Private weekly boarding for bright, sensitive DS(42 Posts)
Sorry for long post - I've got myself into a bit of a pickle and need some help! It is beginning to dawn on me now that DS is in year 6 that I should perhaps have considered a wider range of senior school options. He's currently happily settled in a reasonably selective (day) prep school, so I am looking at options for year 9.
He has decided that he is not keen on our local options. Other day school options would involve catching coaches and an hour travel time each way (including walking to bus stops etc.). We're in London which is a fearsomely competitive place to be anyway, and it's got me longing for something less pressured but still sufficiently engaging to motivate my chilled out boy.
DS is a lovely, kind, slightly introverted boy who would need somewhere with excellent pastoral care - he has mild AS but has always coped well in a mainstream setting. We are the antithesis of pushy parents (from the London perspective anyway!). He is flourishing academically and is expected to pass CE at 70%. He's also very musical, likes to be active physically (and has good balance/co-ordination), isn't great at team sports but loves rugby and is very knowledgeable and engaging about all things computer based.
Although my dh has always considered boarding might be a positive for him, from a social point of view, I guess I've been more nervous - particularly worrying about bullying (although bullies do tend to avoid DS as they get no feedback from him so lose interest). I would dearly love him to develop close friendships with school friends (something that hasn't really happened at his prep school) and can see that being in a boarding house/immersed in a boarding community might help this (providing the other dc's are tolerant and kind). Definitely not looking for an Alpha type school - more one that celebrates and nurtures individuality, whilst still enabling him to reach his (fairly good) academic potential.
I did do an initial look around and he has sat the Brighton College 'Orientation' (assessment!) day but we won't know about that till after summer half term. He loves the school but I am concerned about rumours of it being a high pressure environment - so far we have avoided encouraging the over-anxiety that can develop with AS and we would like to avoid this as far as possible. Of course, we still don't know whether he will be offered a place.
I am interested in co-ed schools and ones where we can see him every weekend if he wants.
With the collective MN wisdom, are there any schools out there that spring to mind that I should also consider?
You could look at Friends School in Saffron Walden - definitely encouraging and inclusive rather than pushy and competitive but still gets great results bearing in mind it isn't super selective. Boarding is small and very caring and there are quite a few children from London (including DS) who weekly board. No Saturday school and sporting fixtures generally mid-week.
DS has moved schools a couple of times and this is the first time he has been settled and happy.
Ardingly College? Near Haywards Heath. Lovely location and 'inclusive' . Prides itself on great academic attainment without being a hothouse, as well as the pastoral care, music, sport and science etc. Three good friends' DC are there.
Thanks everyone - all schools I hadn't heard of/investigated. Will do some research!
Leighton park is another that is often suggested. One thing to consider with boarding and AS is masking and down time. Our DS1 boards and always had perfect behaviour at school at primary. Certainly not perfect at home. However once boarding we had a lot of behavioral issues. I think largely because he couldn't hold everything in for a week where as he would for a day.
Dontg know which side of London you are but for day have you checked out Halliford.
My daughter is a local day girl but she chose her House to be a boarding one - and lots of her friends are weekly boarders based in London. So easy for them to get down here and so easy for her to get up to see them in the holidays . And it's a great school too!
Woops - forgot to say I was adding to the mention of Ardingly College.
Further afield? How about Malvern college?
Reeds does weekly boarding. The pastoral care there is very good. It is getting a lot more academic, but it puts great emphasis on having fun and being out in the open air too. Nice grounds, and very close to London. The boys I know from there were/are all happy. Also, the ones I know best had their own issues - one was bullied at primary, another was very shy, unsporty and dyslexic. Reeds turned them both into really confident, easy going, happy boys. Lovely to watch them mature in such a positive way.
Reeds is only co-ed in 6th form though, so maybe not what you are looking for.
Not sure about Malvern, lovely though it is, unless your DS also likes team sports.
I would add another vote for taking a look at Leighton Park.
Thanks Mary - a good point re. down time. Sadly we are too far from Halliford but will check out Leighton Park.
Also, very keen to visit Ardingly as heard good things from others too.
Nota - I think I will def look at Reeds as location might work, so ta for suggestion.
Previously I considered Bryanston but rejected it on the grounds of distance. DS is actually keen to visit (think he likes the sound of no uniform and his USP as the bright geeky boy remaining intact). It certainly looks a very happy, tolerant environment. Any views on whether this is the reality? Could this be a good fit for my DS?
Thanks for all the responses - I'm feeling like there is a good fit for him out there.
A friend has a DS who's bright and quirky DS he's very happy at Bradfield. Definitely weekly board g and an easier commute than Bryanston which I believe now is not actually completely "no uniform" anymore, pupils have to wear certain colour shirts etc or somethng similar. If yo want weekly goading you would be sensible to restrict your travelling to 1 1/2 hours one way of have bloody good public transport links. Would you consider full boarding?
