Teacher families opt for boarding

One in three boarders now comes from households that earn less than pound;50,000 a year, reports Biddy Passmore.

PUPILS at private boarding schools are more likely to be the children of teachers than City fat cats, according to a new survey.

Nearly one in three parents with children at boarding school is paying fees averaging pound;13,500 on a household income of less than pound;50,000 a year, the survey shows.

And education is the second most common occupation for parents after business, and ahead of medicine and finance. The survey does not reveal how many of the teachers who board their children work in the private sector and how many in the state.

These surprising facts emerged from a survey of nearly 900 boarding parents carried out last month for the Boarding Education Alliance. The alliance says they show that modern boarding schools are no longer "the playground of the elite ruling class" but the option chosen by "Mr and Mrs Average Brit".

Around 30 per cent of families are first-generation boarders, with neither parent having boarded as a child.

Thirty-seven per cent of parents have a household income of more than pound;100,000 a year and more than two-thirds of these are paying fees out of income alone. But so are nearly half of those earning pound;30,000-50,000. One in five said they had money savd up for fees.

About half of those earning less than pound;50,000 a year were receiving help from "other sources" - either bursaries from the schools themselves or, perhaps, from grandparents.

A high proportion have to economise to afford the fees. Nearly half said they had cut back on holidays, nearly a third were making do with older cars or had sold a second car and one in seven admitted to "belt-tightening".

Why do they do it? Half had opted for boarding chiefly because it provided "the best education". The development of self-confidence and independence, opportunities for friendship and communal living, and the range of extra curricular activities were seen as key advantages over day schools. One in seven said the biggest factor had been their children's wish to board. Only 4 per cent considered the school's academic standards the chief factor.

Although most parents worked (four out of five fathers and two in three mothers) only 2 per cent said they had chosen boarding mainly to suit work commitments. Fifteen per cent of parents were in business, 11 per cent in education, 9 per cent in medicine and 8 per cent in each of finance and the army.

The number of full-time boarders has dropped from 126,000 in 1985 to just below 70,000 this year, although occasional boarding is booming.

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