Parents who send their children to boarding school are being "inherently neglectful", according to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).
Boarding schools subject children to emotional deprivation and should be viewed in the same way as the abuse of youngsters from poorer communities, the RCN says.
The criticisms are included in the RCN's formal response to the Government's Green Paper on the future of children's services, following the abuse and murder of eight-year-old Victoria Climbié by her carers, one of whom was her great-aunt.
But the RCN document claims that rich parents should also be targeted when clamping down on child abuse. The response says: "For example, it is deemed acceptable for families to send their children to boarding schools, both in this country and abroad. Yet this is inconsistent with notions of ensuring children have a consistent role model and develop within a family environment.
"The Government must consider whether such actions by affluent parents are inherently neglectful through failure to fulfil their full parental roles and responsibilities."
It adds: "If the Government is committed to safeguarding children, then it is an appropriate time to consider this issue within the purview of the Green Paper."
The RCN said the comments do not form official college policy, but are a reflection of the views expressed by nurses when they were consulted on the Green Paper. They were included in the 24-page RCN submission to the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) on the Green Paper.
The comments prompted a furious response from private schools. Adrian Underwood, director of the Boarding Schools' Association, has written to Dr Beverly Malone, RCN General Secretary, demanding an apology.
In the letter, Mr Underwood said: "This gratuitous and ill-informed suggestion insults thousands of caring parents. It insults the intelligence of boarding pupils, many of whom have chosen boarding for themselves."Reuse content