I've got to say though I am m a great advocate of boarding after all my DS is coming to the end of 11 years of full boarding but I'm less convinced about it for a "sensitive" "introverted" child child, to thrive boarders have to be fairly robust, boys banter, roll on each other, sit on each other and generally muck around most of it is good humoured but a sensitive boy with mild ASD might find it difficult. Boarding is about communal living, mucking n and living beside people who you may not like or who irritate the hell out of you, people who don't do things the way you do, it's very sociable. There's a bit of a pack mentality, and don't forget there's very little privacy. It can't change a child's personality it wont make the introvert into an extrovert, or make the unpopular popular, those who do best are confident outgoing types who throw themselves into everything it offers. Do you honestly think your DS will cope? Only you know the answer to that. Having said this your DS is no more likely to be bullied in a boarding school than a day school and most decent boarding school will come down very hard on bullies but if he is being bullied he has no chance to escape in the way day children do.
Have you thought about Milton Abbey in Dorset? Amazing campus and facilities and strong pastoral care.
Do think about the Quaker schools.
But I do agree with happy gardening, as so often. If introverted, please please think really hard.
Best compromise friends made was with downside, child stayed every evening until 9 pm, so got prep and supper, but not the dorm thing which can be a killer, still. Try that as a suggestion if you can find somewhere in easy reach.
I also know a very sensitive, shy boy who went off to Bedales and loved it. I know that school has its fair share of dreadful press, but for him it was just right.
Interested by your response HG and glad you replied. I guess I hadn't seriously considered boarding and assumed he'd go to one of the local options, till now. Even the Brighton College application was based on the idea we may actually move down so he'd end up going as a day boy (though I'm also not sold on that idea). There's not a thing I'd change about my DS. I've just found that going to a London prep has meant little social mixing outside school as kids are dispersed far and wide - I can only see this getting worse in senior school especially if he ends up in one with an hours commute either side. Tbh I'd send him to the local comp from a social standpoint, if I didn't think he'd be eaten alive. I'm considering boarding as he's previously really enjoyed school residentials and can't wait for more in year 7 (although the outward bound nature of such trips is not a reflection of how it would be boarding). He's also the type of child who enjoys independence - couldn't understand age 3 or 4 why I was following him around London when he was perfectly happy exploring all on his own ta very much!
But I totally take your point re. dorms. I'm assuming he'll share a room with no more than 2-3 other boys (he's used to this from other trips away) and that would be high on my priority list.
Interesting suggestion re. Bedales, nota. Do you know anything about Frensham Heights as I thought it is run along similar lines?
Thanks for your suggestions/thoughts so far. Please do keep them coming.
How about Bedford School? There are quite a few weekly boarders from London.
My (shy but bright) DD is a day boy in the prep school and absolutely loves it.
Bradfield is traditionally considered a kind and gentle school although he will I suspect be right at the top academically
OP have you read the "Thread for boarders"? I think it's on there that a mum says her DC enjoyed the school residential trips but is very unhappy boarding. They are not the same thing, to point out the obvious one is for a week, and mainly about having fun, max and the other for 5 years..
The dorms at many schools are often 5-6 in the early years and this is not necessarily a bad thing, you're not stuck in a room for a term with someone you don't like or who doesn't like you. But it's not just about dorms, I was recently in a boys boarding house, the yr 9s were all sort of piled on top of each other on a couple of sofas, theirs lots of banter and mucking around, they were snatching their phones of each other (before I snatched the lots of them), pushing and shoving each other and we were all having a bit of a laugh. The cameraderie is great if you like this way of living, the majority were comfortable with it but two weren't, one in particular was on the edge of this group, not joining in, I felt sad for him. Later when I was talking to his HM who was so very obviously kind and capable and also very experienced he said this boy was always on the edge of the group, he'd worked hard to intergrate him but you can't make other like him. It's fine if he's happy to be on the edge but very sad if he's not. The other apparently was also finding boarding difficult, he loved the routine but found living with different personalities hard, he liked things to be very tidy but it's was inevitable that others didn't and he struggled to live with this 24/7.
I'm not saying don't do it but I would think very hard before sending a shy introverted child whose struggling to make any close friendships and mild ASD to a boarding school. I would also add (although I suspect more will disagree with me) I would choose very carefully my school if my DS was not being pushed and or tutored and easily capable of getting 70%+ on all his CE papers (at level 3 where applicable) , some mentioned above are basically non selective, do look and ask lots of questions about how and when they are streamed especially for math if he's a very capable mathematician. You've already said he's an introvert being the only very bright child in a non selective environment may not help him.
Interesting what is said about Milton Abbey. This is what I have heard too but I have also heard with the new headmaster things are improving.
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