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Observer newspaper backs campaign against boarding

“Boarding schools: pupils’ suffering has been ignored for too long: the ex-boarder may never develop emotional intelligence,” runs the headline in today’s Observer.

Those of us aware of the problems of this British habit of sending children away to elite boarding schools and campaigning against it celebrated a small triumph.

The background to this was that the paper had been impressed by the huge response to Alex Renton’s article about his own abuse at public school last Sunday, and decided it needed taking further. I was invited to coordinate a response to the article and express some of the other concerns about boarding, which go beyond the problems of abuse.

A group of concerned individuals and professionals came together during the week to sign a joint campaign letter backed by the Observer by a lead article. The process of getting this letter out was complex, as in trying to involve educational groups, the debate about what age limit to put on boarding and whether to call for the removal of charitable status – which might effect other independent alternative schools – was sometimes divisive.

Two things occurred to me here. First, educationalists are focussed on schools: they have not heard the stories from adult ex-boarders or their spouses 20 or 30 years after they leave school, so their perspective is sometimes rather limited; nor do they perhaps have an eye on the Wounded Leaders! Secondly, historically, the Left always gets divided over the nuances of policy, over personality disputes, over drafting of statements; the Right never have that same problem. They know exactly what they stand for and don’t even have to mention it. Shame we don’t learn from it.

Watch this space and keep an eye out on the serious newspapers during the coming week!

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