When our experienced consultants ask parents what they are looking for in a Prep School, most respond that they want to find a place where their child will be happy and achieve their best. Dig a little deeper and this translates as a school that will allow their child to experience many things, where they will build lasting friendships and learn the skills that will carry them through life. Yet parents remain divided when it comes to considering boarding as an option as some want to keep their child at home for longer. They are unaware of how closely today’s boarding Prep Schools match their own needs. By becoming fully informed about the modern boarding experience, families can widen their search for schools and they may even find that boarding brings them a more flexible way of family life.
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Here are ten reasons to consider boarding for your Prep School child:
- Different boarding models have opened boarding to families who are not looking for a full-time bed. This fresh approach from schools is in recognition of the support today’s families need, in order to work longer hours or to be away for short periods. These days, pupils can stay over on regular or occasional nights or from Monday to Fridays, coming home at weekends.
- Flexible boarding is fantastic for settling in and integrating pupils. The Deputy Head Pastoral at All Hallows Prep has introduced a Boarding Pass, (BSA, 2020) so boarders can invite a day pupil friend for a free overnight stay. Not only does this open the boarding experience to more children, but by doing so he has found that, ‘pupils feel wrapped up and part of one thriving community regardless of day or boarding’.
- Boarding houses are comfortable places with a home-from-home atmosphere. Boarding houses have sofa-filled common rooms with TV and games. Dorms are cosy enough to foster close friendships yet spacious enough to study in, and pupils can bring in familiar items from home. Modern technology such as Facetime allows pupils regular, reassuring contact with home.
- Boarding staff have a privileged role in a boarder’s life. They get to know each pupil very well, helping to nurture their growth and development in a partnership of mutual trust with parents. Staff today are well trained in their pastoral duties and parents can rely on the careful supervision of their child. Being closely connected with staff means boarders feel more secure and relaxed away from home.
- Boarders have the gift of time, according to Genevieve Ford, Deputy Head, Downe House (Ford, 2019). With no commute to school, and all clubs, practices and activities taking place at school, boarding pupils are rewarded with additional time to pursue their interests and to let off steam with their friends.
- Overseas pupils introduce diversity into the boarding house. Living in a global community, pupils are encouraged to be inclusive and to develop culturally awareness, which in turn nurtures their emotional intelligence and social skills.
- Boarding creates a sense of social awareness. Boarders learn how to see both sides of a situation and the importance of showing empathy. Living closely with other pupils helps them to develop important skills of diplomacy and compromise, and older pupils are role models for positive behaviour for their younger peers.
- Boarders benefit from the structure and routine boarding gives them in their day-to-day life, as it supports the growth of their executive functioning skills. Time management, planning and organisation all improve when teachers, house staff and parents are all helping the child towards the same goals.
- Homework is supervised at school with expertise available to boarders should they need assistance. It avoids those fraught moments at home for parents overseeing their child’s work and fosters independent learning in the child.
- The best boarding schools have created an extensive enrichment programme, making the most of the additional time, facilities and grounds available to encourage boarders outside into the natural world, and away from social media.
Most often it is the child who asks their parents if they can board at school when they see how much fun their boarding friends are having. When a child boards, parents often find their time is freed up so they can focus on other priorities, knowing their child is in safe hands. When their child returns home, time spent with family is cherished.