Boarding school - distance - how far is too far?

(23 Posts)
difficultpickle Sun 08-Sep-13 17:16:05

Attended a senior boarding school open day yesterday, 2 hours drive from home. Really really really liked the school. Seems to be a good all rounder - good academic results, very strong music dept and great sports facilities. We liked the pupils and staff that we met and really liked the feel of the place. There was an enthusiasm that was palpable.

It is only our second school visit and we have other, more local, visits planned. I'm trying to work out whether this is a real contender or not or whether we should focus on finding somewhere closer to home. This is a full boarding school (no mass exodus at weekends) so we won't have to worry about making arrangements for ds to come home every weekend (which will be the concern with some of the other places we have lined up to visit).

BlackMogul Sun 08-Sep-13 20:07:36

DD2 was about 50 minutes from home and would have considered up to 1.5 hours. We believe very strongly in supporting our daughters if they were in anything at school, eg sport, drama, music, house events etc. Not all schools are so welcoming to parents and I think full boarding tends to have less contact with parents as they know parents live further away or are very busy or abroad. I would ask yourself how much you intend to visit the school. DD1's school became more and more weekly boarding and it lost a great deal in that Friday nights in the houses disappeared and chapel on Sunday evenings disappeared too. It altered the traditions of the school, which was a huge loss. Girls did not even stay in Friday night when they had a sports match the next day. If you intend to be an occasional visitor 2 hours is ok, but check to see how often you would want to visit and whether the drive will inconvenience you.

happygardening Sun 08-Sep-13 20:29:55

From extensive experience 1 1/2 hours one way is the maximum unless you own a helicopter, list driving as your main interest/hobby or have nothing to do all day oh and with the ever increasing cost of petrol have deep pockets. This applies eve more if your DC is sporty/musical/or a budding thespian any further and you'll rarely anything they do. Also if your any further everything becomes basically a pain in the arse; parents evenings, school social evening or even like tonight dropping them back at the beginning of term. In most school they don't have to be back until 9ish settle them in then turn round and drive home; your not home till nearly midnight. Very tedious especially if you've got to work the next day!
Then there's the traffic it many be 2 hours on goggle maps three weeks ago we drove home from near where my DS's old prep school is, a 3/1/2 hours journey turned into 9 1/2 very tedious hours. Plus when they were at prep and they wanted us to pick them up at 9 am (why?) we used to leave at 5 in the morning becasue we had to avoid the rush hour traffic on Britons favourite motorway.
My advise try and get it under 1 hour if you can.

Labro Sun 08-Sep-13 20:35:04

As pp says, I worked in a full boarding school. The youngsters placed a lot on which parents came to matches or events so would 2 hours be the round trip or would it be 2 hours each way? 2 hours each way would cause difficulties IMO

elQuintoConyo Sun 08-Sep-13 20:35:08

Mine was 260 miles from home. 5 hours' drive. Full boarding, obviously. We went home for full holidays (ie Christmas, Easter) and all half terms, but not exeats (weekends). We either stayed at the school with 6-10 other students and had a blast! Or were kindly invited to friends' houses.
We were military kids. When my DSis started the school, parents were a mere 1 hour away.
I don't feel I missed out on anthing, couldn't give two craps if they were at sports day!

difficultpickle Sun 08-Sep-13 22:05:48

I think it may be too far but I also think that if it is the right school I would seriously think about moving nearer. Not something I've thought about before.

stealthsquiggle Sun 08-Sep-13 22:10:43

Marking place for consensus as we are in a similar situation

mumtolawyer Sun 08-Sep-13 22:12:36

We looked at everything up to 4.5 hours drive away. Eventually went for approx 1hr 45 drive (each way).

bbboo Sun 08-Sep-13 22:15:33

2 hours away means in reality a 4 hour round trip (assuming traffic ok ) - that is a long journey time! When our son started at his (full boarding) school we lived 5 hours away so he didn't come home for exeat (not enough time) and we rarely saw matches etc. We now live 20 minutes away from the school. It is so much better - we can go and watch matches, go to see house plays, make parent mornings and pop in on Sundays and take him out to local café for milkshakes and cake/chat. Our son loves that we live so close - and when he forgets important stuff we can get it to him easily (memories of 2 return trips at the beginning of lower fifth when he had forgotten his blazer and duvet spring to mind!). As Happy says , he doesn't have to be back in House until 9pm on exeats - do you want to be getting home at 11ish on a Sunday? 2 hours is doable but limits the contact time you may have with him - agree with Happy - 1 hour max would be better.

steppemum Sun 08-Sep-13 22:23:53

I think you should look at where other kids come form too.

