Order denies selling school to pay victims

AN Irish religious order has denied it is selling one of its schools in England to help pay off victims of clerical child abuse here.

Students from the Presentation College in Reading, Berkshire fly to Ireland today to plead with the Presentation Brothers to reverse their shock decision to close the fee-paying school from next year.

Four students, accompanied by a parent, will travel to the order’s base in Cork city this afternoon to hand in a petition signed by hundreds of pupils, past pupils and parents backing their plea.

The order insist they have no choice but to take the drastic closure step for financial reasons, claiming enrolments have fallen, they are stg£200,000 in debt and the aging school buildings require refurbishment costing stg£8 million.

But the Presentation College Parents Association (PCPA) say the arguments do not add up and they suspect the school, which has lands with a potential value of stg£15 million, is being sacrificed to meet the order’s liabilities to the controversial clerical child abuse compensation fund here.

“The school is growing in strength and reputation. It had a 100% pass rate in A levels last year, it has made the top 500 list of independent schools in Britain for the first time and it would cost nowhere near what has been suggested to carry out repairs,” said PCPA spokesman, Kevin Packham.

Mr Packham, who has two sons among the 350 boys attending the college, said there were no other suitable schools in the area with waiting lists and fees proving prohibitive.

“There is not one good reason to close the school so we can’t help but look at reasons beyond the school and we are very much aware of the difficulties religious orders are facing in Ireland.”

The order denied the move was linked to its compensation liabilities.

“The order would not do that and it could not happen in law anyway,” said public relations consultant, Manus O’Callaghan.

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Review ‘satisfied’ Presentation Brothers know reporting obligations

Of 28 men accused, just one in ministry, 16 deceased and four left congregation.

presentation college reading abuse

As many as 54 abuse allegations have been made against 28 Presentation Brothers since January 1st 1975. File photograph: Getty

As many as 54 abuse allegations have been made against 28 Presentation Brothers (one unnamed) since January 1st 1975,with none convicted in the courts, the Catholic church child protection watchdog’s review has found.

Of those 28, 16 are deceased and four have left the congregation, Of the remaining eight Brothers, two are out of ministry, four are retired, and one returned to ministry following advice which was sought, following an independent risk assessment by the National Case Management Reference Group. It determined that he did not present a risk to children.

Three of the seven known living Brothers are subject to strict management plans and reside in community residences. Two of them have been independently risk assessed and received therapy. Allegations against the third Brother were only recently received and are being investigated.

Of the seven known living Brothers, six are out of ministry or retired with the seventh returned to ministry as explained above. Where the four who left the congregation are concerned the civil authorities had been informed about the allegations made against them.

The reviewers expressed themselves “satisfied that the Presentation Brothers now understand their obligations to report and respond to allegations of abuse, whilst acknowledging previous delays.” They also pointed out that while “there are very few Brothers who have direct ministry with children, however this should not lessen the application of the safeguarding standards.”

The reviewers also met with “three survivors from Greenmount Industrial School”, at the survivors’ request. It said that “while it does not fall within the remit of this review to give a detailed account of their situation, it is fair to reflect that they are not happy with the response given by the Presentation Brothers.”

The reviewers acknowledged "the pain of these survivors" and suggested that "it may be useful for the province leader to consider appointing an independent support person for this group of survivors....In addition, the newly appointed support person should advise these survivors of the existence of the State's statutory support fund – Cara Nua. "

It also found that “the deputy designated person who was formerly the designated person has also acted as an advisor to accused Brothers. This is a blurring of roles.”

It concluded as “evident from interviews with the province leader and others that safeguarding is a priority for the Presentation Brothers and that human or financial resources are and will continue to be made available when needed.”

It appreciated “the efforts made by the province leader and his team in safeguarding children and in managing allegations and risk presented by members of the province.”

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times


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Pupils’ shock at pervert teacher

Former students of a schoolteacher jailed for eight months for making child pornography have spoken of their shock.

Mark Bowman taught at The Elvian School for 25 years

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Mark Bowman, an ex-maths teacher and badminton coach, taught at private school The Elvian in Southcote for 25 years until July 2006.

He appeared at Oxford Crown Court where he admitted 14 counts of making indecent pictures of children, with offences dating from 2002 to 2006.

The 54-year-old from Amblecote Road, Tilehurst, was locked up for eight months and ordered to sign the sex offenders’ register for a decade.

One former pupil, who did not want to be named, said: “Everyone I knew was absolutely flabbergasted. Out of anybody you would never have expected it of him.”

