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Gordonstoun’s ‘heartfelt’ apology to child abuse victims who were ‘badly let down’

It comes as a Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry published its findings into allegations of extensive child abuse within the Moray school.

Gordonstoun. Image: Shutterstock.
Gordonstoun. Image: Shutterstock.

Gordonstoun has apologised to those who suffered abuse whilst attending the Moray school following a report that found child abuse flourished unchecked for decades.

The long-awaited report by Lady Smith, chair of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry, found that children were exposed to sexual, physical and emotional abuse at the school near Elgin.

Gordonstoun is the first school to educate a British monarch, with King Charles III having attended between 1962 and 1967 at the request of his father, Prince Philip, also a former student.

The report concluded there was an “extremely violent culture” in some boarding houses for decades up to the 1990s.

Lady Smith said: “I have no difficulty in finding that children were abused at Gordonstoun and Aberlour in a variety of ways over a long period of time.”

Gordonstoun principal Lisa Kerr looking serious looking off to camera right.
Lisa Kerr, Principal of Gordonstoun. Image: Jason Hedges/ DC Thomson.

Principal of Gordonstoun, Lisa Kerr, along with the school’s chairman of governors, David Whyte, released an apology to those who were abused.

“Today’s report is upsetting, and it is shocking to read of the abuse that children in the past experienced and the enduring impact on their lives 30, 40 or even 50 years later.

Abuse report ‘shocking’ and ‘upsetting’

“We respect and thank those who have spoken up about their experiences and those who gave evidence to the Inquiry.

“The lack of care and the abuse they experienced, which the Inquiry identifies as being mainly in ‘the period from the 1970s to the early 1990s’ reflects that, as Lady Smith states: ‘There have been periods in Gordonstoun’s history where the vision and ethos that formed the basis of Kurt Hahn‘s founding of the school was allowed to wither’.

“Those who were abused deserved better, and we are sorry they were so badly let down.”

King Charles III is a former student of Gordonstoun, having studied there from 1962 until 1967. Image: Gordonstoun School.

It was well-documented that King Charles did not enjoy his time at Gordonstoun, unlike his father, though has since become the school’s patron.

The joint statement also noted that Gordonstoun proactively participated in the inquiry, listening to testimony from abuse sufferers.

Lady Smith acknowledged that since the 1990s, the culture at the school has improved.

She said: “I recognise that Gordonstoun has now made real efforts to be aware of the risk of abuse, to protect against it, and, if abuse occurs, to respond appropriately, but the school must never become complacent.”

The school also adopted an approach whereby the contracts of employment of all school staff now “make it an explicit gross misconduct offence for staff to fail to report child protection concerns”.

The statement added: “We agree with Lady Smith, however, that we must never be complacent; instead, we are always seeking to learn and improve.

“This is no more than the children in our care today deserve, and it is the least we can do to honour those survivors whose testimony led to today’s important report.”

Former Moray boarding school pupil compensated

John Findlay, a former student at Aberlour House, was just 12 years old when he was sexually assaulted by a staff member in 1990.

The assault left him suffering from clinically severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety.

After giving evidence to the inquiry, he was granted more than £100,000 in compensation in 2022.

His landmark claim just months after Ms Kerr apologised unreservedly for those who had been failed by Gordonstoun.