Page last updated at 14:22 GMT, Monday, 28 April 2008 15:22 UK

Boarding schools urged to share

The government says it has halted school playing field sell-offs

The head of the body representing private boarding schools says they should share facilities with state schools where possible and practical.

But Boarding Schools' Association chairman Geoffrey Boult said if the government invested in them, such arrangements would happen more often.

Boarding school parents should not have to foot the bill for the sell-off of state school playing fields, he argues.

The government denies needed school grounds are still being sold off.

Mr Boult will tell his annual conference on Tuesday that boarding schools are willing to share facilities not just because the Charity Commission is encouraging them to do so, but because it is part of their ethos.

Our teachers are quite willing to help all young people
Mr Boult
Boarding Schools' Association

"Our teachers are quite willing to help all young people in activities they themselves love and where they can share knowledge and experience," Mr Boult will say.

"However, if the government wants to see our facilities used more, perhaps they would like to help us build them by investing in these facilities."

Mr Boult's own school, Giggleswick School in Yorkshire, would love a new indoor pool and would be happy to host one that local children could use, as well as its own pupils, he will say.

A Department for Children, Schools and Families spokeswoman said independent schools needed to show they provide "public benefit" to support their continuing charitable status.

"The Charity Commission will consider the combined impact of all the charitable activities the school carries out in assessing whether the school is providing this," she added.

Mr Boult will also say that boarding schools offer a huge variety of sports and fitness opportunities, and these are an essential part of what boarding is about.

Local needs

Such schools teach pupils how to lose and how to fail as well as how to succeed, he will argue.

"We have daily winners and losers; it is part of life."

Mr Boult will also argue that boarding schools provide a fully rounded education and embed a value system in which every member of the community deserved respect.

He will also quote newspaper reports that more than 300 state school and community playing fields were sold for development last year.

This is happening despite government promises to halt this "progressive degradation" of young people's opportunity for exercise, he will say.

But a spokeswoman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said: "This claim is totally wrong. Nineteen school playing fields were sold in 2007 and the majority of these were at closed schools.

"We are not in the business of allowing schools to take away sports and play facilities."

There were rules to ensure that sales could go ahead only at closed schools and where school playing fields were genuinely surplus to local needs.

"All proceeds must be invested in new sports facilities in the first instance, including new grassed pitches, all-weather pitches and sports halls," she added.

Department figures said 63 school playing fields were sold off between 2003 and 2008.

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