Boarding schools must correct "the wrongs of the past" and create "obstructive obstacles" to deter potential abusers, headteachers will be told today.
Martin Reader, the chair of the Boarding Schools' Association (BSA), is today set to apologise for the abuse suffered by former pupils, on behalf of his organisation's members.
Addressing the BSA's annual conference in Brighton today, he will say: "It is to our great shame that there have been those adults at our schools who have used their positions of power to abuse those they were supposed to be looking after, or have failed to use their positions of power to stand up against those abusers, putting school reputations before children.
"We are deeply sorry to the victims and survivors of the abuse that happened in our schools and are thoroughly committed to making our schools as safe as possible."
His comments follow recent media reports about the scale of abuse at UK boarding schools, including in recent years.
Ampleforth College, in North Yorkshire, is currently subject to three ongoing police investigations into historic allegations of sexual offences.
The Department for Education last month revealed that it was sending inspectors into the school, after the Charities Commission removed pupil safeguarding responsibilities from the Catholic boarding school's trustees.BSA draws up safeguarding charter
The BSA has drawn up a safeguarding charter and is lobbying the government to introduce legislation that would compel witnesses to report cases of sexual abuse.
Mr Reader, who is also headmaster of Cranleigh School, in Surrey, will say today: "As we look ahead, our sector will continue to work hard to correct the wrongs of the past, and to put in place measures to safeguard and protect the children in our care."
This will involve taking a "zero-tolerance approach to abuse", and ensuring that safeguarding training is "more targeted and better informed".
He will say: "We need every abuser to look at every boarding school and see that our shared cultural attitudes, our policies and procedures are such obstructive obstacles that they will not work in our schools."
Mr Reader will also use his speech to highlight the need for boarding schools to be more representative of society.
He will say to attendees: "“As privileged institutions, we cannot be seen only to serve ourselves. If we aspire to be communities that transform the lives of children, what wider purpose do we have for them? Is it not to go out and transform the communities in which they live?”
A charity yesterday announced it was doubling the number of boarding school places given to disadvantaged children.
Mr Reader will praise initiatives like this, and refer to an upcoming Department for Education report into children in care attending 11 state and independent boarding schools in Norfolk. The headline figures "look very exciting indeed, with the majority [of children] coming off the risk register", he will say.