For international families, deciding to send a child to boarding school overseas can be a difficult decision. There are numerous factors at play but not least the issue of being a plane ride away. Could the advantages of attending one of the best British boarding schools really outweigh the benefits of staying within the family unit?
To Board or not to Board? That is the question…
Britain has more than 450 independent British Boarding schools and 38 state boarding schools so there is no shortage of choice when choosing the right boarding school for your child.
First and foremost must be the question of whether your child is ready for boarding in the UK. Will they be happy enough to spend so much time apart and are they independent enough to cope with everyday school life without the support of home?
These days however, boarding schools offer an unparalleled level of support for each pupil within an environment that fosters and encourages independence. Pastoral care is an important part of any school’s vocabulary and ensuring that all the children feel safe and secure in the school environment is of paramount importance. This care system is also in place to ensure academic and sporting progress and to generally monitor each child as they go through the school.
There is often a ‘natural’ age when children tend to want a greater degree of independence from their parents and this could be the perfect time to consider boarding. If you believe in the age old adage “it takes a village to raise a child” then a boarding school staffed with professional experienced experts in children is today’s modern equivalent of ‘the village’.
Many families freely admit they do not miss the nightly nagging about homework, screen time and the constant ferrying around to afterschool activities and instead relish the quality family time they have when the child is at home for the holidays. And the children rather than pining away from the family environment are so fully engaged and occupied that it is a struggle sometimes to find time to call home!
What to look for
When one is looking for the right boarding school, make sure you have a good look at all the dormitories and have a chat with the matron. It is important too to get to know the Housemaster or Housemistress and to meet their spouses. They are the ones who will be the bedrock of your child’s time at that school.
If one is sending a child to board and you will still be living abroad, it is crucial to find out how many weekends the children can come out of school. It will not always be possible to come back for an exeat (weekend out) and therefore it is important to discover how often children are going out.
Advantages of a British boarding school
The advantages of boarding in the UK are many. For some, it is a return to home and all the cultural relevance that one might miss out on being abroad will certainly be found in a British boarding school. For others it is a chance to have a cross cultural international education experience in Britain, to improve your English, and to be part of an established environment with standards that are globally recognized.
The academic results are much easier to ascertain in a well-established age old school with a distinct track record. A Head of a boarding prep school has unrivalled knowledge and relationships with independent secondary schools and can offer great advice to parents on where would best suit their child. Prep schools tend to be rather small and intimate and the Head will know and understand each individual child.
Ultimately the decision will come down to a range of factors both practical and emotional but for some families living abroad, giving their children the boarding experience gives them roots and wings.