Rhiannon Harries: Look closely at boarding schools and 'Cracks' in the fantasy soon appear

Share
Related Topics

Trying to explain your home nation's cultural peculiarities to an outsider is the best way to gauge the degree of their absurdity, as I found out the other day when a French friend asked me what exactly Eton is. "Well, it's just a school really..." I began, before launching into a labyrinthine explanation of how it was actually much more than just a school. I covered tailcoats, rowing songs, Gothic architecture, 18 British PMs (not by name, obviously – I'm not that good) and a recipe involving broken meringues.

My friend, never having been to boarding school nor known anyone who had (they are few and far between in France), was baffled but impressed: another victim of boarding-school fascination. Many more will no doubt be similarly afflicted this week as Jordan Scott's directorial debut, Cracks, plays at cinemas. Set in a girls' boarding school in the 1930s, it's all meaningful glances and, er, Gothic architecture as it traces a Sapphic love triangle involving two pupils and their charismatic teacher.

How private boarding schools still survive is a mystery. Not because they are ventilators for a brain-dead social hierarchy – the same could be said of any fee-paying school – but simply because you'd have thought that every portrayal of boarding-school life, from tabloid exposé to Enid Blyton, would be enough to scare off either the parents of prospective pupils, or the pupils themselves. At one end of the scale are fictions such as Cracks and sensationalised reports of sex, drugs and general depravity amid the cloisters. At the other are the jolly-hockey-stick Harry Potter clichés.

Send your child to a boarding school and they won't have any time for GCSEs because they'll be too busy either casting spells or dealing crack is the take-home message for parents. Likewise, are kids today really suckers for dorms, school songs and (shudder) school on Saturdays?

Yet I, too, spent a large part of my tween years dreaming of being packed off to some creaky Hogwarts-style castle – before means allowed me a brief sojourn in the dorms. It wasn't so much of a shock as a mild disappointment. The truth, from my experience, is that no more intrigue takes place in boarding schools than at any other school or workplace – it's just that as it takes place on the premises, it never stays secret.

Of course, the crucial factor in sending a child to a boarding school is simply that they are, by and large, endowed with superlative academic and sporting resources. I was efficiently transformed into a super-swot. Not in the least bit sexy, but then that is probably why so many of those with first-hand experience are more than happy to let the hilarious fantasies stand.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron was openly emotional at the prospect of Scotland leaving the union before the referendum  

Remember when David Cameron almost cried over Scotland because he loved it so much?

Matthew Norman
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26  

General Election 2015: It's time we forgot what school we all went to

Stefano Hatfield
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions