Plans to encourage more state schools to provide boarding facilities are ill-thought out, the head of a Midland-based state boarding school said yesterday.
Officials at the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) believe boarding could help boost educational attainment, particularly in areas of deprivation.
It has been in talks with Kingshurst City Technology College, located in a deprived part of Solihull, to provide full board to pupils as part of its drive to gain academy status.
Under the model being considered, 20 per cent of places could be offered free to children from vulnerable backgrounds while 80 per cent would be fee-paying.
Costs would be about a third of that in the independent sector – around #8,000 - with parents just paying for boarding and not school fees.
But Melvyn Roffe, headmaster of Old Swinford Hospital in Stourbridge, one of the few state boarding schools in the country, said: "The thrust behind the idea is good.
"It is reassuring the Government is saying they recognise that boarding provides something extra to the education offering, compared to six years ago when it was seen as strange.
"But there has been insufficient thought about what the practicalities will be for any individual school and what really is the strategy."
Mr Roffe questioned whether schools in deprived areas would be able to find sufficient demand for the 80 per cent of fees that would have to be found by parents.
"Whether it would be economic to operate a boarding school in that context is a big question," he said.
Mr Roffe, who is also vice chairman of the State Boarding Schools' Association, claimed a better way forward would be to give more support to the handful of existing state boarding schools.
"We have about 30 of them randomly distributed around the country which local education authorities didn't manage to close down. Let's build on that and look at the ones that used to have boarding which have been mothballed."
Mr Roffe suggested some independent boarding schools might also be encouraged to come into the state sector.
Solihull Borough Council claimed governors at Kingshurst have been asked by the DfES to consider the implications of taking on boarders as it works towards academy status.
Andrew Adonis, the Schools Minister spearheading the academies drive, has supported the plans.
"State boarding schools do an excellent job," he said. "We want to build on their success, and the Kingshurst proposal would introduce an important new boarding element to the work of academies."
Last night, however, a spokesman for the DfES claimed the Government was not saying all state schools should look at becoming boarding.
Mr Roffe claimed boarding can be a good for many youngsters, including those from troubled backgrounds. "The big thing is the continuity between education expectation and the care that goes around it," he said.
"There is no mis-match between what we are saying at school at what goes on outside. There is one expectation. One set of staff dealing with them. That is what drives the success."
Mr Roffe added boarders also benefited from a wider range of structured activities. email@example.com