Page 12 - Marlborough Living Nov/Dec 2019
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                  Image courtesy Cottesmore Prep School
The unique educational experience provided by a British boarding school offers busy families a top-quality education with built-in flexibility. And although academic achievement is important, it is the ‘extras’ that really make a boarding school experience count.
Boarding fosters meaningful relationships with peers and house staff, enabling pupils to gain independence and experience
a breadth of opportunities. But with so many institutions offering so many different experiences, choosing the right school for your child can seem daunting. Below are our top tips to consider when choosing a boarding school.
1. Narrow your search
Single sex or co-ed? Country or city? Faith school or not? Some schools will say they take children of all faiths and none, and they do, but sometimes a family finds the overall ethos and ‘climate’ of a faith school to
their taste, regardless of their own religious views.
2. Study the detail
Every child is different - a rower will want a school near a river, a rugby player a good record of the sport in the school and a violinist great music rooms. Many families nowadays consider location first - can you get there to watch a game or a play, or even in an emergency?
3. Do your research
Boarding schools are like universities - you
don’t have to be local, nor to take a month touring the country. The modern would-
be applicant goes online and drills into individual websites which can tell you a lot in what schools don’t say or in how they say what they do.
4. Visit
Visit several schools. Get the feel. Is lunchtime a noisy scrum? Are corridors orderly between lessons? Do pupils look you in the eye? All these give you a flavour of the school over and above the publicity, the motto, the official words. Eyes open, compare notes.
5. Ask for a pupil tour
This is partly for you to see all parts of the school, but more to ask questions. Is the food really as good as they say? How much is there to do at weekends?
6. Check out the weekend programme
You may want a school which offers weekly boarding, but if a school has a large number of weekly boarders, the numbers staying
at weekends can reduce dramatically, and that makes providing a wide enough range of activities difficult. If you want your child to be at school at weekends, ask for details of what was done in the last couple of weeks, and exactly how many boarders were on the premises.
7. Talk to staff
And not just the Head. House staff, matrons, tutors, cleaners and caretakers –
these are the people at the sharp end of your child’s care. Do you like them? Would you trust them with your child? If you’re worried and email them, will they reply and when?
8. Involve your child
Whatever the final decision, your child will have to live it. This school will be his or her home for several years. Here, he or she
will make friends for life and forge bonds that will sustain them through their whole lives. They have to feel it is right for them. Trust your child’s gut reaction. Becoming a boarder is a growing-up kind of decision - let them have a major say in the final choice.
For further information and boarding school searches, please visit
Robin Fletcher
Chief Executive
Boarding Schools’ Association
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