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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 April, 2003, 09:58 GMT 10:58 UK
Boarding school pupil numbers rise
Boarding school pupils
More boys are becoming boarders, figures show

The number of boys who attend boarding schools has risen for the first time in 21 years, despite an increase in fees of more than double the rate of inflation.

The Independent Schools Council (ISC) census for 2002-3 shows the intake of male boarders went up for the first time in the survey's existence, by 0.6%.

As the amount of girl boarders also increased for the second year, by 1.8%, it was the first time the census recorded two consecutive periods of overall growth.

Meanwhile, fees were up by 7%, on top of 7.5% the previous year. The UK inflation rate is currently 3%.

Average full boarding fees were 16,776, while the figure for day pupils was 7,188.

'Years of effort'

David Woodhead, director of the Independent Schools Council Information Service, said: "The census confirms the renewed interest in boarding from both parents and children.

"It justifies the years of effort by boarding schools and their associations in modernising their practice and facilities.

"This is reflected in the 68.5m schools spent in 2002 on new and refurbished boarding accommodation and in communicating their benefits through better marketing techniques."

Despite the increased popularity of boarding, the fee-paying sector as a whole saw a slowdown in the rate of growth of pupil numbers in 2002-3.

The amount of pupils educated in ISC schools rose by 5,128, or 1%, to 507,611. This compares with a 1.7% increase in 2001-2.

'All-encompassing education'

Mr Woodhead said the number of privately educated pupils had risen for eight years in a row, following the recession of the early 1990s.

He added: "They are now posed to break not only their previous growth record but also to increase the proportion of the child population educated in them."

There was a 0.9% rise in the number of pupils getting help with fees, mostly from schools themselves, to 31.9% of all pupils.

But the proportion on the assisted places scheme fell by 37.7%, as the last children to qualify before it was scrapped by the government continued to leave school.

The year 2002-3 also saw a 4.4% increase in foreigners admitted to ISC schools, to 8,344.

Recruitment from east Asia was particularly strong, with 965 more pupils coming from China.

German children made up the largest single group, accounting for 27% of the overseas intake.

Adrian Underwood, director of the Boarding Schools' Association, said: "The continued rise in boarding numbers in our member schools confirms the popularity of this special style of education, which offers so much in addition to an academic curriculum.

"The qualities developed in young people through an all-encompassing boarding education are so pertinent to employment and the needs of society today."

More than 80% of privately educated children go to ISC schools, among them famous names such as Eton College, Harrow, Winchester, Westminster and St Paul's.

On Tuesday, chief schools inspector David Bell said many of the private schools outside the ISC were among the worst in England.

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