AS it stands, there are approximately 500 boarding schools in the UK and Northern Ireland. Eighteen of these are in Scotland, although this will drop when ESMS closes its boarding house in 2025 after 60 years.

While the closure of such long-standing boarding schools would have you believe interest is declining, the 70,000 boarding pupils in the UK – a figure that has remained steady since the turn of the century – suggest otherwise.

Far from being a relic of the past, boarding schools are key to Scotland’s ever-changing educational landscape.

The reality is the modern boarding school is a far cry from those of old, with a much greater emphasis on wellbeing, community and cultivating independence. Critically, boarding schools today cater to the complex and wide-ranging needs of 21st-century families.

It's not just international families who choose boarding. Due to an increasingly busy schedule, we Scots endure a 54-minute commute time. For our children, that is 54 minutes lost to play, exploration, socialising, and learning. Boarding school, however, affords young people an extended day, and with it the chance to pursue a vast array of interests.

At Merchiston, as with other boarding schools, students have ample time to fully digest the curriculum, participate in diverse extra-curricular activities and enjoy the company of their friends, all under the careful supervision of boarding staff.

Today boarders have far greater levels of flexibility, with more frequent opportunities to visit and contact home. Consequently, boarders benefit from a close-knit school community, with a diverse schedule and social life, and the support and love of their family.

Academically speaking, boarding schools typically perform highly in UK league tables. The smaller class sizes and generous teacher to student ratio allow for a more tailored approach to teaching, supporting the individual to achieve their personal best.

The impact of this is felt far beyond graduation. Surveys reveal boarding pupils feel more prepared for life after school compared with private and state educated day students. Specifically, boarders point to higher levels of independence, time management and social life (the Association of Boarding Schools).

Equally, the boarding experience fosters lifelong friendships. I see this daily in the boys at Merchiston, who develop brotherly relationships with the peers they live and study alongside. This is backed by evidence that found 78 per cent of boarders felt motivated by their peers, compared to 49% of state school pupils.

At a time when loneliness is being linked to mental health problems for tens of thousands of young people across Scotland, boarding offers a community and connection that children greatly benefit from, with friends from both down the road and across the globe.

Boarding schools have proven they can adapt with the times, innovating to meet the needs of modern families and children. As we look to develop Scotland’s school system we should seek to incorporate, not exclude, boarding institutions. Doing so will only enhance and enrich the lives of our young people.

Jonathan Anderson is Headmaster of Merchiston Castle School in Edinburgh