'Room service? I'd like some help with my homework'

15th October 2010 at 01:00
Boarders move into hotel when school rebuilding falls behind schedule

Most people's mental image of boarding school involves cold dormitories and plates of cold cabbage, not fluffy pillows and satellite TV. But one group of boys returning to a state boarding school in Surrey this term after the summer holidays experienced exactly that, when their school was forced to put them up in a hotel for three weeks.

Delayed works on a new sixth-form boarding house at the Royal Alexandra and Albert School in Reigate meant that 15 pupils were put up at a nearby three-star hotel while they waited for it to be finished.

The boys enjoyed en-suite bathrooms and tea- and coffee-making facilities - although ordering from room service was strictly banned and mini-bars were emptied by staff in advance.

Pupils were bussed to the school over a mile away every morning, accompanied by two teachers, and took all their meals on school premises.

The school said it had negotiated a "good deal" on the rooms at Reigate Manor, which usually costs #163;78 a night. Hotel manager Graeme Attridge said the boys were "model guests".

Paul Spencer-Ellis, headteacher of the state boarding school, said: "We had to make a decision when it was clear the building work could not be completed in time for both girls' and boys' accommodation and we decided to finish the girls' first because there was more pressure on numbers.

"The school was only given the go-ahead to create a sixth-form last October, so time was already at a premium for the project. But the heavy snow and ice of last winter led to delays."

The two new blocks, which have 21 bedrooms a piece, cost #163;3.6 million, and each pair of rooms shares a bathroom between them. The addition of the sixth-form means it is now believed to be the only seven-to-18 state school in the country.

Mr Spencer-Ellis added: "This is the logical completion of the school. We have 57 children here on free places from fragile families and we are providing continuity of education."

Royal Alexandra and Albert school is one of just 35 state boarding schools in the country. In 2001, it was in special measures, but scored a maximum of 27 "outstanding" ratings in its most recent Ofsted report in 2008.

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