Dear Headmaster of Gordonstoun: It's time to make a clean break with royalty and find some more ordinary former pupils to represent your school. Believe me, it's for the best

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Boy, have you had a septimana horribilis. First, your most famous old boy, Prince Charles, rips the royal seal of approval from the school's masthead.

Then a more recent pupil, Jamie Petrolini, appears at the Old Bailey accused of murdering a stranger to prove his manhood. It's a good job your uniform includes a hard hat - though you may need more than a mortar board to protect you from the criticism that may rebound from all this.

These boys were sent to boarding school to be prepared for their future roles as leaders of men. Character-building was supposed to be your strong point. What have you been telling them on the playing fields of Gordonstoun?

And what will you tell new parents?

The season for choosing a private school is upon us. No doubt many of those who planned to send their offspring into your care will be unmoved, if not reassured by what they hear from Prince Charles about being bullied in the dorms and punched on the rugger field.

Some, like Prince Philip, will be old boys themselves, an experience which has no doubt left them equally certain about the best way to deal with wimps.

But what about the mothers? It is a curious fact about the boarding school classes that although the fathers play almost no role in bringing up their small children, they are deferred to absolutely on the matter of where to send their sons to school. Daddy is thought to know better than Nanny or Mummy.

Many mothers pack their little boys off very reluctantly. Some may now feel strengthened in their campaign against boarding-school and against Gordonstoun in particular. (Its reputation for stiffening the upper lip has always been stronger than its academic or even sporting prowess.) Embattled fathers, in turn, will look to you for some resolute evidence that the school offers the best possible future for the boy. It is time for Gordonstoun to mount a serious PR campaign.

Forget about the royals. They've served their purpose, making the school famous and bringing in a wealth of new business during the past 30 years.

But it is time to consign them publicly to the past.

You can say that all schools had similar bullying problems in those days.

Today life is quite different.

There is no need to renege completely on the short, sharp, shower treatment.

Say you still believe in the need for physical resilience, but that your housemasters would no more tolerate bullying than they would pupils using the word 'toilet' instead of 'lavatory'.

Search through recent old boys' lists. Find some men, and women, who have become decent, upright members of society. One example springs immediately to mind. The Hon Amanda Ellingworth, nee Knatchbull, was one of few to emerge from the Prince Charles saga as a saint. Dignified, kind and sensible, she too went to Gordonstoun. And as the lady who gently said no to the royal offer of marriage, nobody could possibly question her good judgement. Good luck, old chap.

Anne Spackman (Photograph omitted)

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