The Missing Word
Evening Argus, Friday June 10 1994
IT IS portrayed as a typical private school.
But the glossy Greenfields brochure, which boasts of academic success and a happy environment for children, does not tell the whole story. One important word is missing from the booklet - Scientology.
It is also missing from:
- The handbook issued by the Independent Schools Information Service, which describes Greenfields as inter-denominational.
- The Independent Schools Yearbook, which it is listed as non-denominational.
- The school's 27-page constitution lodged with the Charity Commission.
- The adverts publicising the school in the Press.
- The booklet giving details about the Summer school at Greenfields this August.
- The sign at the school entrance in Priory Road, Forest Row.
Today, an ex-staff member, who does not with to be identified, said: "To promote it as an ordinary school with no particular influence from Scientology, I think is a false representation."
Today the Evening Argus shows just why the word Scientology should not have been left out.
[picture caption: School brochure: No mention of Scientology]
Forest Row, East Sussex
An independent school for boys and girls from pre-school to university entrance.
Day pupils from 3-18
Boarding pupils from 10-18]
Special investigation by Evening Argus chief reporter PAUL BRACCHI
THE GREENFIELDS brochure tells parents: "One of the most important decisions you have to make is choosing the right school for your child."
That is why it is important to have ALL the facts.
The Forest Row school follows the educational principles of the man who founded the Church of Scientology which has its national headquarters just a few miles away.
Yet the brochure fails to mention the cult.
L. Ron Hubbard, branded as a "charlatan and worse" by a High Court judge, is referred to only as an "educator and author".
The school also describes itself as inter-denominational.
But these are the facts which are not featured in the brochure:
- The educational principles used at the school are also used in Scientology.
- Principal Margaret Hodkin and most of the teaching staff are Scientologists.
- Many of the children are from Scientology families.
- The school is featured in the handbook of the cult, What is Scientology.
- It has also been profiled in the magazine of the International Association of Scientologists.
Mrs Hodkin, who worked for 13 years at the national headquarters of the cult in Saint Hill, East Grinstead, is currently on holiday abroad.
We were asked to put our questions to the school solicitor, who is also her son.
Peter Hodkin said: "The literature makes quite clear that the school is based on the educational philosophy of L. Ron Hubbard.
"But if you went down there I don't think you would find it very much different to any other school, quite frankly."
[Picture of front cover of What Is Scientology? with caption: Words of a cult]
[Picture of Peter Hodkin with caption: Peter Hodkin: School solicitor]
Asked if it had formal links with the cult, Mr Hodkin replied: "I don't think there is anything you would describe as formal links between the school and the church. There wouldn't be any really. The school is run by an independent trust."
The small print at the bottom of school literature tells a different story.
The sentence reads: "Greenfields is licensed by Applied Scholastics International...a trademark owned by ABLE."
No further information is given about the groups.
In fact, ABLE (The Association for Better Living and Education) was set up by the cult in 1988 to "support, promote and expand the social betterment organisations that use Mr Hubbard's technologies in society."
Its UK office is at Saint Hill in East Grinstead, the national headquarters of Scientology.
One of the groups which receives support and sponsorship is Applied Scholastics International.
Both ABLE and ASI are listed in the cult's own directory of Scientology organisations.
"Scientology as such is not taught as a subject.
"But all the ambiance if of Scientology and it is plain that the church exercises a strong influence, if not indeed control."
The words of Mr Justice Latey.
They were delivered at the end of a child custody case at the High Court in London in 1984. At the centre of the proceedings were two young pupils at Greenfields.
We have a copy of Mr Justice Latey's judgement.
It paints a damning picture of the cult's influence at the school, a story which has remained untold - until today.
The document reveals how:
- The school paid money annually to Scientology.
- The vast majority of staff and all the governors on the board of trustees were Scientologists.
- One parent who had fallen foul of the church and "was not in good standing" was ordered to remove her children.
