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Pressures of recession spark unexpected surge in preparatory school enrolments

The recession should have been the single biggest reason for expecting the numbers enrolling at prep boarding schools to nosedive.

But a combination of spectacular increases in the number of girls attending and economic conditions forcing parents to put more time into their well-paid jobs is having the opposite effect.

Statistics show that a greater number of parents are taking the unorthodox decision to send their children away to prep schools, which traditionally look after pupils aged seven to 13.

Last week, the Independent Association of Prep Schools (IAPS) - which has a 600-strong membership in the UK and abroad - said the number of its schools offering boarding facilities had gone up 7 per cent in the past year, with 218 now taking boarders compared with 204 in 2010. The number of boys and girls attending prep boarding school during the same period is up 4 per cent to 13,945, with the figure for girls rising 18 per cent to 5,762.

"The credit crunch has meant parents are under greater work pressures with long hours, or have to relocate with their careers," said Adrian Palmer, head of Wycliffe College's prep school near Stroud in Gloucestershire.

Last year, the college opened an 84-bed boarding house to cope with increased demand.

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