Corporal Punishment Over Used

Astonishingly, in this country anyone can advertise for pupils and establish a school, with only a cursory check from officialdom. They don’t even have to be trained as a teacher.

The only people who are barred from teaching are those with a criminal record. They are named on a notorious list 99 at the Education Ministry. To cut costs, private schools are no longer recognised as efficient by Her Majesty’s Inspectors, a rigorous check that once made them the envy of the world.

Today they are simply registered, which tells the man in the street little more than they exist. And it is only after a new school is actually in operation that the inspectors call in to have a look.

Mr Slade’s new £575-a-term school with its board of governors, and its motto — Rectus Constat (Standing Firm) — its sober grey uniforms, white sun hats in summer and days out called exeats, is everything a traditional English prep school should appear.

There may only be 32 pupils at Dalesdown but it seems to be thriving. Duncan Ampleford’s letters, if taken on face value, show a rather different picture however.

They are written by a boy who could have known nothing of Slade’s past history and was only six when Mr Slade left St George’s, saying he had done so because to remain would make him “the potential victim of any irresponsible crank who chose to invent new allegations”.

Duncan Ampleford’s letters hardly come into this category, yet this ten-year-old’s stories of bare-bottom spanking, essays on beatings and tape-recorded punishment, have an eerie echo of similar allegations made against Mr Slade at St George’s.

As his fear mounted he wrote a letter to his mother saying; ‘I want to come home!!!!, I need you, I’m I am scared of anything happening. We discovered that Sladey (Mr Slade) tapes our whackings. And for detention you have to write about them. I must come home, I’m scared.’

In another letter Duncan sent to his mother: I just want to be rescued. Write and tell me whether or not you will come and WHEN! Please … come in the car and get me out of here. ‘I don’t want to be whacked for losing my RE book. And I only left it on my desk.’

In a further letter he wrote: ‘Dear Mum … Don’t phone Mr Slade up just get me out of this dump. It’s the worst school you could have picked. I want to come home…’

Finally he threatened to run away and wrote home: ‘I’ve tried to convince you that this school is terrible, I’ve just about given up so you better hurry up and change your mind because I may have to run away. HURRY UP!!!!! For your sake and my sake.’

DUNCAN’S mother is Maureen Ampleford, an Army officer’s daughter and 33-year-old librarian with the international Wheat Council in London. She was pressed into signing a form permitting Mr Slade to use corporal punishment on Duncan. ‘I did so most reluctantly because I wanted him settled quickly into a boarding school as I was having to commute to London from my house in Billingshurst, Sussex, because of my job,’ she said. ‘I thought corporal punishment would only be used for really serious offences like stealing or bullying.

‘I was told by Dalesdown boys how they had been spanked for failing desk inspection, not getting 100 per cent in a French test or tearing their exercise books. Trivial things.’

When a worried Mrs Ampleford went to collect Duncan and take him home in November, she stood in a dormitory while her son packed his trunk for the last time. She recalled: ‘One boy called Alex came in and I asked him, “Is it true that yesterday you were spanked by Mr Slade who taped it?” He replied “yes”.

‘But other boys started telling Alex not to talk about it. They told me that Mr Slade had warned them not to mention about the beatings to parents. He said it was spreading rumours.’

The Dalesdown prospectus says authoritatively: ‘It is inevitable that boys will misbehave from time to time. Boys will accept this discipline as long as it is seen to be fair and to have their own best interests at heart. ‘As well as minor sanctions, the school may use extra work, detention or corporal punishment. We do not subscribe to advanced psychological approaches, and we do believe that children are responsible for their own actions.’

But at the beginning of last September, Mr Slade apparently changed his tune. He wrote to parents promising corporal punishment would be replaced on an experimental basis by detention.

OMINOUSLY, he added: ‘Incidentally, ceasing to use corporal punishment, as the ultimate deterrent does not mean we have abolished a “good smack” with the hand.’ Duncan Ampleford has made a full statement to the police, who have told The Mail on Sunday the matter is under active investigation.

Mr Slade has been presented by us with the same statement. When this happened he put his head in his hands and said: ‘This is terrible. I cannot comment on any of it.’

He added: ‘The school is being run in a reasonable way and no action of mine has been anything but proper.

‘This is a happy thriving school. The boys are not threatened or illtreated. There are inaccuracies and innuendo in this boy’s story:

The chairman of the Dalesdown governors, Andrew Steel, told us that the allegations are being fully investigated by the school. The governors have just received a full report from the headmaster.

Mr Steel said: ‘The boys here are a lively, happy bunch of kids. I am disturbed by the allegations made against Mr Slade and we are treating the matter very seriously. But the Department of Education’s inquiry into St George’s did exonerate him.’

Yet very similar allegations were made at St George’s where Mr Slade’s name first came to prominence.

It is, of course, always difficult exactly to pin down accusations made by some boys about their teachers.

Of Mr Slade, it may therefore be said that he is either extremely unlucky — or extremely careless.