Boarding schools have played a prominent role in pop culture for decades. Thanks to the large number of writers and public figures who attended them as youngsters, they have taken on an almost dreamy romanticism. Almost everyone seems to have ideas about what particular boarding schools are like, but how many of them are based on reality?
Enid Blyton’s fictitious boarding school for girls came to life in six books between 1946 and 1951. The heroine, Darrell Rivers, becomes embroiled in a variety of suitably innocent japes with her chums, all the while avoiding mildly strict authority figures such as Miss Potts or Matron. Despite Enid Blyton’s reputation for English primness, the author reputably enjoyed playing naked tennis.
More of a borstal than a boarding school, St Trinian’s is the antithesis of a reputable educational establishment. Its students drink, gamble, and smoke, and the teachers aren’t much better. Although the school was invented by English cartoonist Ronald Searle, it is a seemingly familiar place, thanks to a series of films made about it over the past six decades. The inspiration for St Trinian’s came from two independent girls’ schools in Cambridge – Perse School for Girls and St Mary’s School.
With its stunning architecture and inherent magic, many people wish Hogwarts was a real school. Oddly, some really do believe it is real. This myth isn’t helped by organisations such as the Independent Schools Network Rankings, which announced that Hogwarts was Scotland’s 36th best Scottish educational establishment in 2008.
Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches
Mildred’s boarding school for witches is situated in a stone castle on top of a mountain surrounded by forest. In reality, the setting for the school is Castle Coch, a 19th-century folly overlooking a busy A-road linking Cardiff and Pontypridd.
Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters
Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters was founded by Professor Charles Xavier for the purpose of training young mutants to control their powers. However, anyone who’s read the X-Men will know that the school is far from being a safe haven, as it seems to get blown up at least once every few years. Worse still, the mortality rate appears to far outstrip the graduation rate. With this in mind, it’s a good thing that the school doesn’t actually exist.
Jane Eyre has a particularly miserable time when she is sent to board at a charity school known as the Lowood Institution. The teachers are cruel, the rooms cold, the food revolting and the school-issued clothing thin. Somewhat sadly, this fictitious school was actually based on a real establishment attended by the author, Charlotte Bronte, and her sister. Cowan Bridge was a Clergy Daughters’ School, and the Brontes were forced to endure eating burnt porridge and being made to wash in freezing water.
About Author: This piece was written by Alexanders College. Formerly Alexanders International School, the school has 40 years of experience in children’s education and is situated on a beautiful 120-acre campus on the Suffolk coast.