I am a heterosexual male who started in 2003 and left in 2010. Reading these testimonies has made me reflect on my own time there. I can certainly corroborate the negative culture that ‘outsiders’ must have felt, and indeed, I was complicit in it. I will speak about homophobia, bullying, and harassment of girls. Other than bullying I didn’t experience anything particularly acute, but I think the general environment was one that was ripe for many of the worse experiences, and I think it’s also good to hear from someone who was, to a degree, a perpetrator of this. The fact that the school was a boy’s school meant that, throughout my time there, homophobia was rife. Personally, I was scared that talking to gay people might somehow make me gay, or lead to me being outcast by everyone else, so I generally avoided them. I witnessed other people bullying the few people brave enough to come out – and I myself was bullied heavily throughout school, so should’ve had some cameraderie – but of course I did nothing. I actually felt sixth form was quite positive in reshaping my attitudes. This was from some of my closer friends turning out to be gay themselves, and a new headteacher speaking out about this in assembly, which I felt had a great deal of influence in changing attitudes, certainly my own.
I looked forward to sixth form, which I felt was my best chance of getting a girlfriend (I was pretty shy of the CCHS girls on the bus). There was definitely an attitude just before sixth form that lots of girls were imminently arriving, and it was going to be epic. What happened was I managed to fancy basically any girl who held a conversation with me, was rejected by all of them and I feel I made one girl’s time quite difficult, as I asked her out a number of times. Though we remained friends throughout and after, I regret that I did make her time worse, and can see how I was part of a larger, male-dominated, juvenile environment that would be quite hostile to the very few girls who arrived. More generally, I witnessed – and willingly laughed along with – misogynistic jokes at assemblies, and the ‘slave auction’ (although this also included boys – slaves were generally ‘bought’ as a group in my experience). In latin classes (yep) ‘slave girl’ was generally the noun used in examples by students, and ‘seized’ was the verb. I’m sorry to see that digital technology has worsened this culture, allowing crimes like leaking and sharing nudes. With this said, I actually felt having the girls there in sixth form really benefited my social experience, it certainly distracted the bullies (mostly) and allowed me to make new friends, where the social scene had previously been very gridlocked.
What I personally encountered most whilst at the school was bullying, and I can certainly remember the charity ball, where basically the worst bully in the school, unfortunately also a ‘comic’, was given the mic, allowing him to pick out various girls his group was involved with, several autistic people, and several gay people. What infuriated me was that during this speech he also bragged about the time where he put his testicles on my shoulder when I was unaware, in art class. This was an incident that I (as someone who generally told on people when they bullied me) went to the teachers about, certain he’d get kicked out this time, and the guy got a strict talking to, and that was that. And he got away with speaking it in front of the whole year! Who gave this guy the mic?! I feel maybe because it was a boy-on-boy assault it was overlooked, though reading womens’ experiences on this site, perhaps not. Art was far away my favourite subject but it was made quite a hellish experience at times that I dreaded because of the bullying I received from that kid.
Hopefully this site will raise awareness of the difficulties of the environment at this school, though how isolated an experience KEGS is is hard to say. I’ve heard of worse happening at other schools; the school was generally full of very hard workers during my time, and nerds like myself (though as I have described above, I feel I was part of the culture myself). It is encouraging to see that the school responded to the site, and hopefully can take steps to improve going forward. I should also say that sixth form was a community beyond the school environment, with parties etc taking place in private environments beyond the grounds of the school and where there weren’t any teachers – many of whom did also call out or punish students for things they said or did, and could change attitudes, including my own.