Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Debunking the Myths of State Boarding

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Debunking the Myths of State Boarding

Article excerpt

Such provision can change lives but it is often misunderstood. A teacher sets the record straight

Lots of people don't realise that state boarding schools exist. Indeed, many local residents aren't aware that the Harefield Academy, where I work, has provision for boarders. Among those who do know, a number were opposed to the introduction of this provision, making the assumption that the school would become a home for "naughty children". How wrong they were. I'm happy to say that Lord Adonis House, our boarding house, is now at the heart of the community and is widely admired.

The battle for respect for state boarding is hard-fought. Like our independent colleagues, we combat myths and stereotypes about the work we do every day. And as a state-funded boarding school, we arguably have even more misconceptions to correct. It's time to set the record straight by addressing three key myths.

1 It's not a home for 'naughty children'

I was a "naughty child" in my school years and I have yet to meet a young person without some potential for troublesome behaviour. Some are naughtier than others, of course, and some are more privileged than others. Some, unfortunately, are heart-wrenchingly underprivileged and come from the most challenging of backgrounds.

We need to get away from this notion that a child is "naughty" and instead address the reasons behind certain behaviours. Where a student lacks stability, structure, security and, above all, opportunities, state boarding is a fantastic option. We are not a home for naughty children but a place that gives students the opportunity to survive, achieve and aspire.

2 It's not a drain on taxpayers' money

I am dismayed when I hear people talking about the "drain on government funds" from state boarding provision. Do the maths. Explore how much it costs to fund foster care, for example, then compare this with the cost of state boarding. What's more, consider the lives that have been transformed by both state and independent boarding - look at what these people are giving back to the community.

Last year, my boarders achieved far greater GCSE and post-16 results than the day students - no doubt a familiar trend across the country. This year, students have offers from top universities including University College London and King's College London. …

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