Boarding school parents support forum?

(86 Posts)
Merlinswife Thu 29-Nov-12 12:14:25

I have a friend whose two children are now boarders and she's feeling a bit cut off. I wondered if there was a forum she could join- like MN- but for parents of children who do termly boarding?

difficultpickle Sun 16-Dec-12 19:53:51

I think it is sad to read that food at some boarding schools may not be up to much. I find it reassuring that ds loves the food he has at school. It is all part of the experience and if I had to have food everyday that was not very nice then I would struggle (and do struggle on business trips to some more remote places where food is very poor quality).

GurtrudesBosom Sun 06-Jan-13 18:55:30

Hello I am posting here in the hope of some support from other boarding parents who wont just judge and use my current issues as an excuse to tell me I am an evil cow and that if I loved my child I would with draw her without delay - despite the fact I am considering doing just that.

It may be long but I want to paint a full picture not drip feed.

DD is 14 and has full boarded since the age of 8. A choice we made due to DHs career in the Armed Services and 4 schools before the age of 8. We researched well both state and private BS and found a little gem of co ed BS which is run as a traditional boarding prep with pretty much most children full boarding. No weekly boarding option. She went and was a model example of a happy child grabbing every opportunity with both hands and really thriving. She was happy and settled and we never looked back. She was popular with pupils and staff. Both DH and I are day state educated with no experience of the private or BS systems so it was all new to us and we took alot of flack from family for our choice. We also rely heavily on the Armed Services allowance and funding to pay for the fees as I am a low earner (supermarket) and DH is not a commissioned Officer.

All was well until DD had to leave her prep school last summer and start at her new senior school. We chose one with several suitable criteria within easyish commuting distance to relatives so we know someone we trust can get their within an hour or so in an emergency no matter where we end up posted, somewhere that offered the wider subject choice in which DD wishes to study for GCSE (and beyond - she knows what she wants to do) and one we could afford - this final fact really limited our choice and it has to be said that if a large enough bursary could have been secured elsewhere (we tried and the amount we required was turned down because we already get a generous allowance the school said) this school would not have been our first choice. That said we did really like it and as we visited more and more before she started we felt happy in our choice and so did DD.

I think we may have picked the wrong school. Its a big school (which is what we wanted because as much as we loved her prep, I felt she needed to learn to be in a bigger comminity at high school). % wise the boarding element is very small only 15% of the school but well over 100 boarders, and most of them full boarders and a fair number of overseas as well. Its all girls as well. We were told they had a big intake at age 13 and always knew the main intake was at age 11 but now our experience makes us feel the intake at 13 does not seem to be integrated very well and was alot smaller this year than we thought it would be.

Last term was nothing short of a disaster. DD was put into a twin room with a girl we have since found out is the year group "problem/difficult" (for want of a better word} child. In our brief experience of this child its easy to say she has ALOT of issues. Anyway she gained the trust of my DD and I dont want to go into details and out myself to any RL people - but she humiliated and double crossed my daughter rather publicly. It caused a massive hoo haar at school and the other girl was reprimanded and later suspended as it came to light this was not a first offence. A mother of another boarder I know briefly from when we were posted at another base together when our DDs were small also informed me this girl has a very dodgy history and lots of parents are miffed and confused as to how she remains at the school and not expelled - I dont know full details of past behaviour to comment further.

This knocked DDs confidence and we requested she moved in with another child (glad we did as the other girl has since been suspended again for other unfair behaviour to others). This meant the whole year group rooming had to be rejigged and it caused a lot of resentment and problems amongst the girls and although it was attempted that this was done discreetly the other girls blame DD for grassing up the girl she was originally sharing with (it was someone else - an adult that discovered the issue and reported it not DD - altho DD was relieved to get it out in the open and dealt with cos she was scared and out of her depth- didnt want to tell on this girl but knew it was wrong etc etc.).

Lots of other little incidents but mud sticks and DD has no friends. The other new girls have had a few issues but seem alot happier and to have integrated OK.

