Forecast is bleak for boarding school cold showers

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The Independent Online

Cold communal showers, bunk beds and bare boards in the dorm are to be banned under the first national guidelines for boarding schools.

Cold communal showers, bunk beds and bare boards in the dorm are to be banned under the first national guidelines for boarding schools.

New standards published yesterday lay down home comforts every boarder must enjoy.

Strict controls on prefects and school bullies means no return to the tradition of "fags" which haunted generations of former public school boys.

Standards agreed by the Department of Health and the Office for Standards in Education also ban schools from "locking out" boarders trying to sneak into bed after lights out.

There must be a window in every bedroom, carpet on the floor and posters on the walls. Bunk beds are out for the over-12s, while bedding must be "sufficiently warm in winter". Baths and showers must be in cubicles, or "capable of being individually separated by curtaining if boarders wish".

A list of 54 standards, drawn up by headteachers and social workers, would baffle Nigel Molesworth, hero of Geoffrey Willan's boarding school classics, who described "cod which passeth understanding". Now boarders must also be offered a choice of dinners, of "adequate" temperature, including a vegetarian option.

The guidelines, introduced ahead of new child protection legislation passing through the Commons, include tough new restrictions on staff. All teachers, caretakers and even regular taxi drivers must undergo a battery of police and government checks.

Staff are also warned to be on their guard. All teachers overseeing changing rooms must be seen to be "supervising, not watching".

The new standards have been designed as a guide for inspectors who will assess all boarding schools under the Care Standards Bill, currently being debated by MPs.

Most of Britain's 800 boarding schools are assessed by the Independent Schools Inspectorate, but around 200 are unregulated.

Independent school heads insisted that the majority of schools already met the new standards, but acknowledged that some would fail.

Dick Davison, spokesman for the Independent Schools Information Service, said: "The document is meant to be more than just a manual for inspectors; it's meant as a good practice guide for schools."

He said most schools were in favour of the new standards.

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