Teachers at Stowmarket boarding school ‘force fed’ pupils, court hears

Ipswich Crown Court ANL-140617-141524001
Ipswich Crown Court ANL-140617-141524001

Staff at a boarding school in Stowmarket force fed pupils and regularly beat them, it has been alleged.

Four men who worked as teachers at the now-closed Oakwood School have denied a total of 24 charges of child cruelty involving 20 alleged victims from 1974 to 1999.

As their trial entered a second week at Ipswich Crown Court, the jury heard claims from a former pupil, now 52, who said he had been forced to eat food he did not like.

He said: “Whatever they put on your plate you had to eat it – it didn’t matter if you didn’t like it.

“If you sicked it up they would hold you by the back of the neck and spoon it into your mouth.”

The man said his experience at Oakwood had been ‘terrible’ and he had frequently tried run away but each time had been picked up by the police and returned to the school.

Giving evidence, he claimed that he had been frequently beaten with a slipper and a stick by members of staff at Oakwood.

On trial are Gerald West, 70, of Martins Meadow, Gislingham in Suffolk; Stephen Player, 61, of Manor Road, Spratton in Northamptonshire; Michael Watts, 59, of Sellwood Road, Netley Abbey, Southampton; and Graham Hallett, 66, of Aldcliffe Road, Lancaster.

The former pupil alleged that on occasions he had been grabbed by the hair by Hallett, a senior master, before being dragged from the dining hall and taken away for a beating.

The disciplinary methods of deputy head teacher West were ‘heavy handed’, alleged the man.

Another man, now 51, who was a pupil at Oakwood at about the same time, told the jury that after complaining he had been punched by a teacher, he was forced to strip to his underwear before being locked overnight in a storeroom by West.

While being cross-examined, the man denied being motivated by money to make his allegations.

He said he had only contacted a firm of solicitors when he heard they were pursuing a civil claim for damages on behalf of a number of other former Oakwood pupils.

Oakwood School, which opened in 1974 and closed in 2000, catered for boys aged eight to 16 who had educational and behavioural problems.

The trial continues.