Branding with irons, beatings in the shower and several suicides: How bad it is at foreign boarding schools

Branding with an iron, beating with bat and belts, and heads stuck in clammy toilets.

It is not only at Herlufsholm that boarding school students have experienced grim things. In both England and Sweden, the horrors have for many years spilled out of the closets of the country’s elite schools. According to researchers, there is even talk of a ‘boarding school syndrome’.

One of those who has told of his gruesome experiences at a British boarding school is British BBC host Justin Webb. According to Webb, the bullying was worst in the school’s ugly toilets, where you could, among other things, be beaten under the shower, as well as when you were on the toilet.

‘Doors were kicked in. Boys were kept down (in the toilet room, ed.), Half drowned in dung. With the cabins open at the top and bottom, there was no privacy, no refuge, “he said in a column in Daily Mailwhere he called it ‘a crime’ that his mother in good faith had sent him to boarding school in the 70s.


Prince Carl Philip with his mother, Queen Silvia, and King Carl Gustaf, outside the school Lundsberg in 1999.

Prince Carl Philip with his mother, Queen Silvia, and King Carl Gustaf, outside the school Lundsberg in 1999.
Photo: Scanpix / Ulf Palm 50040

show more

The web experience is not unique. In 1999, the focus came on the British elite school Eton, where both Boris Johnson, Prince William and Prince Harry have gone when a 15-year-old boy was found hanging in his room. He was reportedly bullied. Then it spilled over with accusations of bullying on Eton.

A strong focus on the expensive British boarding school has also brought out many more recent incidents.

In 2018, two boys were suspended from boarding school Millfield School after beating a younger boy with a bat and a belt as part of an inauguration ritual.

And in 2020, another cruel case emerged when a 14-year-old French-born boy was found hanged at the English boarding school Windermere after gross bullying, where his pillow, among other things, had been smeared into feces. It costs over 260,000 kroner to go to school.


Prince Harry as he walked on Eton.

Prince Harry as he walked on Eton.
Photo: KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH

show more

Also in Sweden it has been completely crazy. Here, the accusations against the elite boarding school Lundsberg, where the Swedish prince Carl Philip has gone, have been so bad that the school had to be closed for half a year.

It turned out that several students had been branded with an iron after violent inauguration rituals.

The burning was done in a room where the students had been asked to roll down the curtains.

The episode brought about an older discussion when the Swedish author Jan Guillou in his novel ‘Evil’ in 1981 told about his terrible years at the Swedish boarding school Solbacka.


Crown Prince Frederik and Prince Joachim have both attended private school and boarding school.  Here they are accompanied to school by father and mother on their first day of school at Krebs School in Copenhagen.

Crown Prince Frederik and Prince Joachim have both attended private school and boarding school. Here they are accompanied to school by father and mother on their first day of school at Krebs School in Copenhagen.
Photo: SVEND ÅGE MORTENSEN

show more

“My experience is that in such a school there were two ways to survive. One was rebellion but was associated with physical pain and punishment. The second was total submission. There is no middle ground between the two options, “he said recently in an interview with Berlingske.

He has repeatedly advocated the closure of boarding schools, as he does not believe it is possible to change culture. For both students and parents want, according to Guillou, to maintain the system and the grotesque pick order, which others have described as a ‘survival of the fittest’, where children brought up on each other and where the most powerful bullied the less powerful.

In Britain, which is considered the motherland of boarding schools, the discussion has also raged regularly.

Boarding schools – and expensive private schools – are so widespread in the UK that they not only constitute a major bullying culture, but also help to create greater social inequality.


Prince William on his first day of school at Eton.

Prince William on his first day of school at Eton.
Photo: SIMON KREITEM

show more

While only six per cent of British school children go to private school, it can be seen that a very large proportion in the top of society have gone to private school – including Prime Minister Boris Johnson and former Prime Minister David Cameron.

In addition, students from the private top schools also find it easier to get into the country’s top universities and get more in salary according to The Guardian.

A survey has shown that students born in 1970 and who went to an expensive British private school in the 90s earned 21 per cent more than those who had not gone to private school.

But the harsh environment in both the elite private schools, but especially boarding schools, also has a price, psychologists have shown.


Herlufsholm Boarding School a little outside Næstved has created outrage in the past week, after several students have told about cross-border experiences with bullying and violence.

Herlufsholm Boarding School a little outside Næstved has created outrage in the past week, after several students have told about cross-border experiences with bullying and violence.
Photo: Asger Ladefoged

show more

Being sent away from one’s parents at an early age to an environment that is good academically, but which can be harsh and relentless, has, according to psychologists, created a number of emotionally blunt individuals who lack emotional intelligence. Psychologists call it the ‘boarding school syndrome’.

And it has led many to ask whether it is really the kind of people who should lead the country:

“Future politicians who are leaders of this privileged way of being abandoned often end up as bullies or thugs,” psychotherapist Nick Dufell described in The Guardian.

Leave a Comment