome. And describes the syndrome in her article Lost for Words, published in Therapy Today:

"Boarding school syndrome is not a medical category, it is a cluster of learned behaviours and discontents that follow growing up in a boarding school”.

She continues: “Early boarding is a traumatic event in the life of many young children and its psychological impact affects the core of the personality. The sudden loss of attachment figures (parents, siblings, pets and toys) causes the child to protect him or herself”.

How does boarding school syndrome affect abuse survivors?

Someone who is already displaying symptoms of “boarding school syndrome” such as anxiety, low self-esteem and depression, could:

  • Be more vulnerable to abuse
  • Be affected by the sexual abuse in a different way than non-boarding school pupils, due to the increased complexity of their ‘home’ environment and the lack of parental support
  • Be more reluctant to report abuse, because of lack of parental support
  • Require specialist  emotional and psychological support resources that are qualified to deal with ex-boarders

Justice for boarding school abuse survivors

Criminal prosecution for those responsible for abusing boarders

Investigations and prosecutions for child abuse in Britain’s public schools are increasing. Often, it only takes one report of abuse to inspire others to come forward. Evidence from former classmates can help strengthen our case and theirs, but it is important that the police speak to them – not you.

Civil claims for abuse in boarding schools

While we will always suggest that you report the abuse to the police, we also recommend making a civil claim against the abuser or their employer – both of whom owed you a duty of care. Compensation cannot fill the gap of a lost childhood but it can help you put your life back together. Compensation takes account of the pain and suffering caused by child sexual, emotional and  physical abuse. The NHS can offer basic therapy, but because of state funding restrictions, you will need to seek ongoing private treatment.  Compensation may also meet the cost of re-training or loss of earnings in cases where an adult survivor has suffered an emotional breakdown. There may be other specific losses and expenses and if they are caused by the abuse, they can be included in the claim.

Claiming compensation for physical or sexual abuse at boarding school

We are experienced in helping survivors of abuse at schools and boarding schools to secure compensation for pain and suffering, as well as recompense for loss of earnings, treatment costs and specialist care costs. 

Contact our child abuse lawyers today in confidence. We offer a No-Win No-Fee Agreement so there is no financial risk involved if you are not successful. To discuss your case or to make an appointment please contact us on 0333 123 9099. Alternatively, please email us at or complete our online form.

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