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St James' girls school west London- is it a bit weird or is that all in the past?

(27 Posts)
Giraffe44 Fri 01-May-15 19:24:54

I'd really welcome some views on St James' girls school near Olympia. I'm considering it for my DD1 but worried about some of the things I hear about who runs it and it's history.. I'd love to hear from some current parents on what it's like on the inside!

jeanne16 Sat 02-May-15 08:07:17

I have heard a lot of good things about St James. With the pressure for places on all London private secondaries, it has become more academic than it was previously.

Elibean Sat 02-May-15 13:20:03

I'm not a parent there, but we did look at it for our eldest (currently in Y6). There were lots of things we liked, and our neighbour's daughter is very happy there (also Y6 and going into seniors).
That said, we chose not to apply for the following reasons: whilst we really liked the 'caring ethos' we were a bit put off by the worrying about the dangers of the internet (all true, but the reaction seemed fear based rather than empowering) and also I had a gut feeling that dd1 would feel constricted/controlled there. Other kids, however, may well not - I think finding the right 'fit' counts for a lot.
Academically, I think it does pretty well now - that part didn't worry me. History-wise, equally not worried as history is history - but current and future matters, and didn't feel right for us. I can really see why it appeals to some though.

Giraffe44 Sat 02-May-15 13:48:08

Thanks so much Elibean. My eldest is in year 5 so will be deciding in November and finding it really hard to do that finding the right fit thing and find myselfy getting more and more muddled the more schools I look at. I had same instinct about st James and thought be lovely for year 7 and 8 but might feel too safe and protective after that.. I do find it hard to imagine what my DD will need when she is older...

bunny123 Mon 04-May-15 01:22:58

All the weird stuff is all in the past - I presume you are talking about that economic science thing? It is a really lovely school - i know a girl who goes there - holistic and caring ethos. Great results to boot. My only issue is that it is very small for a secondary school - there are only two forms I believe, which I think can be a bit restrictive in terms of building friendship groups etc, and as most come up from the junior school, it is worth thinking about the dynamics between new and the old. It has quite a warm caring feel, and I think on the whole it is a good school, but it all depends on your child, and go with your gut. Good luck.

cruikshank Mon 04-May-15 01:33:56

I would be very wary. I used to know someone who was there and experienced the whole 'cult' thing and he was really fucked up by it. This website is interesting on the subject:

What really strikes me about it is that the teachers on the forum are totally into trying to mindwash the former pupils, and the school itself hasn't done enough to distance itself from what went on there and what, reputedly, still goes on there. Basically, I wouldn't want to entrust an organisation like that with my child, nor to give it my money. In fact, I'd run a mile.

jeanne16 Mon 04-May-15 06:11:54

That article was of a boy who attended school 30 years ago. I hardly think that is relevant. This post is asking about the girls school today, not the boys school 30 years ago.

cruikshank Mon 04-May-15 13:35:44

The article is part of a wider website. Here is a discussion on more recent events:

From that page, about the head: Firstly he is a long time member of the SES at the highest level. He was considered at the time of the Secret Cult a press spokesman for the organisation and I think it is fair to say the SES has yet to address much of the criticism levelled at it during the 70's and 80's. Boddy is not a teacher and I do not know what qualifies him to be headmaster of a secondary school. His first teaching role is that of headmaster at this school; a most unconventional career path and I'd have thought raises concern. Given his relative seniority in the SES relative to governors of St James, this raises questions,in my mind, both about his appointment and about the governors ability to provide effective oversight of the running of the school.

Honestly, do a little digging around the website - it's the teachers' responses that are most illuminating, and what make the school look, to be frank, like a cult.

Fridayschild Mon 04-May-15 17:25:42

We looked at St James' boys school for Ds1 last year. The academic standards weren't quite high enough for my liking, and the school is a little further away than the one he went to in the end. I grilled the head master about the SES history of the school and was impressed with his frank approach and answers. I'd suggest to OP that she asks the girls' school about the SES and makes her mind up based on that.

