With their country-house buildings, sky-high fees and fancy uniforms, boarding schools are often associated with the astronomically rich and the children of army majors and diplomats.
But the new chair of the Boarding Schools' Association today tried to dispel this view, insisting they could actually be good value.
Working parents, single-parent families and those living in rural areas, should all consider the benefits, he said.
Ray McGovern has insisted that on a “sheer cost analysis basis” boarding can work out better than spending time and money taxiing children to extra-curricular activities every week. State boarding schools cost parents from just £10,000 a year, he said.
For the poorest and most vulnerable, Mr McGovern has also called for the government to introduce a “statutory mechanism” to ensure boarding is considered every time a local council thinks about putting a child into care.
Mr McGovern, headmaster of St George's School, a state boarding and day academy in Hertfordshire, said: “Many people assume that all boarding schools are elitist.
“What many may not be aware of is that BSA member schools cover a diverse range of educational opportunities for children from an equally diverse range of backgrounds.
“ Whatever the child’s and family’s needs, there will be a boarding school that will meet them.
“For the family with two working parents who leave home early and don’t get back until late, boarding schools offer parents – and their offspring - a quality education that fits family needs.
“This also applies for lone parents who need to work shifts or run their own businesses.
“On a sheer cost analysis basis, boarding can be very attractive when compared to the time and cost associated with parents taxiing their child to different sports and activities throughout the week.”
Mr McGovern, who was an aircraft engineer in the Royal Air Force before entering teaching, spoke out as a number of new projects to increase boarding for state-educated and disadvantaged children are beginning to materialise.
Holyport College, a free school backed by Eton College in Berkshire, is due to open its doors to state boarders next September.
Meanwhile, Durand Academy in south London is also hoping to open a country-house style boarding school for inner city children in West Sussex.
Other projects, to provided free places for disadvantaged teenagers at some of the nation's top private schools have reported success.
The Springboard Foundation, set up last year, said it had already placed 30 promising students at top schools such as Eton, Uppingham, Oundle and Rugby.