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10th April 2018
Daily summary of the latest news and opinions from the world of independent education brought to you by Education Advisers...
A detailed look at how sending disadvantaged children to boarding schools helps them
the SpringBoard Bursary Foundation and the much longer established Royal National Children’s Foundation, aims o are so similar that the charities have merged, the SpringBoard Bursary Foundation is at present sending 600 “disadvantaged” children to boarding schools and plans to increase the number to 1,500 in five years.
90 per cent of pupils liked their new schools one year in, 97 per cent felt they were working hard and about 90 per cent hoped to go to university. And this is not because the charity selects only the brightest pupils, skimming the state schools’ cream.
There are schools for less academic pupils too. In the slightly Victorian phrasing of Ian Davenport, SpringBoard’s chief executive, the question is “how can genuinely deserving children have a life-transforming opportunity”. He talks on the phone to me of the scheme as an agent for social mobility because pupils return to their communities keen to raise local ambition and broaden economically narrowed horizons.
What the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) report does not and cannot address, because there is no control group, is how much of this success story is down to good, well-resourced schooling, and how much of it is down to the boarding experience. Yet for SpringBoard and for Davenport — an Oxfordshire “bursary boy” boarder himself — boarding is the x factor. Indeed, there are state boarding schools in the scheme (the lessons at such schools are free, the B&B is not). “We are about boarding,” he says. “We are not about independent v state.”
The advantages for disadvantaged children from one-parent homes may be self-evident, but he insists that “there is an abundance of evidence” that middle-class children from stable and happy homes do “very well” in boarding schools too.
“I am saying that for the right child, who will grow and flourish and gain huge amounts of confidence from a boarding school, a boarding school is in principle a very good thing,” he says.
But why? What does boarding add? “For me a school is great if the people who leave school are full of confidence about what lies ahead and full of the ability to make decisions, personal, moral, social, economic and career.”
Uppingham school will allow boys to wear skirts if requested.
Richard Maloney, the headmaster of Uppingham school in Rutland — whose old boys include the broadcaster Stephen Fry and the chef Rick Stein — said any boy who said he wanted to wear a skirt would be treated sympathetically.
Maloney, who also tries to use the gender-neutral term “pupils” rather than “boys and girls”, said: “I would hope that any pupil could come to me and say, ‘This is who we are, this is how we wish to express ourselves. We want to wear these clothes’, and we would probably allow that.” During inclusivity week last year, one boy had decided to wear a long skirt for a few days to make a point, he added.
Maloney was speaking after the TV doctor Christian Jessen, who boarded at Uppingham from the age of seven, said he might have opted to wear a skirt at school if he had been given the choice.
“I probably would have worn a skirt to shock. I never toed the line, I was always different,” said Jessen, the star of Channel 4’s Embarrassing Bodies. He said that schools should consider introducing “gender-neutral” uniforms.
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