Boarding with relatives nearby? Good or bad?(25 Posts)
We are considering 2 boarding schools for our DS (will be aged 10 1/2 or 11 1/2).
One of the schools is 2.5 hours away from both sets of grandparents but is close to Gatwick (we are overseas and fly into Gatwick). The other is 4.5 hours away from my parents BUT 3 miles away from DHs parents (DHs sister teaches at the school also) and is a good 2.5 hours away from Gatwick.
So, we are looking at the pros and cons of each location (and obviously we will considering the best fit for him in terms of the school too!)
I personally think having grandparents too close plus an aunt who teaches at the school could actually be a bad thing - he'd have an "easy out" and may not settle into boarding. I know that my in-laws will not want to have him every weekend but obviously will here and there and will go to matches.
The distance from the airport is also a bit of a pain since I don't really drive in England anymore and certainly not long distances, so I'd be going on the train or taxis. Then there is the fact that my parents are so far away from it. Then if my DH is on business, he can't just pop down here.
You can see which location I'm preferring st this point but would be interested to know your thoughts.
We are in Bermuda and DS would come home at half-term and holidays.
One is Port Regis (Dorset) the other school is Windlesham House in Sussex. DHs parents live in Dorset, mine are in Essex. Husband travels to London on business fairly regularly. We fly to Gatwick.
boarding at 11y old is a tough thing. I would be glad if he can be close to grandparents. When they are 13, 14, it would be easier.
Not sure on the grandparents and distance bit. But I can confirm that WH is really, really hard to get to on public transport from Gatwick/London. It is an absolutely brilliant school though, and your boys will love it there. They can easily get the kids to Gatwick for flights home for holidays too.
They would never go to a guardian, regardless of where they are. Would be grandparents (either set) or we would be visiting.
We hear that only 60-70 children are staying at weekends (out of 350). Will be interesting what the numbers are with Windlesham.
This is a very personal decision and it sounds like you have good reasons for your choice, so I would go with that if I were you. Both are excellent schools by all accounts, so you are not going to be unhappy with either.
However given what you say about transport, I would also look at Cottesmore before you decide. Surrounded by 1000 acres of golf course, as well as forest and farmland, yet a short drive from Gatwick. It is a small school, so you won't hear much on Mumsnet about it - it would give away the identity of the person posting - but I know parents who are very happy with the school.
Personally I think that a lot of prep schools have become too big and, while the facilities and education may well be excellent, young boarders miss out on the nurturing family atmosphere that they would get in a smaller prep school. I also think smaller schools offer more opportunities to shine - a greater chance of winning a prize, getting a speaking role in the main play, being first violin in the orchestra or in the A team for rugby... whatever it is that your child loves and which builds his self-confidence.
Where are your DC's most likely to go for exeats etc? This is when time is most limited and you want to keep travelling to a minimum and parent teacher meeting etc are often at the beginning end of exeats so you really do want to keep travelling to a minimum.
We moved when my DC's were at boarding prep the journey changed from a quick 30 mins to 3 1/2 hours if we were very lucky more like 4-5 (one way). It became a complete nightmare at exeats, my DS's would not get home till late on Frid evening but Id actually left home in the morning and we'd have to rush Sunday lunch to get them back. Once a year we'd have an exeat that was only 1 night, hopeless.
I couldn't agree more with Happygardening. If one of the schools is 2 1/2 hours away from both sets of grandparents then you are looking at at least a 5 hour round trip!!! That might be ok in an emergency but to expect it on a regular basis would get wareing. What is the public transport like from this school to either set of grandparents? Is it feasible at exeats and 1/2 term for them to use public transport to and from the school? If they did, are others doing the same trip so there is the comfort of safety in numbers?
With regards your husband "popping into see them" would this be allowed? Certainly not at my DS Public school. If my DH is working in London he can't just pop in to see him, he is not allowed inside the House or to take him for a meal during the week. Parents are only allowed to take the boys to tea after matches on Saturday or Sundays. So check this out as it may not be worthy of taking into consideration when choosing the school.
As Happy said, parents meetings are often held on exeat weekends or right before the end of 1/2 term so any long distance travel REALLY eats into their short time away from school.
My last thoughts are (and please don't take this the wrong way) if it is a pain for you to get from Gatwick to one of the school's due to public transport if you won't drive in the UK and you are doing it rarely just think how much of a pain it will be for the kids doing it every exeat and holiday if they need to travel for 2 1/2 hours each way. I'd go for the one nearest relatives in your position.
