Private anguish of the public school survivors | Letters

Pupils running across Eton’s cobbled school yard for fear of being late for chapel. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

It is interesting that while so much is done to expose and prosecute historical child abuse, the child abuse inflicted on children at public schools is referred to as “beatings” and accepted as normal (Letters, 12 April). These abuses are well documented, the perpetrators are known, including, as Alex Renton notes (Review, 8 April) a future archbishop of Canterbury. The psychological damage to the victims is recognised as being significant, but no effort is made to see it as child abuse. This is presumably because it was legal and the parents, to their discredit, condoned it, but it is horrific that there were no restraints at the time on those inflicting the abuse.

It is shameful that the many children abused at these schools have no redress whatsoever, while other victims do. I wonder if any of the staff who did this have ever regretted it or apologised to those they abused?
Sue Leyland
Hunmanby, North Yorkshire

• I write as a boarding school survivor, and the grandson of Geoffrey Fisher whose alleged brutality opens Alex Renton’s timely and excellent article reminding us of the danger of romanticising boarding school. Though I see why he uses it, Roald Dahl’s anecdote about the sadistic beating of his friend, with which Renton opens the article, lessens the power of the message about the iniquity of the UK boarding system.

Supported by Nick Duffell’s excellent psychotherapeutic work on boarding school syndrome, I have accommodated myself to the effects of the relatively minor abuse I personally suffered. Consequently, I feel no loyalty to my grandfather in his role as headmaster of Repton. However, I believe there is some doubt about whether it was he, or his successor as Repton’s headmaster, who was responsible for this particular incident. Because it could be dismissed as the action of an unusually brutal individual, and is given perverse dramatic power by his later role as archbishop, the anecdote distracts from the parental deprivation and routine emotional abuse that are the really harmful aspects of boarding school.
Tom Fisher
Hope Valley, Derbyshire

• What a shame, while welcoming Alex Renton’s book, that Sam Leith (Society, 12 April) has to give us the sensational bits and then his mockery of the psychology that the author only very tentatively goes near. I thought to myself I’d eat my laptop charger if this isn’t another public-school attempt at deflection, and then Googled him. Oh, Eton – of course. What a shame Leith has to expose his own strategic survival personality – a term I invented for showing how boarding school survivors will do almost anything to keep their happy faces on and be content with what I call the “entitlement illusion” as a compensation for their loss of childhood and inability to empathise – rather than make any deeper analysis.

There are a few people who have spent their entire professional lives researching how elite boarding schools cause a knock-on disaster in many families and produce the worst political leadership in Europe. My 2014 G2 article which introduced my book Wounded Leaders: British Elitism and the Entitlement Illusion - a Psychohistory had 200,000 shares on the Guardian Facebook page after Brexit as people sought an explanation for our suicidal political leadership.
Nick Duffell

• An ordinary working family is said to earn £33,000. Still £750 short of the annual fees at Shrewsbury School. Not sure how many grammar schools will be required to bridge that gap.
Roger Ford

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