By half term I had an inkling something wasnt quite right but could not put my finger on what. She was changing. Part of me thought she was maybe becoming more teenagerish with her new friends (didnt know at this point she didnt have any). However, I did request a meeting with the Head of Boarding just after HT and express my concerns.

DD maintained a "happy front" and kept telling us all she was fine, all was happy etc etc.

Then in November I had a call from school that shattered me. DD and other boarders had been found cutting themselves. This is absolutely UNBELIEVABLE for my DD. Obviously I have not told many - its not something you shout about but the few I have confided in just cannot belive it of DD as she "does not seem the type". Even the school staff were shocked as she seemed so happy all the time. The school nurse even called me and told me out of the group of girls discovered doing this she was baffled at my DD the most. DD says she did it to try and fit in FFS. There is only evidence of 1 cut and she said it didnt make her feel better like theothers said it would. She says it wont happen again. She refused counselling but scool have stepped up care and supervision since.

I picked her up the next day and brought her home. We spent 3 days chatting and she finally opened up - probably not 100% but she started to admit life at school was frankly shit. She loves her work but friendships are lacking and shit. DD was adament she didnt want to leave the school and wanted to remain. Things got better for a while and she would call me alot and started opening up. However, the calls home every evening were getting longer and longer and more and more issues were being raised by DD.

The stuff she was raising was not what I would call "real problems" (i dont mean this harshly - i suspect they pissed her off but not the real issue) stuff like the food was crap (its bloody amazing - by her own admission at the start of term and I experience it regularly as I up at school so often sorting shit out),not much choice of activities, laundry timetable not suiting her sporting needs, Home economic classes being boring etc etc.

Anyway - there is more but this is going on for ever (SORRY) so to cut a long story short DD has few if any friends. A couple of girls who she has an acquiantance with are day girls. She had no Xmas cards from school to bring home and no photos from an overseas trip 2 weeks before the end of term to show me. The pics on her FB from other girls on this trip do not include DD. 2 pics that do show her - she is on the edge of the crowd stood on her own and looking lost sad.

My DD is a shadow of the girl she was last Sept before she started at this school' No self esteem. Total loss of self confidence.

So she goes back to school this week. Today we started packing and I started to ask her how she was feeling about going back - got the usual fine fine etc but when pressed loads of tears. She says there are no choice of after school clubs. Everything is at lunch time for the day girls and after school clubs are shit. All sport or dance. She used to love sport at her prep but now she hates it. She told me today she keeps getting picked for the school teams but she refuses to play. NO real reason given other than because its not the same and she does not know what she is doing.

Its killing me seeing her like this. Do we keep trying or pull her out??? Anyone been through similar? The school have been good to be fair. They call regularly, even in the holidays to see how she is and deal with issues as they raise.

Help!

bulletpoint Sun 06-Jan-13 20:12:18

Gutrude - i'm not a boarding school parent but based on what you have said boarding or day i would be pulling my daughter out immeadiately. The whole situation sounds horrendous and with self harming added into the equation, i feel you are running an awful risk sending her back there again.

Its seems the staff are trying although i dont fully understand the situation with the "troubled" girl but they are now putting other innocent children at risk esecially in a boarding environment. Unfortunately you can choose a school BUT cant choose the "peer group" for your child's year, you just have to hope for the best. Start looking at alternative schools asap and please don't delay.

difficultpickle Sun 06-Jan-13 20:51:36

Can't comment as no experience of what you are going through (we are at the happy prep boarding stage). However if my dc was going through what your dd is then I would definitely be removing her. She may say she does not want to move because of a lack of confidence in going somewhere new and starting again but what she has been through sounds horrific.