Yestosummer Mon 04-May-15 18:44:01

Cruikshank I am not sure why you feel so anti-St James in 2015. Yes if you go digging, there are historic reports that are negative however that is the very much past in the past and it is very mainstream now. My son has been in the senior school for 3 years and it is great. I certainly wouldn't have him there if i had any concerns about cult like behaviour. If you are going to make acquisitions about cult like behaviour then please back it up with relatively recent facts?

duderanch Tue 05-May-15 11:46:00

Another vote for St James' Girls from me. Daughter of family friend transferred to senior school after awful bullying. She loved it, did very well and is at a good university now. Go and visit it and ask questions. And don't let people bleeting on about pupils having to meditate put you off - we did that at my very straight Northern Grammar years ago, only it was called chill out time.

cruikshank Tue 05-May-15 21:33:18

yestosummer, maybe because I don't like cults? confused

The entire enquiry into what happened was a whitewash, largely because of staff (some of whom are still at the school) refusing to play ball and acknowledge what happened and management closing ranks. Fine if you want to give your money to cultists and liars, but equally fine for other people to think it's a bit off.

Yestosummer Tue 05-May-15 22:57:44

Cruikshank ... agreed if you have any reasonably recent reports/evidence that it is a cult!! Are you saying that little has changed and St James in 2015 is made up of "cultists and liars"? As a current parent I am really keen to understand what facts you are using to base your view on. Clearly you must have had some tangible first or secondhand contact with the school recently? Please do share.

neuroticnicky Tue 05-May-15 23:19:47

I also know two girls who have recently left both of whom were very happy at the school and got excellent A levels. IMO St James Girls school has suffered unfairly in terms of reputation due to the (now very) historic activities which occurred at the boys school many years ago. As far as I am aware the much more recent scandal at a well known West London boys school has not stopped anyone applying there! By all accounts the pastoral care at St James Girls school is excellent and the only thing that would put me off is that it does seem small for a secondary school with limited onsite facilities.

Kuppenbender Tue 05-May-15 23:35:27

What would put me off would be the absence of any reference to SES on the schools' websites. Why the reluctance to acknowledge their links to the organisation? This is more than enough to set alarm bells ringing for me.

I'm sure plenty of children have spent happy school days there and gone on to good university places, but you'd have to be incredibly naive to believe that there's no SES bias to the education that they're offering. Fine if your happy with that, but why not make this clear from the outset?

neuroticnicky Wed 06-May-15 09:18:49

Kuppenbender that is a fair enough point although most people (including the St James girls and parents I know) have no idea what the SES believe which suggests that SES philosophy -whatever that is- is not being thrust down the girls' throats unlike the indoctrination received at faith schools. Perhaps a St James mum who is connected with the SES could enlighten us as to what the SES actually believe and how/if this influences the education provided at the school apart from the meditation (which I personally have no issue with). My understanding is that the girls used to have a weekly morality/spirituality talk but don't know whether this still occurs and to what extent SES values are taught as I have no idea what these are.

Kuppenbender Wed 06-May-15 16:52:48

That all sounds very innocuous. In which case they are doing themselves a disservice by not being more upfront about their origins and current relationship with SES (not to mention the nature of SES).

Despite the boys school being the nearest independent school to me I didn't give it a second look. Call me old-fashioned, but I'd rather not send my only child to a school that conceals its relationship with a controversial spiritual/philosophical/whatever organisation, whose beliefs I know nothing about.

neuroticnicky Wed 06-May-15 19:13:09

Yes -I think you are right that it would help if they were more upfront about what the SES believes and how this impacts on the education provided at the school. IMO it is likely to be very innocuous as you say and possibly even advantageous to the school (probably dealing mainly with the type of ethical behaviour they are trying to instill in the girls) but the failure to clarify this appears defensive.

cruikshank Wed 06-May-15 19:58:19

IMO it is likely to be very innocuous as you say and possibly even advantageous to the school

And that opinion is based on what, exactly?