In total, police officers discovered an astounding 15,000-plus images in Bowman’s possession. Twenty two of these images were classed at Level Five – the most severe ranking an indecent photograph can have.

He was initially suspected of child porn charges after he was spotted taking snaps of a youngster in a boating lake.

This was revealed at his first hearing at Reading Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, March 18, but until now the Post has been prevented from revealing it.

During this first hearing, the court heard Bowman – when asked why he was taking pictures of the boy – said he found him quite alluring.

Ex-pupils of Bowman have since spoken of their disbelief.

A 24-year-old former student at the Southcote school, who lived in Calcot but now lives in Newbury, said he used to be close to Bowman, who used to be chairman of the Berkshire Junior Badminton League.

He coached him after school in badminton lessons and was friends with his parents. The man, who did not want to be named, said: “I actually knew him personally outside of school as well. He had been round my house for dinner as he was friends with my parents.

“He coached me at badminton as he did with almost everyone in the school. But he never came across as anything other than a really nice chap.

“It is a real shock to the system that someone you thought of as a nice guy actually did this.

“I never noticed anything untoward at all. He just seemed to be interested in making our school one of the best.”

Another former pupil said: “I was really surprised when I learnt he had been arrested. He took some of the games lessons and I have wondered if he came into the showers.

“He seemed a kind, considerate teacher. He often did badminton for charity. I left the school in 1995, but he was there for a long, long time – probably 25 years. He was very well liked.”

Sue Manser, Elvian headteacher, said: “We can confirm Mark Bowman, former teacher of Presentation College, Reading [now The Elvian School] was sentenced to eight months at Oxford Crown Court.

“Mr Bowman had previously pleaded guilty to 14 offences in relation to the possession of and making of indecent images of children.

“Mr Bowman had worked as a maths teacher at the school between September 1981 and July 2006.

“We consider the care, welfare and protection of our pupils as paramount. As soon as the school was informed by police of Mr Bowman’s arrest in July 2006, he was immediately suspended and his teaching contract was terminated.

“We kept all parents informed at this time. Throughout the intervening period the school has fully assisted the police with their investigation. 

“Teachers are in a position of profound trust, and as such, at The Elvian School we ensure all references, checks and information such as Criminal Record Bureau disclosures are conducted thoroughly, as were Mr Bowman’s.”

presentation college reading abuse

Cardinal's college cashes in on closure

Faced with a hefty bill related to child abuse, the Irish Order that taught Damian Thompson is selling his old school in England

presentation college reading abuse

Someone is trying to murder my old school. That might seem a melodramatic way of putting it – but wait until you hear the facts.

Six weeks ago, I took part in a careers evening at Presentation College, Reading, the Catholic independent boys' school I attended in the 1970s. "Pres", as everyone calls it, seemed in excellent shape: walls covered with artwork, rows of new sports trophies, and snapshots of the explorers' club trekking in the Himalayas.

This is a Catholic school in the broadest sense of the word: its old boys have produced Paddington Bear, the Tubular Bells album and scored the winning goal in the FA Cup final.

The Presentation Brothers of Cork came to Reading in 1931 at the invitation of Dr George Murphy-O'Connor, a local GP who wanted a good Catholic school for his sons, one of whom is now Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster – our most distinguished alumnus.

When I arrived in 1973, the Brothers were still in control, sailing down the corridors in full monastic rig. But now only one Brother teaches regularly, and, two years ago, Pres appointed its first lay headmaster, Frank Loveder.

It was an inspired move. Last year, a smartened-up Presentation College achieved a 100 per cent pass rate at A-level and announced plans for its first scholarships.

Restoring its finances would take longer. Loveder realised that if its relatively modest loss of £60,000 in 2002 was to be turned into profit, he would have to raise the fees above the ceiling of £5,400 a year imposed by the trustees.

In December, the Presentation Brothers decided that they wanted to leave Reading. The headmaster and parents promptly unveiled a business plan to transfer ownership to an independent charitable trust. A parcel of land would be sold off, the school would take over

Oakland Hall, the handsome Victorian house in which the last few Brothers live, and the fees would go up to a realistic level.

The leaders of the Presentation Order initially welcomed the scheme – then, suddenly, changed their minds. They had a better plan. Close the school and sell the site (though they would keep a renovated Oakland Hall for themselves). Pres is ideally located for an out-of-town supermarket or housing development: with the right planning permission, the Brothers could realise as much as £18m.

