A GROUP of former pupils at a specialist boarding school near Banbury have filed a £1m court claim – saying they suffered sexual, physical and emotional abuse from staff and other students.

The 10 former students at Swalcliffe Park, a boys' secondary school 10 miles west of Banbury, allege they were abused between 1975 and 2008.

Among those accused of abusing the boys was former principal George Pettingdale, who worked at the special school for three decades from 1952, lawyers for the men said. Mr Pettingdale died in 2006.

One of the 10 former pupils, whose name was given as Benjamin, said his experiences at the school from 1975 to 1980 had ‘haunted’ him.

“I’ve suffered with depression and anxiety, and when I have felt at my lowest I have engaged in self harm and contemplated suicide,” he said.

“For many years I have had to carry this burden but now that my complaints are finally being listened to, I feel that there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Law firm Andrew Grove and Co is understood to have submitted a claim for £1m.

Solicitor Katherine Yates said: “My clients are seeking significant compensation for the abuse they endured, and although we have already issued proceedings, we are still taking statements from witnesses and claimants as part of our ongoing investigations.

“For many survivors, talking about what happened to them as a child is incredibly difficult, but it can also be the first step on the road to recovery.

“We can’t erase the past, but we can help you seek the compensation you are entitled to. This money could help you build a better future and can be used to pay for counselling or training, for example.”

In a statement, a spokesman for Swalcliffe Park School said: “We are hugely concerned that any child in the care of the school may have been harmed in any way.

“We have been aware of historic allegations dating back more than a decade and that pre-date the Senior Leadership Team’s management of the school.

“We continue to support anyone who has been affected.”

He added: “We consider safeguarding as paramount and embedded in our culture and philosophy, and we have rigorous policies in place designed to create a safe and secure school environment.

“Ofsted has rated our safeguarding as ‘Outstanding’ in every inspection from 2011 to the latest in 2022 and they have included praise around the vigilance of staff and the procedures we have in place to ensure the safety of young people in our care.”

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This story was written by Tom Seaward. He joined the team in 2021 as Oxfordshire's court and crime reporter.  

To get in touch with him email: Tom.Seaward@newsquest.co.uk

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