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Patrick Sandford’s Groomed about historic sexual abuse claims at Wrotham Road County Primary School, Gravesend, performed at the Vatican

By: Alex Langridge

Published: 17:33, 19 November 2023

A primary school head teacher is backing a play performed at the Vatican which discusses historic abuse claims.

In his show Groomed, Patrick Sandford tells his story of sexual violence at the hands of his teacher when he attended the then Wrotham Road County Primary School, in Gravesend.

It is a dramatised testimony of his story as a survivor of sexual abuse. Picture: Neil Hanna

Patrick has never revealed where the abuse happened in his dramatised testimony before but has told KentOnline he thought it was time he told the whole truth.

He added: “I know I was not the only child at the school who experienced this. I was too frightened to say I was also a victim on the playground.

“It is time to be straightforward and honest so others might hear and understand they were not alone. I do not want to keep any more secrets.


“I have visited the school since and it is a wonderful school. I met with the new head of the trust and if he is in charge of schools across Kent then that is a very good thing.

“I do not hold anything against the school and do not want people to think ill of it. There was a bad teacher, but it does not mean it was a bad school.”

That teacher was never prosecuted and has since died.

The former artistic director said the abuse happened in the 1960s and what it entailed would now be known as grooming.

Patrick says he was abused at primary school. Picture: Patrick Sandford

Chief executive of The Golden Thread Alliance, the trust that now runs Wrotham Road Primary School, Garry Ratcliffe, has shown his support for the show which was performed at The Vatican on Thursday (November 16).

He said: “Schools should always be, without exception, a place of nurture and safety for every child. This is what we strive for within our trust. Children who are happy, safe and thrive, whilst being immersed in the best learning experiences possible.

“Patrick’s story, both communicated through Groomed and when talking to him face to face, shows the horrific and unforgivable trauma and life-long effect that abuse can have on any child.


“We can learn a lot from Patrick and his powerful and honest portrayal. I urge every educator to listen to his story, to help them understand that there is nothing more important than keeping children safe in our schools.

“On behalf of The Golden Thread, I wish Patrick all the very best for his journey to the Vatican, and for the powerful and important message he will be giving.”

Groomed shows the emotions of fear, shame, grief and anger as well as the psychological impacts that follow victims of sexual violence.

Patrick Sandford is to perform his show Groomed at the Vatican. Picture: Neil Hanna

Patrick added: “For the Vatican to present a play about child sexual abuse is a remarkable and welcome statement of accountability and intent to offer healing. It is humane.

“The Vatican is demonstrating an understanding that survivors' voices are to be seen as a resource, for prevention and healing, rather than as a threat to be silenced.

“The play is truly an example of how the arts can influence social change, in this case in the area of mental and sexual health.”

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which was set up by the Catholic Church, said it chose Groomed because it is the experience of a survivor as opposed to law or theory.

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