Students who are about to begin boarding school are often both excited about the forthcoming experience and scared about what to expect. One of the best ways to find out more about the boarding lifestyle, for both prospective boarders and their parents, friends and family, is to talk to current boarders at the school you are looking at. Each boarding school has its own rules, expectations, opportunities and facilities and no one will be better able to relate these than the students themselves. With that in mind, here Sonja, who attended a UK secondary boarding school from the age of 11 until 18, discusses her time there. She offers the proviso that this is her own, individual experience and personal view.
Hi, I'm Sonja and I'm now a second-year university student but I spent seven years of my (secondary) education at a small boarding school, based in the British countryside. My parents live abroad and I didn't want to move away from the UK, so we all decided that boarding would be the best option when I turned 11.
Making the Decision
Just because it was a shared decision between my parents and I, don't think that I didn't get scared before I started boarding school! I was worried about moving away, finding it cliquey, and losing my privacy. Plus little concerns about the food quality, bedtimes, and things like that. But luckily, I didn't have too many problems. I think partly this is because I had visited the school so many times before hand (four or five times, to help me settle in) so I knew the layout. Also all the students were new, the school only started at age 11, so we all felt the same in the early days. At first, you might feel homesick, as I did, but boarding schools are experienced at helping you to get over that. There's so much to do at the start, what with sorting out books, decorating rooms and meeting teachers, that there's no time to be upset.
A Sample Day
Boarding school is like any other school, there are routines that you quickly learn to follow. Some are stricter than others, mine wasn't that strict, but in any case most become more free with students as they go up the school. We'd have to be ready for breakfast by 8, so would have time to wash and dress before then. I shared a room until year 9, when I had my own. That worried me at first, but it's actually really nice, and I missed having a room mate so much in the holidays! Breakfast was normally cereal and toast or eggs, and assembly would be afterwards, at 9. Then we had 40 minute long lessons, in all the normal subjects, until lunchtime, which was followed by another set of three 40-minute lessons.
Then, the official learning day was over and we got to take advantage of something that's so rare in other schools - incredible facilities. We could do endless sport, and so many other options, including music, chess, art, IT, cooking and so on. We had prep time for homework too in the evenings, but as we went up the school this became less structured, although we always had to do it.
This might sound nerdy but it's great to have teachers around to help with homework - they're much more use than parents! Plus it's amazing to have a ready made social life of all your school friends, and wonderful facilities that often accompany boarding schools. We had trips in weekends, if we didn't have plans to meet family or friends, and a great support network of pastoral care.
Sometimes in the holidays it was hard to adjust to constant parental questions, and the shift in pace from boarding school life - you get used to the order and so on. And other friends who have boarded have complained about poor food, not-so-nice teachers or staff, and living in dorms - but I have to say, I didn't experience these and loved my boarding experience. If you're starting one, good luck and enjoy it!
I know it's been about 7 years since 'Alternative View' wrote, but as a houseparent in an independent boarding school, my parents having been the same and having boarded myself, I feel I have to offer a contrasting viewpoint. The concerns AV raises are valid, but instead of dismissing boarding schools as a result of them, why not use those concerns to help make it better. Moreover, the positive points of a boarding school far outweigh the negative, but because it is the negative ones that are broadcast, it is those that are most heard. If they did send your children to boarding school, they could work effectively with houseparents and pastoral staff to make sure that their children did not experience the same negative issues as they did, while experiencing all the positives.
Let us take AV's point about Self Harm: are they suggesting that all students who stay at home are happy and don't self harm? Are they suggesting that the cause of self harm is coming purely from the boarding school environment and not part of an existing issue (perhaps 'Mummy' related)? The point is this: boarding school staff increasingly (through organisations like the BSA and continuing child safeguarding CPD) are trained to deal with these pastoral issues and as a result can step in and either help the student affected or find those who can. Just because they have more children to deal with does not mean they are not better at spotting such issues perhaps before parents do.
We must also not forget that we are not our children and that we cannot let our own pasts cloud their future experiences. In fact we should use them to enhance them.
Houseparent - 17-Mar-18 @ 10:52 AM
I am not in favour of sending a student toboarding school
Divu - 28-Nov-17 @ 4:43 PM
My son is 6 years old and i really want the best for him hence iam considering taking him to a boarding school so he can learn independence and be fully focused on his school work without the distractions of the playing in the street
lee - 29-Dec-16 @ 4:18 PM
I'm a 15 year old girl from South Africa,Durban.I'm doing grade 11 and up to this day I'm still hoping to have a chance to study abroad.I'm an excellent academic student I nevr get less then 4 distinctions.I play two sporting codes and I just stopped gymnastics.I get along with people easily with people and I am a good sister.can someone please assist me in getting a bursary and attending attending a good boarding school in the UK,USA or Australlia.
Tios - 11-Apr-13 @ 12:33 PM
My memories of boarding school contrast with Sonja's; although I do agree that the facilities offered may exceed those available to most families.
Boarding school is cliquey.All schools are and boarding school is no different.The distinction is that after you've had a crap day and you've fallen out with a friend you don't have a Mummy to go home to who will tell you that you are a decent worthwhile person.It is my belief that this is one of the reasons why self-harming in boarding schools is reaching epidemic proportions.Happy teenagers don't self-harm.
We haven't covered academia yet.Living with teachers is fine, but inevitably they favour the gifted children and offer little to the remainder.Nobody mentions that parents help children with their GCSE and A-level homework/ coursework.This is just not possible at Boarding school and teachers are bound by how much assistance they can offer.
Parents need to know that they will not have the same relationship with their child as they would if they were at home.I wonder what proportion of people who attended boarding school would send their children to one.I certainly am not.