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What do prep school children gain from boarding?

It is easy to see why flexible and family orientated modern boarding options appeal to UK based families.  Children are able to have the best of both worlds – immersing themselves fully in school life and everything it offers, while being able to return home at weekends or some evenings for quality family time. Will Brooks, Headmaster of Brambletye explains why boarding is back in fashion.

How Boarding builds self-esteem for life – In the educational world and beyond, there are many conversations around how schools can best prepare children for their futures.   Workplaces and experts increasingly say they value soft skills and character over stellar grades.  They are looking for hard working, creative, empathetic and  resilient team players.

Boarding schools pride themselves on developing these skills in their pupils. In schools particularly with international pupils, the children live in a global village where cultural diversity is naturally celebrated. Children enjoy equality regardless of backgrounds and good friendships are based on mutual interests and respect.  They learn to make and correct mistakes, problem solve, to be tolerant and to take risks in a safe and nurturing environment while developing independence and a better understanding of self.

When is the right time for a child to start boarding?   Parents often choose a school when their child is Nursery or Reception age.  The idea of sending their child to board is incomprehensible at the time. But as the children grow up and become more independent, so their desire to spend more time with their peers and to explore more opportunities increases. Children develop at different rates and deciding when the right time to board should be determined less by age and more linked to the child’s wish to board. The joy of today’s offering means that the decision to board can now be child-led. Younger children will see and hear about life in the dorms or evening activities and from around Year 4 or 5, may decide that they would like to have the opportunity to be part of the lego club or to take extra tennis lessons or to make Friday facemasks. Two or three nights a week, with Friday nights being a particular favourite and (we can’t imagine why that is!) are a good starting point. Children quickly start to feel part of the boarding community and by Years 7 & 8, the pull to be with friends becomes even stronger and it is at this point that children often choose to weekly board, with an option to spend some weekends at school.

Advice for Parents of a homesick child – Some children bounce into boarding without glancing back. Other children experience homesickness in varying degrees and while it is normal, it can be agonising for parents to see and hear their tearful child call home or return back to school. It is often helpful for parents to understand that homesickness is usually for short periods of time and as children become more familiar with their boarding environment, they either grow out of it, or start to understand their feelings better. Schools have teams of experienced and trained boarding staff who will support the children and ensure that they are happy and settled. A close relationship between parents and staff is of super importance to ensure the staff are aware of anything that may unsettle a child, enabling them to give the right support. In turn, they will keep parents informed of their child’s emotional, social and mental wellbeing.

A child’s journey through boarding school is an incredible opportunity to broaden social and cultural horizons, to make strong friendships and networks, for experiences and experimentation in a safe environment. Boarders leave school as confident, well-adjusted young adults who are well prepared for university and their lives beyond education.


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