Boarding schools condemn 'dangerously inaccurate' claims that they damage mental health

Irena Barker

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Claims that boarding school pupils will suffer mental health issues and feelings of abandonment are “dangerously inaccurate”, a leading figure in the sector will say today.

Robin Fletcher, national director of the Boarding Schools' Association (BSA), will challenge critics who claim boarding is to blame for a host of psychological issues later in life.

"I strongly sympathise with those who had a terrible boarding experience in the past, and recognise boarding is not best for every child," he is expected to say.

"But to suggest boarding is harmful as an unquestionable fact is simply untrue, inflames opinion rather than raising a legitimate and important issue and simply does not present a full and honest picture of the sector."

Earlier this year, a new book, Boarding School Syndrome, by psychotherapist Joy Schaverien claimed that people who had boarded from an early age suffered long-lasting damage.

And as boarding in both private and state schools is increasingly promoted by the government, groups such as Boarding School Survivors continue to call for an end to boarding for children under the age of 15.

Mr Fletcher will use his speech to defend boarding just days after the BSA’s president and former Eton head master Tony Little called for more low-cost boarding schools to be opened, to cater for families on modest incomes.

Addressing the York Boarding Schools Group alliance of 16 boarding schools in and around York – including the historic Ampleforth College - Mr Fletcher was due to say: "To claim boarding is simply wrong and damaging is dangerously inaccurate.

"UK boarding schools today offer a great experience for more than 75,000 students from across the world. They are a force for good and give students a unique opportunity to forge friendships, create networks across the world and maintain strong family relationships.

"Of course, boarding won't be right for everyone which is why any decision to board today is carefully considered and discussed by parents, their children and schools. The days of children simply being 'sent away to school' by 'uncaring parents' are long gone."

The BSA, which represents around 450 boarding schools in the UK and another 50 abroad, runs courses for schools on helping boarders to develop resilience and managing emotional health issues.

Mr Fletcher will add: “Emotional health issues can potentially affect children in all types of school, day or boarding. This is natural, something we recognise, and we provide professional training to our members so they can offer support to those who need it."

In the 16 October issue of TES, we join prep school students on their first day of boarding and talk to parents, teachers and the students themsleves about the boarding experience. 

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Irena Barker

Irena Barker is a freelance journalist.

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