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Day School or Boarding School?

Are you trying to determine whether to send your child to day or boarding 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 day or boarding 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 it 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).

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What about the dedication of the staff? The image of the stuffy housemaster is long gone, and 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. 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. These 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?

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Single Sex or Co-Ed?

Dr Wallersteiner 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 such schools have many more opportunities to develop their confidence than in a co-ed environment. If you are considering a single sex option, Samantha suggests that you ensure the school holds lots of socials with boys’ 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 boarder 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). These schools still need parents to make the community work and are at pains to point out that they are not a country club.

So, should I send my child to boarding school?

The decision to send your child to boarding school is a huge step for both you and your child. It may not suit every child but for many it can offer a tremendous boost to their personal and academic development. If you have decided on boarding but are struggling to select the right school, call one of our education consultants for independent advice today.

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1. Smaller Classes

More often than not, children will be assigned to smaller classes in a boarding school than in a regular day school. In many cases, smaller classes are associated with higher levels of engagement from both the child and the teacher. For a child, this can help to increase the amount of guidance and support they receive and gives a teacher the opportunity to tailor their approach to be in line with a child’s specific strengths and needs.

2. Extra-curricular activities

One of the accepted benefits of boarding schools is their ability to offer a greater variety of extra-curricular activities. This can range from less conventional sports, such as Taekwondo and scuba diving to specialised performing arts programmes. Having these opportunities is not only integral to the personal development of your child but will also contribute to the success of their university application. Schools such as Millfield and Uppingham have state-of-the-art sporting facilities and reassuringly, still maintain fantastic academic results.

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3. Academic progression

Boarding schools attract particularly dedicated teaching staff because for many of them who live on campus, school is a way of life. Their passion for and immersion in the fabric of the school itself help to inspire children and to encourage their drive to achieve pastorally and academically.

4. Independence

Most children will not experience a true sense of independence until they leave their home for university. By attending boarding school, children are given more independence earlier and will learn to adapt to living in a community outside of their family unit. This enhances their preparation for life beyond education, helping to develop their maturity and independence before entering the adult world. One caveat to this is that in a single-sex boarding school many parents feel the single-sex environment can stifle maturation and create difficulties with relationships in early adult life that could be avoided by sending their son or daughter to co-educational school.

5. Fewer Distractions

It is often easy for a child to become distracted at home with television, social media and games all in close proximity. Even if your child tries to focus on their work, the temptation of being distracted is all too prevalent. In contrast, boarding school offers an environment that is specifically set up to be conducive to learning, with an ethos of, ‘work hard, play hard’, the benefit of multiple after-school clubs and scheduled prep time to complete homework. The ever-present housemaster or housemistress plays an integral role in limiting such everyday disturbances and encouraging your child to focus on learning.


6. Stronger alumni networks

Stronger alumni networks go hand-in-hand with the boarding school experience. The environment is intensive and each school fosters its own unique identity that helps to deepen friendships, in most cases, giving your child an enhanced self-confidence and sense of identity (albeit it a manufactured one). These networks continue into the professional world, opening new avenues and opportunities along the way.

7. International students

International students can also particularly benefit from attending boarding school. By having the opportunity to immerse themselves in British culture, they not only pick up the native language fluently, but also gain a key understanding of the country’s education system and a ready-made social network and alumni group to help them progress in the working environment. Another major advantage for international students is that these schools provides a safe entry into another culture, with excellent pastoral care to help students overcome homesickness and culture shock. As a minor caveat, parents may want to check that the school they choose makes sufficient effort to integrate international students; a very small number silo them into separate residential units.