Windlesham much easier to get to than Port Regis. Long trip from Dorset to Gatwick for kids
I think you should do what you think is right for you.
We chose the school because its 5 min drive from her grandparents and 30 mins from her uncle. We took into consideration airport access. School parents evenings we usually get boarding to go with her. However exact and half terms she stays at which relative is available.
I guess I was only asking for opinions as people may have been in a similar situation or may have had regrets about their chiice for whatever reason.
Port Regis Pros
Aunt teaches part-time at school
3 miles from Grandparents so they can watch matches and have him for exeats - he'd basically have is room at Granny's when he goes for Exeats rather than having to stay in hotels as is a long way to come for weekends to grandparents.
Big Learning Support department which may be a factor with our middle child as there is a possibility that he is dyslexic
We can stay with grandparents when we visit for Exeats or any other time.
Facilities are AMAZING
His aunt is at the school so can keep an eye on him and we would likely get very good feedback on how things are going.
Port Regis Cons?
Think there are less borders staying at weekends (70-90)
We don't know any families who can give first hand knowledge of Port Regis
-Windlesham is more of a "known" in that regard.
- School has a "bigger" feeling.
Close to Gatwick
We know many many families who have or have had kids at Windlesham
Smaller feeling school (although same number of children) - perhaps more homely?
Lots of families with kids there from Bermuda (where we live) - other parents can check in on him when they visit. Kind of a kinship" between the kids.
120 borders in at weekends - I think it's more of a "full" boarding school - although both schools have certain weekends when they have to stay.
2.5 hours from relatives which makes Exeats tricky
No family nearby (2-2.5 hrs away)
When we visit him, say on a weekend, we would have to stay in a hotel.
Difficult choice ....,
Id be reluctant to choose a prep with not many full boarders a few years ago I was told by someone very much in the know that full boarding at Port Regis is fizzling out. Many preps will claim to have more full boarders than they actually have (they want your money), when DS's left his prep technically over 70% of the school were full boarders but in reality it was only 20% therefore putting more pressure on us to either see them at the weekend or arrange alternative activities. Many years ago when there were more full boarders at prep schools a friend looked at a boarding preps and was on the verge of stumping up the deposit when she heard on the grape vine that despite the heads claims there were few full boarders, she went back to the school and stood at the end of every bed and said "is this one a full boarder?" 1/2 an hour later the head some what reluctantly changed his initial statement from "the majority full board" to "only a small minority full board!"
Windlesham is an excellent prep, very popular with diplomat parents and others over seas, having lots of full boarders mean that more will be attracted, I've never heard a bad word about it, and when it comes to pastoral care family armostphere I've onLy ever heard rave reviews about it, as it's a good size means that there are likely to be more full boarders than you'd find in a small prep.
What senior school are you doing hthe joking of OP? Or maybe you're DS's already have places, I'd also look at the prep with a good history of preparing your DS's for you chosen senior schools.
I hate this predictive thing!
What senior schools are you thinking of OP?
Really don't have a clue about senior schools. Depends how bright DS turns out to be. It's probable that he's brighter than he has showed us. Both schools commented that they can see he's bright. I have no clue about how he will "turn out". He's a little complicated and hasn't really found himself yet plus I have no idea about the types of schools and what kind of personalities they suit. DH went to Bryanston so I guess it's a possibility.
I agree with you in the full boarding - I guess that's my one reservation about Port Regis. Just a question of whether the aunt who is a teacher there, the grandparents nearby, somewhere for us to stay, a really impressive learning support Dept and top notch facilities outweigh the homely nurturing atmosphere and loads of full boarders. Tricky.
Can yoir SIL and or in laws have your DS's every weekend (not just exeats) if it turns out there aren't really that many full boarders? If yes I think I'd go with Port Regis frankly. Family that close by would probably trump family atmosphere/excellent pastoral care if everything else was pretty equal.
As a seperate issue I'm sure you already know this but many of the more selective schools Eton Win Coll etc pre test and offer places at year 6 when boys are 10 going on 11 years old, so for your older DS in particular unless they're applying whilst at their current school then your option for senior schools will be more limited if your planning to wait until they move to a UK school.
Both WHS and PR are great schools. You would not be making a mistake with either of them. Having family on hand can be a huge bonus for all the reasons already discussed on this thread and others you have started!
What did your DS think of the schools? You mentioned they had taster days at both. Did they have a preference? If they liked both schools, then as others have said, under the circumstances, perhaps PR would seem the most logical choice.
