Boarders' independence? It's child cruelty

11th November 2011 at 00:00

The rise in the number of girls boarding at prep schools filled me with horror rather than surprise ("Surprise surge in prep school boarders belies the recession", 4 November).

Predictably, headteachers referred to their pupils' "greater independence". For many children that peculiar English tradition of being "sent away" as a boarder is viewed in later life as a betrayal of trust. They are permanently haunted by the question "If they loved me, why did they send me away?"

Boarding school children are often forced to construct a "survival personality" to protect themselves, in order not to appear a failure. The peer group imposes conditions of belonging rather than the family.

Boarders live in an artificial closed system with no sense of the outside world. The late Conservative MP Nicholas Fairburn recalled: "Childhood ended when I was sent to boarding school aged five... those early years bred in me a feeling of isolation and independence that has never left me. It caused me to retreat to the desert island on oneself where one could be oneself."

Sending children away as boarders at an early age raises the question, why have children in the first place? As for greater independence, it's more a case of child cruelty.

Richard Knights, Liverpool.

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