The Telegraph has an interview with Sir Greg Martin of Durand Academy in which he proposes the opening of a generation of no-frills boarding schools to give inner-city children a top education at a fraction of the normal cost…
Schools can keep prices down by working to a five-day week and dispensing with “hugely elaborate” activities such as golf lessons, archery, polo and Olympic-sized pools, it was claimed.
Sir Greg Martin, head of Durand Academy, south London, said it was possible to provide boarding education for just £1,300 per pupil each year – a fraction of the cost in other schools.
In the first move of its kind, Durand is proposing to open its own boarding provision for pupils aged 11 to 18 in the heart of the Sussex Downs, with all costs being covered out of school funds.
Most other state boarding schools typically charge parents around £10,000 in boarding fees. Private boarding schools charge an average of £27,600.
The Durand scheme was criticised by the National Audit Office last month, claiming that the Government had failed to properly analyse the “financial risk of the project”.
Existing boarding school heads have also branded the costings “ludicrous”.
But in an interview with the Telegraph, Sir Greg said many figures within the educational establishment were threatened by change and innovation.
“We are very confident that our model will work,” he said. “Now of course we are not doing hugely elaborate after school provision. We are not buying in archery or clay pigeon shooting or sending them off on holidays to the Arctic. But this is about learning away from home, getting your homework done, doing chess clubs, sports, drama and music.”
The Durand boarding school – due to open in September 2014 – will be free to pupils and the school estimates that boarding costs can be kept at £1,300-a-year.
The budget is being reduced by running the school for four-and-a-half days – rather than seven – and sending pupils and staff home on a Friday lunchtime. It will have facilities including an athletics track, 25m pool and cricket nets.
Sir Greg said there was “scope and demand” for more schools run along similar lines, adding that the academy “would be delighted to support any other school that wants to do it”.
He said: “We would not be able to do a 50m swimming pool or golf course and polo riding, but that’s fine.
“There’s scope within our education system for state boarding schools run at this sort of cost, providing a more limited after school provision, which is still a hell of a lot better than children leaving school at 3.10 for an evening wandering around the streets and trying to do their physics homework without any support.”
Two questions: do Sir Greg’s proposals sound credible – can current boarding school costs be reduced so dramatically – and if so, is the idea of lower cost state boarding schools a good one? Are there children who could benefit from this? Please let us know what you think…