Most pupils happy at boarding school: Survey shows children believe living-in fosters independence

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MORE THAN three-quarters of boarders in senior schools are happy with their lot and younger children enjoy boarding even more, according to a survey published yesterday by a body which promotes private schools.

However, more than one-third of older pupils think boarding cuts them off from society and more than a quarter feel it distances them from their parents. Four in ten said they did not have enough privacy and a similar proportion complained that their lives were too highly organised.

The survey of 5,000 randomly selected boarders in 121 prep schools and 214 senior schools carried out by the Independent Schools Information Service, which promotes private schools, is an attempt to change negative images of boarding schools that have contributed to a sharp decline in numbers over the last decade. Ian Small, head of Bootham School, York, and chairman of the Boarding Schools Association, said: 'It confirms that modern boarding schools have changed and are clearly serving the demands of a new generation.

'For too long, the reputation of boarding schools has been fed by the embittered reminiscences of a handful of ex-boarders from previous generations.'

The survey's claims were challenged by independent day school heads, who said their schools taught children to be more independent while maintaining a close relationship with their families.

Most pupils in the survey thought boarding improved their manners and helped them to become more independent but there were complaints about bedtime, about 9pm in prep schools and between 10.30pm and 11pm for older pupils in senior schools. Most said their parents chose boarding schools because of their academic standards.

Giles Slaughter, head of University College, a boys' day school in London, said: 'Boys and girls who have to make their way to school on the buses and deal with difficult people and return home to deal with their awkward brothers and sisters are much more independent.'

He questioned the boarders' belief that it was easier to concentrate on academic work at school. 'It may be true that some people work more easily in a structured environment but is that a good preparation for higher education when you have to motivate yourself?'

Dick Davison of Isis said the fact that 84 per cent of prep school pupils preferred to be boarders than day pupils and three-quarters thought boarding more fun showed that the view of 'the eight- or nine-year-old leaving the bosom of the family for a strange communal environment' was mistaken.