For many, Boarding School conjures up images of cold, damp, depressing institutions where survival was an achievement and education a secondary by-product. Fortunately, those days are long gone and modern boarding offers a great deal more comfort, support and opportunity for children.
Modern boarding is largely sold on the extended educational and social opportunities residence in a school brings to the table. Most boarding schools pride themselves on the availability of state of the art facilities for study, creativity, recreation and community living that exist beyond the end of the regular school day. All this is true and in many new boarding houses the age-specific facilities exceed those of many a hotel.
Boarding schools also accommodate the lions-share of international pupils that come to the UK. We recently had a client who wanted their child to come to the UK to study because they felt they would benefit from a more liberal daily schedule and the richness of the extra-curricular activities on offer within a good English boarding school. Inversely, the school and local pupils benefit from the cross-cultural experience that build key relationships, a hallmark of the independent school network.
The demand for day schools in the Capital has long reached boiling point resulting in an ever-increasing pressure on both parents and children. Schools also feel the pressure as the days of a school simply being a place that nurtures and fosters learning and development are long gone. It is now often place for elite pursuit that requires a long-term strategy and a healthy dose of endurance in which to achieve success.
Indeed, prep-schools are frequently now judged on their success in getting pupils into the ‘best’ senior schools as well as attaining a significant level of scholarships. This means competition and achievement is high on the agenda and this starts early (in some cases even before a child has started Reception), with preparation for 11+ entrance exams supported by extra classes, private tuition and regular meetings with the Head.
The weekend for many is no longer a time for family activities; it is now dedicated to the pursuit of sporting excellence and ‘making the A-Team’. Endeavour is not restricted to the sporting fields either. Legend has it that one child that won his year’s times-table competition was tutored for it …
So, are we pushing our children too hard, too fast? And if so, is there an alternative? Yes, there is, and it is boarding school.
For working parents the stress of the weekday routine is less with boarding, and children often return home more confident and independent. The additional costs may be defrayed as the need for a nanny or au pair is alleviated. Tax efficient childcare vouchers may also be used to pay the boarding element up to the age of 15. And as they go through their teenage years when they can eat you out of house-and-home and turn you into a domestic taxi service, the savings on the weekly grocery and fuel bills will start to pay real dividends.
Boarding isn’t for everyone naturally, but it is an option that should not be overlooked. Some may look at you as if you don’t love your child but if your mornings and evenings are anything like many parents we work with, the boarding option offers advantage and serenity to all involved.
We would always recommend you discuss your options with your child and a trusted education expert who can stimulate an honest and open dialogue whilst offering the benefit of their knowledge and experience. Visiting schools with your child will also help affirm a positive outlook. It could amaze you how willing they are to accept boarding and see it as a giant sleepover, where new friendships will be forged that last a lifetime.