Sending Children To Boarding School Aged Eight Is Not A Cure For The Childcare Crisis

Childcare is in crisis - but boarding primary schools are not the answer.

Sending Children To Boarding School Aged Eight Is Not A Cure For The Childcare Crisis

by Rebecca Reid |
Updated on

There was a time when shipping your child off to boarding school before they had so much as hit puberty was a fact of life for certain types of families. Not just very monied ones, either. Families who were in the military services and therefore travelled a lot could, for instance, expect to have the school fees for their children taken care of.

The rights and wrongs of boarding school are a highly fraught emotional topic (take a quick look at Mumsnet if you want proof). Suffice to say there are arguments for both sides. But whether you're a total believer, or you regard boarding schools as an anachronism, we can probably agree that sending children to school when they are very little (in the UK some children used to be sent as young as five, but eight was standard), is not good.

So, news of a brand new state boarding school where children can start as young as eight is frightening. Haven’t we learned anything from the generations of little girls and boys who were sent off so young? Didn't the pictures of kids with knee socks and oversized blazers, smiling at the camera while trying not to cry, teach us anything?

In defence of the system, Jonathan Taylor, chief executive of the Sapienta Education Trust, says the new school offers a solution to middle-class families unable to afford such fees and 'supports their working patterns', with many parents having to otherwise employ after-school care to look after their children.

State boarding schools cost around £11K a year rather than the £40,000-ish it costs to attend a secondary private boarding school. In the cases of older children, state boarding schools are often heralded as great levellers. The issue here isn't the concept of boarding, it's the fact that childcare provisions are so woefully poor in the UK that state boarding schools are being held up as a viable solution.

Perhaps the most depressing aspect of the suggestion that you should place your child in a boarding school to sort out your childcare issues is that - at least on paper - it would probably work. A nanny costs around £25,000 per year, meaning that if you had two children it would be three grand cheaper to use a boarding school for childcare. Using a childminder costs around £8,300, so not far off the cost of a boarding school - when you factor in food, transport and other household costs they’re probably around the same.

Boarding school can be a magical experience - I went to one, I know. But it is only right for those children who crave freedom, adventure and independence. It is not suitable for all children whose parents aren’t able to balance working full-time with the school run.

Lots of children aren’t cut out for boarding school. Ask anyone who has suffered from chronic homesickness what that felt like and they’ll tell you that it’s the most painful, miserable feeling imaginable. The most cursory google will show you personal essay after personal essay from people who feel that attending a boarding school that was wrong for them has left them with a lifetime of emotional trauma.

The current working week was not designed for couples who have children, rather for one professional partner and one who stays at home with the children. Socially that’s no longer the expectation, and even for couples who would like to have one parent at home full-time, it’s an expensive luxury that few can afford.

Raising a child born in 2016 to the age of 18 in the UK will cost an average of £230,000. Given how few of us can afford to put money into our pensions or to save for a house deposit, is it really any surprise that we’re struggling to give up work and raise a child on a single income?

There is nothing wrong with boarding schools for the right child, at the right time. But they are not - and must not - be held up as a ‘cure all’ for the childcare crisis; and make no mistake, childcare in this country is a crisis. Shared parental leave throughout childhood, compulsory on-site childcare, subsidised childcare and better flexible working should all be offered alongside state boarding.

Rather than building brand new boarding schools, we should be working to create a low-stress, affordable situation where children can be looked after by their working parents.

Artists who started their careers at the BRIT school


Artists who started at BRIT school

Amy Winehouse singing on stage in a red and black dress1 of 11
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Amy Winehouse

Before her untimely death in 2011, Amy released two Top 5 albums, she also received a BRIT Award for British Female Solo Artist in 2007.

Katie Melua standing looking into the camera whilst holding her guitar2 of 11
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Katie Melua

Katie Melua has had eight Top 10 albums in the UK and is known for her Number 1 single, 'What a Wonderful World' with Eva Cassidy.

Adele singing on stage in a black dress at The Grammy Awards3 of 11
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What a career Adele has had! Since winning the Critics' Choice Award in 2007, Adele has gone on to have three Number 1 albums and won a number of awards, including BRIT Awards, GRAMMYs and Billboard Music Awards.After a hiatus, Adele delighted her fans when she released her huge track 'Easy On Me' on 15th October. The singer then sent the Internet into a frenzy when she confirmed her new album '30' would be released on Friday 19th November.

Jessie J singing on stage in a black leather jacket4 of 11
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Jessie J

At the age of 16 Jessie J began studying at the BRIT School and has since gone on to release three Top 5 albums, and have huge success with her singles including, 'Price Tag', 'Domino', and 'Bang Bang'.

Kate Nash posing for photo in a black polka dot blouse5 of 11
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Kate Nash

Kate Nash enjoyed success with her debut album, 'Made of Bricks', in 2007, also releasing singles, 'Foundations', 'Mouthwash' and 'Do-Wah-Doo'.

Singer Katy B posing for a press shot6 of 11
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Katy B

Since releasing her debut album 'On a Mission' in 2011, Katy B has had chart success with 'Lights On', 'Turn the Music Louder (Rumble)' and 'Crying for No Reason'.

Leona Lewis singing on stage in a red jacket7 of 11
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Leona Lewis

Not only did Leona Lewis attend BRITs School, she also won the third series of The X Factor in 2006. Since her X Factor success Leona has had three Number 1 singles.

Rizzie Kicks posing for a photo in thick black jackets8 of 11
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Rizzle Kicks

Both members of Rizzle Kicks, Jordan 'Rizzle' Stephens and Harley 'Kicks' Alexander-Sule attend BRIT School and have since two Top 5 albums and released a number of singles including, 'Down with the Trumpets' and featuring on Olly Murs', 'Heart Skips a Beat'.

Ela Eyre singing on stage in black leather jumpsuit9 of 11
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Ella Eyre

Ella Eyre is best known for her collaborations with Rudimental, 'Waiting All Night' DJ Fresh, 'Gravity', and with Sigala on his singles, 'Came Here for Love', and 'Just Got Paid'.

Freya Ridings10 of 11
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Freya Ridings

Freya Ridings broke into the music scene in 2019, when her hit single 'Castles' become one of the songs of the summer due to it being played on Love Island. She went on to release her self-titled debut album and continued to storm the charts in 2020.

Raye11 of 11
CREDIT: u00a9 Getty Images


Rachel Agatha Keen, better known as Raye, took the world by storm back in 2016 following the release of breakthrough singles 'By Your Side' by Jonas Blue and 'You Don't Know Me' by Jax Jones, which featured her vocals. In 2020 she dropped her debut mini-album 'Euphoric Sad Songs' and has provided us with huge tracks such as 'Bed' with Joel Corry and David Guetta.Raye attend the BRIT School for two years, before dropping out after reportedly feeling "confined, despite learning an extensive amount." It's safe to say she's had a successful career since then - even gaining herself two BRIT Award nominations in 2021!Her album is set to come out in 2022, and we can't wait!

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