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This is back from the mid 1980's in the UK. The story of a boy who is sent away to a school which turns out to be for witches and warlocks. This was pre-Harry Potter so it wasn't a parody.

The book was quite comedic in tone, and starts with the boy and his awful family deciding to send him away to this boarding school to toughen him up. I remember one of the jokes was that the father or uncle declaring that he needed regular beatings, on the grounds that he'd had them and they'd never done him any harm - before the text revealed he was in a wheelchair.

It was meant to be a comedy, I think; but had some dark themes about the supernatural - our teacher read us the first chapter and then never returned to it. It was certainly more sinister and spooky than Harry Potter or the Worst Witch.

I vaguely remember another male pupil and a female one, and dimly recall the school being on a misty lake. The book had a black and red cover, I think.

Sadly the content mean that it's virtually impossible to google for without being overwhelmed by Hogwarts stuff.

Thanks!

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    It wasn't a parody of Harry Potter, but it's quite possible that JK Rowling took ideas from it! :-) Have you checked this list to see whether it's mentioned? – Rand al'Thor Oct 3 '15 at 23:03
  • Amazing! Yes, Groosham Grange by Anthony Horowitz. I never would have thought to look there. Wow. Thank you so much. – Imperator Helvetica Oct 3 '15 at 23:50
  • Great! I've added this as an answer so that you can accept it (click the green checkmark to the left). – Rand al'Thor Oct 3 '15 at 23:54
  • I hadn't seen your answer when making the above comment. Maybe I shouldn't take the credit, since you found the book with just a little help from me! If you edit your answer to give more details about the book, you could undelete it and accept it instead? – Rand al'Thor Oct 4 '15 at 8:37
  • That's very kind of you, but I'm happy for you to take the credit - you did point me straight to it. Thanks for all your help. (Only my first post - what a helpful community!) – Imperator Helvetica Oct 5 '15 at 9:41
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This is Anthony Horowitz's Groosham Grange (already confirmed by the OP in comments). Here's a summary I found in a review:

David had been kicked out of a few schools and when he came home and told his parents that he was getting kicked out of his current school, Beton Academy, they were very angry. Suddenly, a letter appears telling them that David had been accepted to a school that promised to whip him into shape. The school, "Groosham Grange" was on it's own island, had only 1 vacation day a year, and parents were never invited to the school to visit!

David gets sent off and on the train and had met 2 friends on the train who were also being sent to Groosham Grange, Jeffrey, a fat little boy who stuttered and Jill, who was rich and rarely saw her parents. [...]

David, Jeffrey, Jill, and all of the other children there are not ordinary children, they are different and special. After they find out what is special about them they have choices to make.

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