Hard-Working Parents Turn To Private Schools To Give Children The Care They Can’t

Private schools are enrolling record numbers of pupils as guilt-ridden parents attempt to provide their children with the attention they cannot offer at home. With many parents working such long hours that they spend little time with their family, many are opting to send their children to boarding school.

Hilary Moriarty, from the Boarding Schools Association, said she knew of professional parents who did not return home until midnight. “If it is a boarding school as well there will be many of them pitching in for two nights a week flexi-boarding, a couple of nights every fortnight, or whatever,” she said.

According to the Independent Schools Council, which covers more than 80 per cent of all privately-educated children, more pupils than ever – nearly 510,000 – are being educated at private schools despite a 5.9 per cent increase in fee. Average fees are £10,173.

Parents pay for such an education because it offers traditional values, discipline, competitive sport and small class sizes, said the Independent Schools Council. Ratios of children to teachers are at their most favourable ever, with one teacher for every 9.7 pupils, said the ISC figures. Heads say fee-paying schools are attractive to hard-working parents because they offer stability for their children.

Unveiling the census, ISC general secretary Jonathan Shephard suggested parents were also attracted by independent schools’ strong reputation for languages, science and maths.

Nigel Richardson, chairman of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses-Conference of public schools, said: “Since 1997, work pressures on parents have enormously increased. With the pressures on them, it is very hard for a parent to devote large amounts of time every day of the week to their children. So we are providing something that in less complicated times families might have been better able to provide for themselves.”

Despite a slight dip this year, the number of children in boarding schools was holding steady after a decline over previous years. Today’s figures relate to 1,276 schools – both day and boarding – represented by the ISC. The number of pupils in ISC schools edged up 0.1 per cent on 2006. Particularly strong growth was seen in sixth-forms and at pre-prep level.