Though I sense so much uncertainty with you. This is your 4th thread and you still are not totally convinced one way or the other. Are you worried that your DS may not take to boarding? Would having family so close by perhaps tempt the in-laws to step in and and have DS live with them if he was unhappy? Now that could be a different issue altogether.
Perhaps the other solution would be to keep DS with you until 13 and then look at Senior School options for them.
Despite the lower number of full boarders and the journey time from Gatwick I think your family situation is the trump card for PR, especially as the schools are equally good despite the differences mentioned. You will be much happier particularly in the early days having that reassurance of close family contact when needed for your DS plus insights into how things are going for him within the school. You can also stay with your relatives at pick up times. I should imagine the grandparents are delighted at the prospect of a closer relationship with their grandson and that will be a real positive from the situation of him having to spend the term times away from you.
Yes, you sense uncertainty because there are so many pros and cons with each school. Not because i am unsure about boarding. He has said he is happy to board - but obviously at 9 years old that's an uneducated decision! Both of our boys liked both schools and I think they would be able to be convinced either way once we make our decision. Of course there is always that thought in the back of your mind that he won't like boarding but we are definitely seeing him boarding and do not want him to be a day boy or weekly boarder unless boarding turned out to be not for him for whatever reason.
I realise its a decision that only we can make! i guess the conundrum is they are both great schools ...... Have lots of very personal affirmations from Windlesham parents but despite having the family connection with PR, we don't know any PR parents to give us an idea of the school from their point of view.
It's not just exeats half term etc, good preps organise lots of other activities for parents, social functions, concerts, plays etc and it's very common for parents to watch matches etc, we found when we moved away that we missed out on all of this as well which from my point of view was a relief
I'm an anti social fucker and the parents at DS's prep in general were frankly hideous but my DS's liked us to watch their matches etc. and take them out for tea afterwards.
If your really keen on Windlesham and you know parents at Windlesham could you're DS's sometimes go and stay with them for some exeats thus cutting down on travelling time or are they also not in the UK? A five hour plus round trip twice very third weekend of term wouldn't exactly fill me with any enthusiasm.
WHS long weekends are one either side half term in the autumn and less in the other terms. They start at 12.15 which we found gives you good travelling time. So it isn't quite as much as every third weekend. We liked this and put us off another local prep school as they seemed to have 2 exeats either side of half term.
Our DC's grandparents lived about 2 hours away. They kindly attended plays and watched some matches too. Overseas parents just don't watch as many matches as local parents. Plus if you work full time Wednesday matches are never going to be a possibility. Parents meetings are tagged onto long weekends so an additional journey is not necessary. If we couldn't attend then we would speak to all their teachers on the phone and of course with Skype it is even easier.
What I am trying to say is pick the school that is best for your boys and I am sure they will be very happy at either school.
Superstar1234 - no, they wouldn't want him going there every weekend really. They are more than happy to go and watch matches and have him on Exeat weekends - and perhaps the odd other time but the idea is not for him to weekly board.
Happy gardening. No, all the parents we know are overseas boarders. So we'd just be hoping he had friends to go home with or we'd come over and have to stay in a hotel or grandparents (5 hour + round trip at the beginning and end of the weekend doesn't make staying with grandparents terribly easy).
Will ask other Windlesham parents what they do for Exeats.
How old are these grand parents? Do they have health problems? Other commitments? Pets? Other grand children?
Only the exceptionally dedicated are going to regularly drive 5 hours (in good traffic?) to watch a match (which is usually very tedious) on a regular basis.
What about if you DS is ill or homesick (nearly all children get home sick in the beginning at prep) will his grand parents be happy to a five hour round trip a couple of times a week perhaps to watch a match and take him out to tea more than once a week in the beginning? I acknowledge Windlesham is a fantastic prep and if distance wasn't an issue would be my choice over PR every time but the more I think about and having been in this situation send them to PR. I will always regret not moving my DS when we moved and put a very tedious journey between us and his prep we drove back and fourth for two years it was a complete nightmare.
One set of grandparents 64 and 73 and others 66 and 70. No major health problems as of yet but long distance driving for the 73 year old is probably not ideal. That said, if they were at Windlesham, they wouldn't be watching matches, and not sure what would happen for Exeats. As I said, am going to chat to other Windlesham parents to see what they do.
Does seem a bit of a shame to have DS at school in England if he's not going to have any additional contact with grandparents.
That's said, he may go Port Regis and then decide that he prefers to to go friends for exeats!
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