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Thursday, June 24, 2021

A former student from one of the Sunday Times Top 10 highest-ranking schools accuses the grammar school of “toxic male culture” that left her and friends “traumatised”

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Scarlett Mansfield, 26, attended the prestigious Colchester Royal Grammar School (CRGS), in Colchester, Essex, for Sixth Form, from the ages of 16 to 18.

The school is renowned for being one of the highest-ranking in the country for its A-Level results, and has been in the Sunday Times Top 10 seven times in the past ten years.

But Scarlett, now a freelance writer, has shared a blog post about her experiences at CRGS – accusing the school of having a “toxic male culture”.

She said that topics such as domestic abuse and homophobia were treated as a joke among at the predominantly-male school – which only accepts girls in Sixth Form.

And, after sharing her blog post online, Scarlett has received hundreds of anonymous comments from other former and current CRGS students – sharing their own accounts of sexist abuse and assault, homophobia, and racism.

Now, the headteacher of CRGS has responded to the allegations made by Scarlett and almost 200 other pupils and alumni, expressing their “shock and sadness”.

John Russell said the behaviors reported are “wholly unacceptable”, and there is “clearly” more work to be done to safeguard against them.

Scarlett wrote in her blog: “In 2011, after attending a state comprehensive school for my GCSEs, I moved to Colchester Royal Grammar School (CRGS) for Sixth Form.

“I was promised that it offered the best education money can’t buy.

“However, I, and many of the girls since, received far more than we ever bargained for – leaving genuinely traumatised by the memory of our time at the school.”

Scarlett wrote that she saw male students joke about domestic abuse, sexism, and racism, brandishing it as “just good crack”.

And she claimed one ex-pupil even locked himself in two girls’ cars and refused to leave until he received oral sex.

“Another told everyone he’d slept with a girl and when she denied it, saying if he did it wasn’t consensual, then changed his story,” she wrote.

Scarlett added: “Speaking to women about their memories of the school reveals far wider misogyny and abuse.”

After sharing her blog post online, Scarlett also opened a forum where her fellow CRGS alumni, as well as current students, could share their own experiences of the school.

She has so far received almost 200 comments from people reporting everything from homophobia, sexism, racism, abuse, assault – and even one woman claiming she was raped at a party at age 15.

In response, CRGS headteacher John Russell said he was “shocked and saddened” to read the reports of “wholly unacceptable behaviours” some female students experienced.

Mr Russell said: “Misogyny, harassment, abuse and discrimination in any form is not tolerated at CRGS.

“All reported incidents are dealt with in line with the highest levels of our code of conduct and we keep thorough records of such incidents.

“We recognise the value of a united approach to raising awareness of discrimination, harassment and abuse in every form it takes.

“We are clear that inaction by any bystander is to be complicit and is therefore equally unacceptable.”

He said the students’ voice is increasingly at the heart of the school’s equality and diversity work, but admitted there is “clearly” more to be done.

He added: “The CRGS senior leadership team, our safeguarding leads, the school counsellor and the pastoral team are always available for any current students who need to report an incident or who need help, support and advice.”

Mr Russell also urged students who have been victims of a criminal act to contact the police if they have not already done so.

He added: “We have made our school liaison officer aware of the allegations of criminal acts.

“We will work closely with the police to ensure such reports are dealt with sensitively and effectively.”

Scarlett also claimed the school’s Old Colcestrian Society was sexist towards her in 2019.

A statement from the society said: “We are aware of comments suggesting the OCS could be perceived as unwelcoming towards our female alumnae.

“We very much regret anyone should feel this way.

“The society encourages all current and former students and staff to become members of the society.”

It claims it has “progressed from what has been a predominantly male alumni group”, and is proud membership has been strong among female leavers in the past five years.

It added: “We are extremely keen to continue this progression as we strive to provide CRGC with the best alumni society possible.”

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