Fettes says Potter can cast spell on pupils

FETTES College is attempting to cash in on the Harry Potter phenomenon by staging a themed open day.

The exclusive establishment’s prep school is targeting children who dream of attending a real-life Hogwarts by offering a "spell-making" course in a chemistry lab and the chance to handle owls like the schoolboy wizard’s feathered friend Hedwig. Teachers at the school will even don robes for the occasion.

The 13,000-a-year boarding school hopes the one-off event will capitalise on the overwhelming success of the best-selling books and blockbuster films, which has turned author JK Rowling into one of Britain’s richest women.

Although the Edinburgh-based writer has denied Hogwarts was inspired by Fettes College’s famous gothic facades , school officials insist they have much in common.

Prep school headmaster Gregg Davies today said: "Pupils who have read the books have often said: ‘Don’t you think Hogwarts would look like Fettes?’

"We have less magic here and we don’t have any dungeons with monsters hiding in them, but there are similarities. Harry Potter gets a lot out of extracurricular activities such as Quidditch at Hogwarts and he has built up a camaraderie with his friends similar to what he would get at Fettes."

School chiefs plan to bring in South Queensferry magician Scott Lovat and four owls from the Edinburgh Bird of Prey centre for a demonstration. The event will also feature a torchlit tour of the school grounds, and teachers in fancy dress will emulate characters including Harry’s headmaster Professor Albus Dumbledore.

Mr Davies added: "After the kids here went to the latest Harry Potter film, they said it would be great if we had a Hogwarts weekend .

"The pupils have demanded I wear a gown so I’ll not be wearing my normal suit. But I’m not as old as Dumbledore."

After about two decades in decline, interest in boarding schools across the UK has been revived by the Harry Potter craze.

The overall number of boarders increased for the first time in 15 years in 2002, up one per cent to almost 70,000 nationally.

Mr Davies claimed the books have prompted a major shift in attitudes - with youngsters now often begging their parents to attend boarding schools. He added: "Twenty years ago it would have been parents saying: ‘I’m going to send my son or daughter to boarding school’. Now the idea of boarding has been put into children’s minds by this fantastically popular series of fiction."

Experts agree the Harry Potter series has had a dramatic effect on attracting children to boarding schools.

Fiona Valpy, of the Scottish Council of Independent Schools, said: "Harry Potter has done a lot to raise the profile of boarding and we’ve heard anecdotally it’s resulted in an increase in interest."

A spokeswoman for the Boarding Schools Association added: "It’s a massive decision and I don’t think any parent takes that lightly, based on a book their child has read. But the books may have caused both parents and children to get interested in boarding ."

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was the UK’s biggest film of 2002 - raking in more than 50 million at the box office.

The fifth book in the series is due to hit store shelves on June 21. Internet bookshop Amazon.co.uk sold more than 30,000 copies of the long-awaited Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix within 24 hours of last week’s announcement that the manuscript had been completed.

A spokeswoman for Ms Rowling today declined to comment on the Fettes College event, which is being held on February 8.