Hurstpierpoint College, Star House, Chapel tower and Shield House

A long time ago in a parallel universe called Hurstpierpoint College (for whom I worked), I needed to assimilate the College’s safeguarding requirements. Now, as a retired Scout Leader I was very well used to doing my utmost to ensure the safety of younger people. I did it by using two formulae: common decency and common sense, both being attributes I possess.

I was taught decency when a child, by parents and as a Cub and a Scout. Common sense was taught by parents, by school (“Don’t be silly, Richard. Think.”) and particularly by being in Cubs, Scouts, Southdown Motor Services, in all my other employments, by friends, by need, and as a result of my own thinking and observation. After all, I’ve had a lifetime to do all this research. I’m still learning.

The College’s requirements brought me to think about the law. More and more it seemed that, according to law, all human beings are equipped with two switches. One is switched on at the age of 16 (sex etc) and the other at 18 (drink etc). At this point in my reading the safeguarding requirements had been assimilated and found to equate to the common decency and common sense I already had. But the disquiet and unfairness with which I regarded those two fictional yet legally regarded switches mounted. Certain legal cases whose outcome has resulted in actual mental and spiritual damage to both ‘perpetrator’ and ‘victim’ have done nothing to alleviate my concerns and, at times, anger.

Having been an Assistant Scout Leader (11-15 then) and a Venture Scout Leader (16-20 then) I knew quite a bit about how a variety of young people (mainly boys since the Scouts then didn’t admit girls) approached and dealt with increasing physical and spiritual attractions. Not once was there a sudden difference in outlook between the ages of 15 years, 11 months and 31 days, and 16 years and 1 day.

Explorer Scouts from Durham

We should be able to deduce that there is no biological switch at 16 (or 18, come to that). There is no reason to believe that a person two days shy of their 16th birthday can be inexperienced, whilst on the 16th birthday can know how to deal with all – er, romantic – circumstances.

The reality is, quite obviously, a slow development process that keeps pace with cell growth. There are no goals to work towards, no mileposts to observe and pass, no epiphany, no ‘switches’. It is human physical and mental development, a pure, organic process.

And at that point that the seed of an idea for Loft Island was sown.