Barnes private school facing claims it has a misogynistic culture
Aerial view of St. Paul's School in Barnes. Picture: Venning
St Paul’s School in Barnes says it is taking allegations of misogyny, harassment and abuse described on the Everyone’s Invited website “extremely seriously” and “completely condemns the actions described.”
The £13,000-a-term independent school was mentioned at least 90 times on the 37 pages of the website, where more than 14,000 people have anonymously shared experiences of sexual, harassment, abuse and assault.
Although it is an all-male institution, it is facing claims that some of its pupils have been part of the misogynistic culture highlighted by Everyone’s Invited, often at house parties with pupils from other schools.
A number of submissions refer to nude pictures being shared, rating girls’ attractiveness or how easy it is to have sex with them, as well as alleged incidents of sexual assault and rape.
One anonymous response submission said, “Slut shaming and victim blaming were so normalized that we all went along with it, we couldn’t recognize how wrong it was in the moment because we were all conditioned by the same f****d up culture.”
Another added, “Many girls in west London could tell a story about a boy from this school sexually harassing or assaulting them.”
Everyone’s Invited was started by Soma Sara in June 2020 in a bid to tackle what she claimed is an abuse and rape culture.
More than 14,000 people have since posted testimonies on the site, with a surge in recent weeks following the death of 33-year-old Sarah Everard.
A spokesperson for St Paul’s School said, “This is clearly a difficult and complex issue which has deeply affected our school community. The school completely condemns the actions described on the Everyone’s Invited site, and we are taking them extremely seriously.”
They added that they had made both the police and the relevant Children’s Services aware of the website, and had ensured Local Authority Designated Officer, who is responsible for managing all child protection allegations made against staff and volunteers who work with children and young people, had been informed.
The spokesperson added, “We investigate any matters of this nature brought to our attention, liaising closely with external agencies as appropriate and making any child who has been subject to any such conduct the priority of our response.
“The vast majority of our boys are equally distressed by these claims and are also pushing for lasting cultural change. We have already met with senior pupils and held discussions with former pupils and with other schools to look at how best we can address these issues and ensure that our pupils treat all people and relationships with respect, understanding and kindness.
“This is very much an ongoing process and one that involves schools, parents and wider agencies/experts. We regularly reappraise our PSHCE content and will be examining what we need to review around the teaching of relationships and consent into our future plans.”
They continued, “We have a very strong safeguarding structure within the school and our designated safeguarding leads and tutors are always available to pupils. We will be taking a variety of measures forward, over the coming weeks and months to support all the boys in our care and the way in which they interact with the world.
“We are also currently working with safeguarding experts to review our response plan and ensure that we have built in all appropriate measures. We need to ensure that this is a turning point moment for young people, not only in terms of how schools provide guidance and leadership around this issue but wider society also.”
Several other schools from across the capital are also mentioned numerous times in the testimonials. These include Latymer Upper, Whitgift, and King’s College School, as well as Harrow and Westminster schools.
The government has also set up a helpline and review into sexual abuse in schools.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said, “No child or young person should have to experience abuse. But if something isn’t right, they should speak to someone they trust to raise concerns, whether that’s family, a friend, teacher or social worker, helpline or the police.”
The dedicated NSPCC helpline number is 0800 136 663.
Sian Bayley - Local Democracy Reporter
April 12, 2021