The axe fell two weeks ago: the staff were given redundancy notices and 370 boys were told that their school would close in the summer of next year. The excuse given was that the buildings – which are in a pretty good state of repair – needed £8m spending on them, a claim that the headmaster dismisses as preposterous. "We share your grief," added the Order.

Grief? Cold fury is more like it. Last week, parents voted unanimously to fight to keep the school open. Lord Alton of Liverpool described the closure as "an unmitigated disaster". An editorial in the Catholic Herald, headed "Asset-stripping at Presentation College", accused the Brothers of behaving like absentee landlords.

Everyone is asking the same question: what does a small teaching order – with just 10 members in England (six of them retired) – plan to do with an eight-figure sum? The Brothers' spokesman was vague: "Some of it will be spent on helping young people," he told me.

But that may not be the whole story. This week, a potentially devastating piece of information came to light. In June last year, the Presentation Brothers signed up to a bizarre agreement with the Irish state under which 18 religious orders would pay a total of £90m in return for indemnity against prosecution for child abuse committed in Ireland. The final payment is due this month.

A coincidence? "There is no connection whatsoever between the closure of the school and this payment," insists the Brothers' spokesman. He refused to discuss the size of the Order's share of the £90m, but it is likely to be a hefty sum. The Brothers are not rich (yet): where will the cash come from?

Martin Salter, MP for Reading West, said yesterday: "This revelation casts a disturbing light on the Brothers' sudden U-turn over Presentation College."

He is planning to say more about the matter in the House of Commons. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, unfortunately, has merely expressed regret at the proposed closure: it seems that this incorrigible fence-sitter is not interested in preserving his father's legacy.

In the words of one parent: "It's a shame that the cardinal isn't prepared to fight as hard for Catholic education as our atheist Labour MP."

Last week, I strolled in the school grounds with Graham Jones, head of science since 1974 and himself an Old Presentonian. "For the 50 years I have known them, the Brothers have treated the school like part of their family," he said. "This action seems so remote and unlike them."

In the headmaster's office (where I was once caned), boys sat around in "Save Pres" T-shirts, discussing the next stage of the campaign. Some of them are travelling to Cork to confront the leaders of the Order.

"I want to look one of them in the eye and ask: What good do you think will come of this?" said Matthew Rhodes, 15.

"And why do you need so much money in a hurry?"

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Christian Brothers make their 'deathbed confession'

Peter stanford reports on the stern catholic teaching order that has admitted cruelty and abuse, article bookmarked.

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They trained captains of industry, Hollywood stars, even a succession of Irish prime ministers. But last week the Christian Brothers, one of the best-known Catholic teaching orders, admitted that the education they have been offering for almost 200 years is seriously flawed. Brother Edmund Garvey, Dublin-based head of the order, publicly asked for forgiveness from ex-pupils who had been "physically abused and sometimes even sexually abused in our care".

The unconditional and abjectly humble nature of Brother Garvey's apology may have raised eyebrows among ex-CB pupils such as John Birt, director-general of the BBC, and the impresario Sir Cameron Mackintosh, brought up in the strict atmosphere of the order's schools. But his description of a "harsh and at times cruel" regime will have been painfully familiar.

Success in turning out high-flyers - other old boys include film stars Liam Neeson and Gabriel Byrne, poet Roger McGough, aerospace chief Sir Brian Pearse, supermarket bosses Terry Leahy of Tesco and Kevin McCarten of Sainsburys, television presenters Laurie Taylor and Pete McCarthy and every Fianna Fail taoiseach from Eamon de Valera to Albert Reynolds - came with a physical and emotional cost.

Boys were prepared for passing exams by a combination of relentless study and remorseless use of the strap, an 8in-long leather baton which thrashed young hands, legs and bottoms with all the regularity of the chiming of the angelus bell.

And in some schools, this humiliation of youngsters went further. A series of court cases in recent years have exposed sexual abuse by Christian Brothers staff. Teachers from the order were convicted in 1990 of sexual abuse at Mount Cashel High in St John's, Newfoundland. One former pupil, Shane Earle, told the court: "I had encounters with five of them within a month of my arrival at six years of age. At Christmas I had the most gifts. I thought I was well-loved. I was given things after sexual encounters."

Similar cases in other Commonwealth countries where the order operates have cast what some ex-pupils would say is a disproportionate shadow over its achievements and form the backdrop for Brother Garvey's surprise statement last week.

