I like to think of going to boarding school as the start of an adventure… An adventure like no other, where your child can develop, and blossom into their best!
But how do we know which one is best? If you were looking at a school’s academic standing you would look at inspection reports, published results and league tables, gathering enough information to make a reasonably sound judgement….. But the boarding aspect has no published results, no league tables and inspection reports based purely on meeting standards…. Leaving us in a very grey area to navigate.
Surely when it comes to boarding, one size does not fit all…. Of course, we wouldn’t judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, so why would we only choose a school based on their stats alone, when we want them to care for, and nurture our children?
So, where to begin……
For many, this will be a first time away from home, so it’s important to get it right from the off. Things to consider would be.
Dorms - These can vary a lot from school to school, ranging from single/ double en-suite rooms, to rooms that house 3 - 10 students with shared bathroom facilities.
Think about your child as an individual, younger children may be better in a larger dorm to encourage socialisation. Yet as they get older, workload and independence within school increases, so rooms with private study areas could be more favourable
Communal facilities - Look at what’s on offer with regard to common rooms, kitchens etc and what resources are available within them? Do they have access to the school site after hours, for example, gym, swimming pool, sports hall etc? Are the school able to facilitate off-site clubs and activities?
House Parents play a pivotal role in your child’s happiness, they can make or break the experience… They make school a home from home….. So in my humble opinion, they can certainly make a school stand out from the crowd. They are the mediators, counsellors, comforters, cleaners….. and on top of all that, they need to be friendly, professional, committed and dedicated.
Remember, always ask to meet with the house parents on your school visit, or in times such as now, amidst a pandemic a zoom call is invaluable!
Weekends – Unlike state education, Saturdays can play host to academic lessons, and flexibility surrounding free time can vary. It is important to check whether the school operates an exeat weekend policy (this is a time where students would be required to vacate school premises).
School days can be very full in independent schools, but weekends can be long periods of time, where children are in a less structured environment. Think about whether your child would thrive with a laid back, more relaxed weekend schedule or are you wanting an extensive timetable full to the brim with fixtures and excursions.
With so much to think about the key is to make a list of all your questions….. and remember, you can never have too many lists!
Until next time!