“Please Rescue me from School”

“I HATE this school I got six whallops pants down. Tell Mum I shouldn’t belong here. Get me out, I’m scared.”

THE AUTHOR of this letter and many others of a similar sort is ten-year-old Duncan Ampleford. They speak of the eight long weeks last autumn he was at a school called Dalesdown in Horsham, West Sussex. What makes these letters so important is because they talk about the treatment he says he suffered at the hands of a headmaster against whom very similar allegations have been made in the past.

Derek Slade, a 36-year-old bachelor and Oxford graduate, left another private school four years ago after being accused of abusing boys there.

Before that he resigned from one of the country’s most respected prep schools, The Dragon, Oxford, because his headmaster said: ‘He and I have a difference of opinion on corporal punishment. This came to light from a parent’s complaint. He was using corporal punishment to instil a knowledge of Latin.

But it was in 1982 that the spotlight really fell on Mr Slade.

A responsible BBC radio programme Checkpoint had conducted a series of interviews with pupils and nine former teachers at his former school, St George’s. It is alleged that he:
• Set essays for pupils entitled ‘Whackings I have had’.
• Beat boys with a jokari bat, stick and gym shoe.
• Kept a full record, in Greek, of children’s reactions to punishments.
• Threw Christmas parties where forfeits were demanded and some boys ended up naked.

After this report there was a Department of Education inspection which gave a clean bill of health to St George’s and, his supporters say, cleared him.

The inspectors said that they were unable to substantiate the more serious allegations.

AT THE TIME the BBC said “We are standing by everything we said in the programme. We know the inspectors visited the school after the programme when the disciplinary procedures had been modified. We also know the inspectors are critical of discipline arrangements at the school.”

Whatever the rights and wrongs of all this, within 24 hours of this report Mr Slade resigned as headmaster. And two years later he set up business again, this time in Horsham.