Day School or Boarding School?

Are you trying to determine whether to send your child to boarding school or day school? This article takes you through the essential questions to ask your family and child, what is new on the boarding school front and the key differences between single and co-educational schools. If you need help finding the right school for your child, please call one of our education consultants today. They will take the time to learn about your child and understand your family’s aspirations so that together we can find a school where your child will truly flourish.

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How to decide?

Your child should be at the heart of the decision to board. Good boarding schools will give your son or daughter plenty of chances to see if boarding really is for them. In Benenden, for example, admission at 11+ and 13+ for the 40 successful applications (of about 90 who apply) follows a preview weekend in the September the previous year. All girls have an interview with the headmistress and a form tutor. Their weekend stay allows them to experience dorm life and have a chance to see if boarding is for them.

Escaping the London pressure cooker. Many children at day schools in London are not at the right school because of the intense pressure for places. As a result, they might feel isolated socially, geographically, or simply be unhappy. Boarding school may be a more cost effective, socially inclusive option. Your children might have more spare time and learn how to use it constructively. They should build increased self-reliance socially (but on the flip-side they risk become institutionalised).

What about the dedication of the Boarding staff? The image of the stuffy housemaster is long gone, and boarding staff are relaxed and approachable. Pastoral care is excellent and boarding schools offer a safe environment in which to fail. For teachers and masters, school is not a job but really a way of life. With staff living on the grounds and working almost around the clock, this is undoubtedly true. But is boarding school life real life?

What worked for you? How many of your current friends are from school compared to university? So much of the decision to board will be subjective and as always, we would urge you to visit the schools and do what feels right for your children. We wish you the best of luck and if you would like to contact us to discuss your thoughts, please do so.

What’s new on the boarding front?

Dr Anthony Wallersteiner, Headmaster of Stowe, unsurprisingly, is a keen proponent of boarding. He highlights that academic and pastoral standards are much higher than they used to be in many boarding schools. Bullying is largely a thing of the past and boarders offer an exceptional range of activities; ranging from fantastic sporting facilities that bring otherwise unreachable sports, such as horse riding to all students. Rich and poor children are placed together in the same dorm so there are no social ghettos, and in fact your children will probably mix far more outside their direct social circle than they might at home. Boarding schools also often have deeper relationships with the local community.

There are several questions to ask if you are thinking of sending your child away. As well as the universal questions such as what is the value added and how long has the senior management team been in place, you should ask some specific questions related to boarding. When was the last child they expelled and why did they expel them? Who was the last child they spoke to? What did they talk about. Does the school have any problems with drugs?

Single Sex or Co-Ed?

Although Dr Wallersteiner is a keen proponent of boarding, he feels that Single sex boarding may be a step too far. In contrast, Samantha Price -Headmistress of Benenden – says that for girls in particular, single sex can be an advantage. She points out that girls at boarding school have many more opportunities to develop their confidence than in a co-ed environment. If you are considering a single sex boarding school, Samantha suggests that you ensure the school holds lots of socials with boy’s schools. This means you need to check what schools are nearby and if you like their ethos.

Full or Weekly Boarding?

A mid-way point that may be more comfortable for some parents is weekly boarding. Winchester House School’s headmistress, Emma Goldsmith explains that a weekly boarding school in the countryside may have more relaxed entry requirements – not because they are any less academic, but because there is less pressure for the number of places. Children can have the best of both worlds, with the weekly boarding allowing them to complete prep with plenty of support and plenty of access to sports and other extra curricular activities. Home then becomes a weekend sanctuary where children switch off entirely from school.

What about overseas children?

Boarding school is an excellent base for overseas children. However, schools still expect parents to get involved in the application process and to provide ongoing interest and support. Many heads have reported fake applications by agents from overseas and always prefer to meet prospective parents before accepting a child (the school will provide translators if necessary). Boarding schools still need parents to make the community work and are at pains to point out that they are not a county club.