From the "Daily Telegraph & Morning Post" 26/2/51
45 BOYS RULE "FREE" SCHOOL
ALL ALLOWED TO SMOKE & SWEAR
From our SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
SUTTON VALENCE, Kent
Small boys smoked as they watched volunteers at work at Red Hill School here. The volunteers, who come from Greater London, devote their spare time to repairing youth clubs, settlements and other social welfare premises.
Mr. R. Badman, writing in the volunteers' bulletin, states "Small boys abound, some intense and cigarette smoking, some cherubic and shy-looking, sometimes curious to watch, sometimes eager to help, sometimes blasé."
This report surprises nobody at the school. Highly unorthodox methods are used there to make useful citizens out of boys whose only foreseeable future would otherwise be years in approved schools, then Borstal and long spells in gaol.
The school, fully inspected by the Ministry of Education, is very largely self-governed by the 45 boys, aged 11 to 14 or 15. They are allowed to smoke or swear to their hearts' content.
They address the teachers by their surnames. There are no prefects to give orders, but a "bench" of boys imposes fines and tasks on those who steal or do wilful damage or commit offences against the general interest of the community.
NEED NOT ATTEND LESSONS
They need not even bother with lessons unless they want to. But after a short while at Red Hill the majority of boys want to attend classes. They find nobody's in the least impressed by their thieving exploits or swearing or smoking, and in nearly every case they themselves find the habit no longer interesting.
Several whose earlier schooling was negligible, because no school was tough enough to hold them, have already found their way into professions. Two or three boys I saw today "should have no difficulty in going forward to a university and will do so" said Mr. Otto L. Shaw, the headmaster and a former Kent county councillor and a magistrate.
Nearly 50 local education authorities, who pay the fees, send to Red Hill boys with the most appalling crime records and home backgrounds. "Shaw" said: "The tragedy is that we get applications for about 20 places a week and have only one vacancy every two months."
SHILLING FOR EACH THEFT
Boys who run away from Red Hill very often tell "Shaw" before they do it. When they find there is no opposition to the idea they forget it. One boy with an imposing record of housebreaking was refused a loan, but offered a shilling for every theft he committed. The only thing he ever claimed he had stolen was his own fountain pen.
Another was fined 3d by the boys' "bench" because of his constant
complaints about being bullied, many of them truthful. He immediately stopped
enjoying the life of martyr and was no longer bullied.