While all religious orders have suffered a sharp decline in vocations in recent years, the Christian Brothers - who take vows of celibacy but are not priests and thus hover uneasily between clergy and laity - have suffered a classic third-party squeeze. In Ireland, home to 900 of the remaining 1,800 Brothers worldwide, there is now just one novice preparing for final vows. In the 60-strong English province, there are none.

A chapter in British educational history has already closed. The Brothers' remaining schools - two in Liverpool and one each in Birkenhead, Manchester, Stoke, Sunderland and Plymouth - now operate with lay heads and a minimal day- to-day involvement by the order. In Ireland, complete withdrawal is near at hand. Brother Garvey's candour has therefore been taken as a deathbed confession on behalf of his order.

After being taught in their school in Birkenhead, Peter Connor was one of the last vocations to the Brothers in England in the early 1980s. Like all his contemporaries, he has since left. Though he acknowledges some damage done by the allegations of sexual abuse, he puts the decline of the order down to other factors.

"They lost sight of the original vision of the founder, Edmund Rice, to teach the children of the poor, and ended up in the 1980s, after the demise of grammar schools, running private schools for the rich.

"It was a mistake, made because they had grown too comfortable and couldn't see beyond the schools themselves to find the contemporary context for Rice's vision."

By opting into the independent sector, Mr Connor believes, the Brothers shed what had previously been their distinct identity. "Orders like the Benedictines have never made any bones about wanting to cream off an elite and teach them. But the Brothers were always more egalitarian and idealistic."

And indeed the privileged Catholic set - the Norfolks, the Longfords, the Paul Johnsons - always preferred the cachet of the Benedictines of Ampleforth or the Jesuits of Stonyhurst, with their Establishment aspirations, to the more earthy, Irish, scholarship-boy ethos of the Christian Brothers.

Unable to staff their schools, the Brothers did belatedly try in the late 1980s to recapture their radical edge - moving into council houses in deprived areas, opening an Aids centre in Dublin, harnessing the enthusiasm of young people through the New Creation community initiative. But, though they were unstintingly generous with their physical and financial resources, it was too little too late. Numbers continue to fall and, without manpower, the Brothers face a bleak future.

At 45, one of the youngest of the order, Brother Francis Hall, deputy provincial of the CBs in England, refuses to be too gloomy. "Our focus is changing. We are still attracting vocations in West Africa, and while we are not a workforce in this country any more in terms of schools, we are still there in a back-up role, as trustees, governors, establishing an ethos, giving spiritual direction."

Recently an eight-point statement defining what is distinct about any school associated with the Christian Brothers was agreed. It stresses - alongside making society more just, compassion for the weak, and building up the community - the rich tradition of the order. Does that include the aspects Brother Garvey has been highlighting?

"Well, it certainly doesn't mean beating the living daylights out of pupils," says Brother Hall. He regrets the stereotypes of an education at the hands of the Christian Brothers and feels that the omnipresence of the strap has been overstated. "You have to see it in the context of a time when corporal punishment was routinely used in all schools. We wouldn't dream of doing it now."

Mr Connor says: "Weak leadership and weak management by the Brothers in the past allowed brutal teachers - both brothers and lay teachers - into classrooms when they should never have been allowed into the presence of vulnerable people, let alone children."

Yet, like most graduates of the CBs, he retains a large measure of affection for the order. He has continued teaching in its school in Sunderland and was even promoted after he had renounced his vows. Indeed, in all of its schools the order is spoken of by lay staff and headteachers with genuine respect as having established educational goals that remain challenging.

Sir Brian Pearse, one-time pupil of the CBs in Liverpool, ex-chief executive of the Midland Bank, chair of the Housing Corporation and boss of LucasVarity plc, is fulsome in his praise. "I have always regarded the education I received at Saint Edward's as one of the major platforms for my life."

The high standards the Brothers set were achieved painfully and with considerable human cost, as Brother Garvey has now admitted, but their long-term impact on society at large may well outlive the order.

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Report -   Presentation College, Reading February 2014

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Spot on as always mate, I presume its come down now? Nice stairwell.  

Scoobysrt said: Spot on as always mate, I presume its come down now? Nice stairwell. Click to expand...

Jane Doe

28DL Regular User

The stairs and stained glass looked lovely  

28DL Member

As a former pupil of both prep and senior school, thanks for these amazing photos!!  


28DL Full Member

Great photos, shame it's been demolished. Would've been nice all done up although it would've been a lot of work I guess!  

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