Boarding schools to undergo makeover

The Boarding Schools' Association (BSA) is mounting a PR offensive to improve the public's understanding of the boarding system.

Clarion Communications has been called in to debunk the perception that boarding schools are austere and uncaring environments. The agency said it would be repositioning boarding as 'adding value over and above the classroom environment'.

The news comes as two girls' boarding schools have been forced to close due to dropping numbers. Wispers School in Haslemere, Surrey, will not reopen after the summer holidays, blaming financial pressures and a drop in demand for all-girls' education. Wentworth College in Bournemouth also shuts this month.

The BSA represents 500 independent and state boarding schools in the UK.

Clarion won the account after a six-way competitive pitch and will work on a retainer, reporting to BSA national director Hilary Moriarty.

Clarion board director Jonathan Edwards said that he would be working to change public perceptions of boarding schools by 'working with the media and detractors to give them a proper picture, not the outdated view'.

'We are going to tackle the detractors head on,' added Edwards. 'A lot of negative views may stem from bad experiences in the '50s and '60s. We cannot change these experiences but we can show people that boarding has moved on.'

Clarion will also draw attention to state schools that offer boarding.

Planned tactics include the creation of two social reports, and Edwards is developing research into British Olympic medallists who went to boarding schools. There are also plans to have journalists meet headmasters and students.

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