Social workers have recently come under fire for deriding the benefits of state boarding schools and their ability to provide a good education as well as a stable and orderly social environment. Their opposition has denied such opportunities to youngsters who desperately need better provision, at home and at school. Worryingly, I fear that it is not only social workers who are ill-informed and prejudiced in this respect.
A few years ago I ran a day of writing workshops in a local comprehensive school. Amongst the children with whom I worked was a small group of fourteen year-olds who did no work themselves and tried their best to discourage younger pupils. I should have been alerted when I realised that they were under the supervision, not only of their teacher, but also of a classroom assistant and a deputy head.
When they departed I commented that they were just the sort of youngsters who would benefit from a boarding education. I was very surprised that a deputy head teacher would not understand this. It was not difficult, I explained; at about nine o’clock in the evening they would appear in a dining room, expecting their supper, but, before the meal was produced they would be asked to show their homework.
This deputy head teacher was alarmed by this: she was adamant that the respect of children has to be earned and they could not be treated as I had suggested. It then proved impossible to explain to her that expecting higher standards of children is part of the process of earning their respect.
If her woeful attitude is more widespread then there is no doubt that the academic standards of children receiving state education in this country will continue to fall.