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'Outrage' at care bill for boarders

INDEPENDENT schools such as Fettes, Strathallan and Glenalmond face bills of around pound;30,000 to have student bedrooms vetted twice a year under the new care and welfare inspections regime brought in by the Care Commission.

The fee-paying boarding sector has reacted angrily to the Scottish Executive's imposition last week of the maximum pound;85 per pupil charges. Schools are irked by having to pay for a service previously provided free by HMI.

Officers from the Dundee-based commission will assess schools twice a year against new national standards. There will be one snap visit, at any hour of the day or night.

A wider concern is that without substantial investment and refurbishment some boarding accommodation will not be up to scratch. Older-style dormitories with cramped beds and little privacy are out. But schools will be given time to fix shortcomings.

Fettes College in Edinburgh, which has 390 boarders, will be expected to pay an initial registration fee of pound;2,000 and pound;33,000 in annual charges. Glenalmond and Strathallan in rural Perthshire will face the same initial registration fee and annual costs respectively of pound;30,000 and pound;29,000 based on 350 and 340 boarders.

Judith Sischy, director of the Scottish Council of Independent Schools, said some members consulted parents beforehand and most were "outraged" that costs will be passed on. "There are two questions: value for money and being charged," Mrs Sischy said.

There is an additional anxiety about over-inspection.

Commission members, however, are adamant that independent schools should be treated on the same basis as private nursing homes or residences, both of which have long-established patterns of payment for inspection.

Mary Hartnoll, the commission's convener and former social work director in Glasgow, said: "If you want an independent body, then you need one that is at least partly funded by fee income. Independent schools charge fees don't they?"

Jacquie` Roberts, the agency's chief executive and former social work director in Dundee, said: "Good providers believe there should be good regulation and understand we have to fund the regulation process. Nursing homes for older people and residential homes have been paying fees ever since they existed, so I don't see why independent boarding schools should necessarily have a different treatment."

The Executive is already subsidising the inspection regime, designed to drive up care and welfare standards in independent and special schools and local authority hostels. But fees vary depending on the sector.

PRIVACY AND DIGNITY

Personal space must be respected and pupils must not sleep in a crowded bedroom. There must be rooms for private use, playing or quiet study.

Rooms should have windows, be well ventilated and heated by a system that allows pupils to control the temperature.

They must have somewhere to lock away personal belongings. Baths and showers must be nearby and private.

If pupils share rooms, they must be able to decide who they share with. If they are over 16, they should have a single room if they want one.

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