SES is a cult. Yeah, yeah, I know, mine's a religion, hers is a cult etc. But still, it is a cult. It has many of the hallmarks of a cult - requiring certain behaviour while withholding information as to the reasons for this behaviour, withholding knowledge in exchange for money/obedience, opaque structures, deliberately obfuscatory talk - it's all there. And they're in charge of children, and indoctrinating them with this shit.

Yestosummer Wed 06-May-15 22:51:27

Again Cruikshank, other than the historic reports, please share any recent information with us. You talk about cults and indoctrinating children but what recent evidence/experience are you basing your acquisitions on when it comes to St James school? As a current parent I am genuinely interested.

neuroticnicky Thu 07-May-15 17:30:15

Cruickshank- that opinion is based on discussing the matter with current and former St James parents and with girls I know who have very recently left the school . Perhaps you can explain how the girls are being indoctrinated as Yestosummer requests and also what the purpose of this indoctrination would be. I thought cults/religions recruit followers by providing (mis)information about the true nature of being etc but after 7 years at the school neither of St James girls I have spoken to about the matter even know what the SES believe. If the "indoctrination" simply consists of trying to teach the pupils to live ethically, is this such a bad thing? However I agree the school should clarify what exactly SES values/beliefs are if these influence the behaviour/characteristics they are trying to instill in pupils.

Elibean Thu 07-May-15 17:34:47

I went to see it with a very open mind (we're fairly maverick, as families go, and I trust my instincts) and did see a lot of good. As I said earlier, there was just a hint of something that I didn't feel comfortable with - for dd1, at any rate (or possibly for myself either). That doesn't make it not ok for others, and I do trust that my neighbour's daughter is happy enough there - for her, its the right place.
But I did feel there was just a shadow of something overprotective/potentially controlling in the deputy's speech (and the then-Head's speech printed in the welcome pack), and a shadow of 'there's a right way to be' in general.
The latter is not uncommon in secondary schools, perhaps, but 'the right way to be' does worry me. It was only a flavour, but enough for me to move on to look at other schools.

The meditation, btw, actually sounded rather attractive - I'm all for kids learning to sit with themselves and reflect, wish all schools did that!

A1Mummy Mon 18-May-15 16:07:04

I've had two children through the St James Schools and didn't think they were being indoctrinated into a cult.The younger child left last year.
When we first joined the school I heard the rumours and asked to see the philosophy curriculum, I was shown it, by the Head, without hesitation.

Yes the school was founded 40 years ago by the SES and yes there is bad history dating back to the late 70's . This is in common with many schools;
St Pauls, Eaton, St Benedicts to name but three. No doubt if you suffered at the hands of an abusive system/teacher you carry that horrid experience with you, but my children did not. Most of the teachers have nothing to do with the SES, and I think I am correct in saying that the current Heads and most of the pupils and parents are not involved with the SES.
My understanding is that the school is based philosophy of unity, of celebrating differences and seeing the common humanity in each of us. Surely this is a good thing? This philosophy applies to secular or religious families and it does it actually matter as long as we treat each other kindly?
The schools should be judged as educational establishments and when I do so I see my children have been served well. They enjoyed excellent exam results and left St James with a confidence which they bring to any situation.
My advice to any parent is go and see any school you are thinking of sending your child to. Go on a day when the pupils are present and ask the pupils questions. They are best placed to tell you what the school is like now, today, because it's what's happening now you're interested in. Good luck!

CaringParent111 Wed 08-Jul-15 12:53:33

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

DrAlan Mon 15-Feb-16 12:38:33

I agree with Cruishank. I don't need to go there, I just looked on youtube and it very obviously is indoctrination of some form of the Hindu religion. Transcendental Meditation, sanskrit, philosophy, vedic whatnot, how can it not be? If you can't see it perhaps you just don't want to but it's obvious to me. Anyway, two of these experimental schools have closed in the last year so it's just not worth the risk.

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