Robert Peston, the BBC Economics Editor, has admitted to having to reappraise his opinions on his old state school now that its former Deputy Head has been jailed for sex abuse. The journalist had spent decades claiming Highgate Wood School in North London proved liberal comprehensive education was the best way to educate children.
However, in today’s Times he admits that the serious allegations against certain teachers at the school has made him “anxious, as a parent, about the vulnerability of our children even in institutions that seem caring and healthy.”
He admits that he has been forced to rewrite his own childhood story after a pupil from the early 1980s got in touch with him to explain how he had been “systematically abused by a teacher who was a pillar of the school”. That teacher was Andy Adams, who worked at the school for thirty years and rose up to be deputy head teacher. When he retired school authorities named a wing after him and brought him back four weeks a year to give careers advice.
Peston says the allegations were “such a challenge to how I remembered the school that for a brief moment I wondered if it was really true.” However, Adams had pleaded guilty so there was no doubt that the allegations were true. Moreover, he checked Facebook and discovered other pupils claiming that Adams insisted they shower naked after games, something they viewed as significant.
The victim told Peston he had “used him for sex for many years from the time he was 13. In the process, Adams permanently wrecked this student’s relationship with his family, undermined his education and made it impossible for him to find happiness as an adult.” Remarkably the victim’s barrister has suggested that another teacher saw him with Mr Adams but did not take any action.
Peston himself claimed that he avoided any unwanted attention from Adams by being a “swot not a jock”. But he had been aware of another teacher who enjoyed watching boys urine in a glass. This bizarre activity was well known amongst pupils and some teachers but action was not taken. He said “Everybody in my year and adjacent years knew it was happening. The more confident, savvier kids, like me, steered clear.”
He admitted that the liberal attitudes of the 1970s had led to “the teacher’s hideous predilection for seeing boys piss as an eccentricity to be tolerated.” Peston continued: “But if someone in authority had taken more notice, perhaps Adams would then have been deterred from ruining the life of at least one vulnerable, defenceless boy.”
The allegations at Highgate Wood School once again reinforce that state institutions in the 1970s and 1980s were often havens for child sex offenders. Often, state officials were so powerful that neither professionals nor parents were able to challenge them.
As previously reported on Breitbart London, the former cabinet minister Lord Tebbit suggested that in the past there had been a culture cover-ups to protect the system.
He said: “At that time I think most people would have thought that the establishment, the system, was to be protected and if a few things had gone wrong here and there that it was more important to protect the system than to delve too far into it.”
His comments and the stories of child abuse raise questions about whether state schools, hospitals and children’s homes had become untouchable, inspiring a debate about how these services can be delivered without putting enormous power into the hands of a few powerful public officials.
Robert Peston is the son of a Labour member of the House of Lords, raising the possibility that he was so happy at the school because he had been treated differently to other pupils.