Boarding enhances families, says survey

Diane Spencer

Boarding schools, desperate to improve their public image, have published a survey of 5,000 parents which shows their children emerge confident, mature and independent, writes Diane Spencer.

The survey, The Best of Both Worlds, was carried out by the Independent Schools Information Service and the Boarding Schools' Association.

It "redresses some public perceptions based on reminiscences of disaffected former boarders", said ISIS deputy director Dick Davison, in a side-swipe at Prince Charles, among others. "The findings nail the myth that parents are selfish egoists who can't wait to get rid of their children."

The results showed that a third of parents thought their relationships with their children had improved; four out of 10 families were "first-time buyers" - neither parent had experience of boarding; more than 80 per cent took their children's views into account before choosing to board; nearly half lived within an hour's drive of the school; and extra-curricular rather than academic aspects of boarding were more often reasons for their choice.

"The main message to parents is that boarding does not break up families, but enhances them," said Mr Davison.

The survey also showed that more than half the pupils spent four or more nights at home each term, in addition to half-term breaks, but only one in 10 boarders wrote home, with nearly half the boys never doing so. Nearly all rang their parents several times a term, however, and a quarter, usually girls, did so several times a week.

About 100,000 children now attend boarding schools, compared with 125,000 a decade ago. Fees range from Pounds 8,000 a year to more than Pounds 12, 000. As one parent succinctly said when asked to describe their feelings about boarding: "Excellent; expensive."

The best of both worlds, ISIS, 56 Buckingham Gate, London SW1E 6AG, Pounds 6.

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