happygardening Mon 07-Jan-13 07:48:25

OP my DS2 full boarded from 7 yrs old during the last two years of his prep school he became increasingly miserable I like you could list a whole pile of ways in which the school let him down other parents at the school either disagree with my concerns or say that that was not their DCs experience. The bottom line is that you DD is very unhappy like your DD my DS didn't seem to want to leave even when we found him a very viable (day) alternative. We can all be clever in retrospect but I regret not over riding him and removing him. Sometimes as parents we should take away the decisions from our children even 13 yr olds. Remove her ASAP I would talk to the school and see if you can come to an arrangement where you don't have to pay a full terms fees.
You may be interested to know on being given the choice my DS went on to full board again at senior school. He is now very happy and thriving.

happygardening Mon 07-Jan-13 08:04:19

I would also add that I believe that part of my DS's problem was that the number of full boarders at his prep significantly declined during the time he was there leaving only a tiny minority in at the weekend. As I've said on numerous other occasions it doesn't matter what type of boarding you want the important thing is that it is what the overwhelming majority do. It is inevitable that a school with a lot of day children will mainly organise extra curricular activities during lunch breaks.
I appreciate that your finances are limited and also that boarding is eye wateringly expensive. Proper full boarding schools are charging about £33 000 PA because it really is a whole school running 24 hours a day 7 days a week and the requires extensive and expensive infrastructure. But bursaries are available to non members of the armed services let alone you. I don't know where you've looked before but it might be worth posting separately on MN about bursaries and boarding schools (Im afraid I only really know about boys schools so cant help). Or am I correct in thunking there is an organisation that advises those in the armed services about schools that are financially friendly to to the armed services?

PeriPathetic Tue 08-Jan-13 07:52:38

GurtrudesBosom - I'm lurking here as my DD is due to start boarding Prep in April, so I've no experience. But if your DD was mine, I'd be pulling her out pronto. She sounds an amazing girl, she really does, but to be trying so desperately hard to make friends and fit in that she's resorted to self-harm is wrong on so many levels sad

I've heard that many full boarding schools are prepared to give financial help to service families. It's not advertised, but it's well worth asking.

I hope you find somewhere for her soon.

Pythonesque Thu 10-Jan-13 08:23:08

GB I really hope you can sort things out - I wouldn't be leaving her there unless the school can explain exactly how they can make a massive change this term and really convince you it can happen. Good luck sorting out the right alternative(s).

I'm in a similar situation to bisjo, my daughter started last term as a boarding chorister (though she's slightly older, has just turned 10). I've been amazed how quickly she's settled in though we still need to encourage her to talk to people when she doesn't know something or has a problem. She's not a self-starter or terribly organised, but as I suspected is thriving on the structure and busy-ness. And on being in an environment where her interests in music are understood and normal. It's interesting to see how choirschools seem more likely to value and encourage achievement across the board (at least comparing her and her brother's schools with her previous school).

We're about an hour and a half away, and although we had her home a lot last term she's been promoted quickly so we will only have her home for one exeat and half term from now on. However we think we should be able to visit her and do lunch or afternoon outings on the weekends fairly frequently depending on timetables. Don't want her brother to have to do masses of sitting in the car though so have to find a balance!

At the moment I don't know if she will board for senior school or not and am somewhat dreading the process of working out where she will go. She'll have 4 years where she is, but most of the local schools prefer to do year 6 assessment for year 9 entry as well as their year 7 intake so we can't bury our heads in the sand for long about it ...

susiewong123 Fri 15-Mar-13 14:29:47

We are looking for a boarding school for 6th Form must have great pastoral care as he is leaving existing school due to bullying, he loves drama CCF any suggestions?

happygardening Fri 15-Mar-13 16:58:34

How academic is your DS and where approximately do you live?
St Edwards Oxford would is generally acknowledged by prep schools heads to be in a league of its own when it comes to pastoral care, the drama is excellent they are extensively involved in a local theatre The Wall and have a CCF. But although results are improving and are set to get better with the new head its not a super selective.

happygardening Fri 15-Mar-13 16:59:39

If your looking for this September I think your going to struggle to find anywhere there is already an extensive thread about this.

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