A S BYATT, novelist: I can't bring myself to cross the threshold of my old school, though they have asked me to talk. I did get a certain social ease out of it but it wasn't worth the price I paid for it. I felt imprisoned and trapped. They were nice people but the system was wrong. Children shouldn't be shut in dormitories. I would only send my daughters reluctantly, to find the sort of education I wanted.

JAMES, banker: After going through a year of public school myself I wouldn't send anyone I didn't hate into it. I was quite sensitive and was bullied. They were incredibly imaginative in finding ways of getting at me - toothpaste in my shoes, spoiling my prep, and they would regularly pee in my bed and I would be blamed, and by the end of that first year in fact I was wetting the bed myself. My parents realised something was wrong and let me go to being a weekly boarder, but I shall always remember how frightful it was.

RAYMOND BRIGGS, children's author: If I had any children I wouldn't. It's unbearable to think of a kid going away for that length of time, especially the young ones. They used to cry themselves to sleep in the Army at age 18 or 19, never mind eight or nine. I can't understand people who do it unless they want to be shot of their kids. Public schools seem to screw up men in their relationship to women and they have a religion of conformism I find terrible.

HAKEEM KAE KAZIM, actor: I didn't go because I saw Tom Brown's Schooldays and it scared me, but I would probably send my children. I think potentially it's a better education, and it might have done me some good.

HAZEL LEWIS, solicitor: As long as they were happy with it, yes I would. I thoroughly enjoyed being at boarding school, I had masses of friends and I received an excellent education. I would never force my children to go if they didn't want to, but my own experiences were so positive that I'm sure they would love it too.

EUAN MacALPINE, headmaster: I enjoyed my boarding school days very much and I'm enjoying myself now, better than ever. Boarding schools teach pupils how to live and work together, and to tolerate the strengths and weaknesses of others - it will set you up for life if you can learn that at school.

PIERS PARTRIDGE, psychotherapist: An institution isn't an appropriate place for any child under 11, and for very few children under 13, particularly because pastoral care is still a very low priority in the training of housemasters.

HARRIET BAXTER, aged 9: I would like to go if it wasn't too far away because midnight feasts would be good. I wouldn't have to play with my little brother any more. I don't think I would be scared if I could phone my mum.

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