The issue of sending a child to a boarding school raises many questions for the parents. Not only do you want to secure the best academic future for your child, you also want to ensure they have a fulfilling childhood. Highlighted below are some of the more common problematic topics encountered, accompanied by advice on how they are best dealt with.
Type of Boarding School
Would a single-sex school or mixed-gender one be more suited to your child’s social needs? Will the school afford the child more or less freedom to what he or she is accustomed? What accreditations does the school possess? How well does the boarding school fare on the league tables? (Although this is a standardised indicator of quality, do not make the mistake of judging a school solely on their ranking. Have you considered your child’s intellectual strengths and weaknesses? Perhaps if they demonstrate a musical talent they would prefer to attend a school specialising in such, that can provide an appropriately nurturing environment). Also, the size of a school may indicate success, but only to a degree; if your child has learning disabilities a school with a lower student to teacher ratio would be more applicable.
Read up on the school and their facilities. Encourage your child to sit down with you to discuss the pros and cons. What attractions are nearby, what sort of transport links are in place, is there a rich social programme? What are the policies on issues such as cyber and face-to-face bullying and other codes of conduct? Not only will you begin to get a ‘feel’ for the school, but it should help to put both you and your child’s minds at ease.
Talk to other parents who have been through it all before. If not face-to-face, then via forums, networks and case studies on the internet. Read student testimonials (or watch in the form of Youtube clips) if it is impractical to visit the campus itself. If you do visit the school, go bearing questions – don’t just let the Headmaster or Headmistress do all the talking.
Be realistic about what you can afford for your offspring. Be wary of hidden costs such as funding for day trips. Advice on fees and financial assistance is readily available online.
Negotiating a guardian plays an essential role in seeing your child settled in a UK-based boarding school if you don’t happen to be based there yourself. There is a Guardianship organisation in place for those with no UK contacts, supported by the Independent Schools Council and the British Council.
Above all, communicate – with your spouse if applicable, with the school and with your child. The key is to support, yet encourage independence. Help them with their applications, but don’t do all the work. It may be tempting to pick a school for them, but they are the ones who will be spending the most time there. And when they do get there, let them know you love and miss them. But try not to encroach on their time too much, which may prevent them from settling in to school life and forming bonds with fellow pupils as quickly as they could.
When undertaking research into boarding schools England has plenty to suit all requirements, you’ll soon discover – whether it’s a prep school, an International GCSE boarding school or a school with a sixth-form entry level to prepare students for sitting their A-Levels. Remember that whatever the age of your child or whatever school they go to, there will be plenty of peers in exactly the same boat on hand to offer moral support.