- Principal Mrs Hodkin informed on a parent, who was also a part-time member of staff, by sending a "knowledge report" about her to the body responsible for discipline in the cult.
- Mrs Hodkin herself was called to account for allowing a Scientologist who had incurred the church's displeasure to attend the school fair.
- Deputy principal Mark McQuade used "false, spurious" titles.
The judge said: "At various times he has worn clerical grab and described himself as "Reveredn" and at other times "Professor." He did this, he accepts, for promotional reasons."
Mr McQuade also supported the church's controversial policy of "disconnection", where members can be order to shun friends and relatives if they are declared "enemies" of the cult.
He once wrote: "I am a Scientologist before all. I agree with the disconnection technology when a person commits a suppressive act, to assist them to confront and handle their behaviour."
"The facts," said the judge, "speak for themselves."
Not according to Mr Hodkin. He called the judgement a "travesty".
He said: "What we are looking at here are wardship proceedings. All the evidence was given in camera. The Church of Scientology was not represented, and wasn't given a chance to put forward any evidence.
"Quite frankly, it was a travesty of British justice."
The "facts" which Mr Justice Latey spoke of are echoed in confidential letters obtained by the Evening Argus.
In 1984 a mother pulled her daughter out of a Greenfields even though she was a Scientologist.
She spelled out her reasons in a letter to Mrs Hodkin.
The woman wrote: "Although I was aware that the school used certain study methods devised by L. Ron Hubbard, I was not aware that the school was dominated by the Church of Scientology.
"Had this been made clear by the school authorities in their prospectus and from the outset. I would have reconsidered my decision to send my child to such a place."
Months later, a member of the board of trustees, the governing body of the school, also resigned.
In a letter to the board, Dr Stephen Davies, who was also a Scientologist, wrote: "It is now evident to me that the change in the political climate within the church had direct repercussions on the day to day management of Greenfields School.
"It also became evident that Greenfields was not acting as a school truly independent of the organising body of the Church of Scientology."
In 1990, Mark Bishop withdrew his two sons from the school.
He said at the time: "Even at the interview stage there was no mention of the Church of Scientology.
"I finally found out about the links when I applied for a job and the interviewer asked me where my children went to school. When I said Greenfields he asked me if I was a Scientologist."
Today an ex-member of staff says: "For anyone who is not a Scientologist there is a lot about the school that isn't apparent from the brochures, and from a visit to the school and a walk around the school."
But Mr Hodkin said the claims made by Mr Bishop and others were "absolute rubbish".
And he stressed: "Parents do not go through the interview without these matters having been gone over.
"My experience of the school is that it is extremely open about these things and always makes a point of fully discussing matters.
"Obviously most of the parents who turn up to enroll children in the school are Scientologists. But for those that aren't, everything is gone over in great detail. After all, there would be very little point in not going through these things."
"You are trying to generate some sort of story which doesn't exist."
Just one paragraph is devoted to Hubbard in the school brochure.
But the "benefits" of the teaching principles used at Greenfields are spelled out in another publication, What is Scientology?
The book claims Hubbard's methods amount to "nothing less than a revolution in the field of education" which could turn schools into "institutions of unprecedented learning excellence".
Students are taught of "how to learn" by removing so-called barriers to study.
Chief among them is the "misunderstood" word.
The book explains: "A misunderstood definition or a not-comprehended definition or an undefined word can thoroughly block one's understanding of a subject and can even cause one to abandon the subject entirely."
To avoid this children are taught how to use a dictionary.
The process is known as "word clearing".
One study, cited by the cult, showed "students shot ahead 1.29 years in their reading levels after just ten hours study using Mr Hubbard's study technology."
But inspectors from the Department for Education who toured Greenfields in 1985 noted: "Many children are reading, and certainly writing, at a level below what they might be expected to achieve."
Figures compiled by the Independent Schools Information Service (ISIS) put Greenfields at the top of the GCSE rankings in Sussex.
Last year, 88.9 per cent of candidates gained A and B grades.
