Now more than ever both parents may be involved in careers which bring responsibility and reward but also require dedication and long hours, often with long journeys to and from work. For time-poor parents, a boarding school for their child is the perfect solution. More than 80% of parents live within an hour and a half of their child's boarding school, so it is possible to get to the matches or performances, to support at parents' evenings and be part of a child's life at school. Parents are not forgotten, and the star performer will glow a little more brightly when Mum and Dad are in the front row.
But the full boarding life fills the child's week with opportunity, fun and companionship, better by far than a succession of baby-sitters, au pairs with dubious English skills, or passing on the stairs at the end of a long day.
Indeed, boarding education can be a very cost-effective solution to the problem of busy parents and active, interested children who need ferrying to judo on Monday, jazz band on Tuesday and rugby practice twice a week. In addition, there will be savings to be made on food, laundry, heat and light and travel costs.
For many parents, the biggest worry about children going to boarding school is how much they will miss them. Happily, contact with parents has never been easier. Parents and Houseparents in charge of boarding houses are in constant reassuring contact by phone, e-mail, fax and regular meetings. Boarding houses will have private telephone kiosks and booths for student use, and few children go to boarding school without a mobile phone. No, they won't be able to use them in lessons or during school hours, but everyone acknowledges the importance of keeping in touch with home, parents and siblings, by phone or e-mail or Skype or MSN. Modern boarding really is a partnership between school and parents, with both parties seeking the best for the child and the child drawing reassurance from that supportive team.
Many boarding schools are more flexible than ever before, offering full boarding, weekly boarding or even occasional boarding to suit parents' and pupils' needs. Weekly boarding has been a modern response to the wish of parents both to provide the best all-round educational experience for their children, and have time to spend with them. There is often a tacit agreement that the whole family works hard all week, but they spend weekends together - the sometimes mythical ‘quality time'. This is another element in the diversity of schools - whatever your family wants, you are likely to find a school which provides it in the wide range of boarding schools available.