But these results do not reveal one important fact - how many passes each student got.
The national tables published by the Departments of Education do include this statistic.
They reveal how 13 pupils aged 15 took GCSEs at Greenfields but only 38 per cent gained five or more A to C grades.
The East Sussex average was higher at 42.10 per cent.
Meanwhile, 46 per cent gained five or more A to G grades and 85 per cent gained one or more A to G grades.
The East Sussex average was higher, 86.20 per cent and 93.50 per cent respectively.
Mr Hodkin said: "You can compile league tables in different ways. One of the criticisms is that those figures were dependent on what people get at a given age. Greenfields pupils take exams at anywhere from 13 to 17."
He told how the school produced three university graduates last year and pointed out "Six of the leading inspectors for schools came down to Greenfields (in 1985) and spent a week there.
"They looked at all aspects of the school and announced they were quite happy with it."
Many Greenfield pupils come from Scientology families.
Literature on how parents can help their children to become "calm, happy and self-confident" is issued by the cult. The theories are called Child Dianetics.
Hubbard wrote: "It is possible to process a child at any age level beyond the point when he learns to speak."
Dr John Clark, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, took a different view.
He told the 1984 child custody hearing: "The 'technical processes' used by Scientology to educate children are mind-focusing, hypnotic and anaesthetic.
"Such states of mind, which are induced in order to secure a lifetime allegiance to Scientology, can mask real disease.
"Children also become damaged pawns in family conflicts as the result of Scientology policy which teaches people how to manipulate others."
Mr Justice Latey agreed.
Custody of the two Greenfields pupils was transferred to their mother, who had left the cult.
The judge said the children would have remained "gravely at risk" from the "baleful influence of the church" if they stayed with their Scientologist father.
He gave a chilling example of that influence. the little girl had asked her mother why she was not a Scientologist.
Her mother pointed out that people could be "good people" without being Scientologists, and that two widely respected people known to her daughter were not Scientologists either.
The eight-year-old replied: "They would be better if they were."In Monday's Argus: The "bridge" which leads to the cult.
A school and Scientologists
[picture caption: Principal Margaret Hodkin, pictured in front of Greenfields School, Forest Row]
Why the brochure will have to be changed
Greenfields calls itself an "inter-denominational" school.
We brought this to the attention of ISIS (Independent Schools Information Service) last month.
ISIS says it will now ask for the word "Scientology" to be included in the next edition of the London and South East regional handbook, which is read by thousands of parents.
Regional director Ian Ross said: "We rely on the schools to provide us with the information. We think the time is now appropriate to make a change.
Asked if he thought the current entry was misleading, he replied:
"Well, we wouldn't be attempting to change it if we felt it was satisfactory."
The move was welcomed by Wealden MP Geoffrey Johnson Smith. He told the Argus: "If the school has any links with the cult this should be made absolutely clear."
And Coun Jenny Langston, a member of East Sussex education committee, added:
"The school should be honest and open about its links so parents can make an informed decision."
Today the school, which opened 13 years ago in a former vicarage in nearby Hammerwood, has 178 pupils aged between three and 18.
Boarders are accepted from the age of ten. Care arrangements at all independent boarding schools in East Sussex are checked regularly by the county council.
Officials recently visited Greenfields.
John Windebank, head of the inspection unit, said: "The school has copies of the report and any parent or prospective parent can ask the school for a copy of that report."
But educational standards at Greenfields come under the scrutiny of the Department for Education in London. The last full inspection was in July 1985.
It can cost more than £2,682 a term to attend Greenfields.
The fees vary: Day pupil, £335 to £1,470; weekly, £2,072 to £2,480; full board, £2,272 to £2,682.
The school is a registered charity.
Greenfields opened in nearby Hammerwood in 1981 without planning permission.Following an unsuccessful appeal to the Department of the Environment, it was forced to find a new site.
[See also the Page One Opinion from the same day's Evening Argus]