When I was at boarding school lots of the girls had parents living overseas, so we didn't have parents at matches etc, so our parents weren't up and down all the time.
The girls were from all over the country too, many more than 2 hours away, again parents didn't come to stuff, just to collect at half terms.

I am not saying that is necessarily the best thing, but rather we accepted whatever the norm was

happygardening Mon 09-Sep-13 00:48:31

The other problem is that even at the few remaining true full boarding schools most come out during the day on Sunday. If you're two hours away your just not going to go and get them bring them home and then take them back in the evening unless as I've already said you've got that helicopter. We're 1 1/4 hours away; thats in reality a 2 3/4 hour round trip, 280 miles in total in one day if we bring him out for the day. My DS would love to come home most Sundays but its just not doable from our point of view. We both drive a lot n the weekday for our jobs and our nearest town in 15 miles away aso we live in the car and as neither of us list driving as our main interest/hobby the last thing either of us want to do is drive for 5 1/2 hours on Sunday.
I also found when my DS's were at boarding prep and miles away whenever I did attend school things all I wanted was for them to be over ASAP because I had a crap journey home. On a couple of occasions when at prep and one was ill and at home I kept them at home for longer than necessary because we were either too busy to spend what was basically a day taking them back to school or there was an exeat/hoiday about to come up and I had no intention of say taking them back on Monday to only have to go and get them on Friday for an exeat/end of term. My DH and I were also constantly squabbling over who went to get them.
One final point we've always full boarded our DC's and been at school where full boarding predominates but we've still found that the majority of children live either abroad or fairly close to the school so this does mean that if your not close by its really hard to see friends during the holidays.
If you like the school that much move closer is the obvious answer if thats possible.

IndridCold Mon 09-Sep-13 09:20:45

We are 31/2 to 4 hours away, it's not ideal but it's fine. It depends on how often you want to see your DC.

DS enjoys boarding and didn't want/need to come home every weekend even when he was 20 minutes away. Attending plays and concerts needs a bit of extra planning and an overnight stay. We don't go to many matches, but DS is not a sportsman and we never used to go very many anyway.

Kenlee Mon 09-Sep-13 09:52:02

My daughter is actually only 6000 miles away..obviously full boarding....I dont think it matters . .We will see her at Christmas, Easter and the Summer holidays....

So I dont think distance is a concern....as long as it is a good one ..

happygardening Mon 09-Sep-13 15:00:36

Kenlee it's actually easier when you've abroad watching matches etc or bringing them home at the weekend is never something you have to think/worry about.

Kenlee Mon 09-Sep-13 15:20:16

That is very true....

I did fret at the start....then calmed down....Then fretted when term started...but I saw she has settled in nicely...So the anxiety ia not as great now...

ILoveChocolatePudding Mon 09-Sep-13 16:50:42

My DS started full boarding last week after weekly boarding and school is 1.25 hours or so away. We went yesterday for an impromptu trip for the inter-house matches. We didn't stay for the whole day, but watched a couple of matches and this seem to keep DS happy.

In looking at school 2 hours away, is there alternative transport between home and school, i.e. mainline train connections or airport. Certainly DS new school, runs coaches for connections to both West Coast and East Coast train stations which makes exeats and half-term less of a chore. Also both exeats and half-term commence in the morning so children at stations by mid-day so even those travelling to Scotland should get home by late afternoon/early evening.

BlackMogul Mon 09-Sep-13 22:23:56

I think the posts here show the difference between parents who want to be active in their child's school and those who are not so bothered about this. The real issue is: do you want to see your child? Do you, personally, want to pick them up? Are there opportunities to attend events a the school which you would hate to miss, or are you, and DS, really not bothered about this? If the answer is that you want to be involved then 2 hours is too far. If you want to be hands off and that suits all of you then 2 hours is no problem. I would find out what parents can be involved with. Is there a parents association ? Can you speak to another parent who can give you a flavour of where people live and how far they travel and if there is good attendance at events? I have seen many children disappointed when no parent turs up, again.

goinggetstough Mon 09-Sep-13 22:40:21

Black I don't think the distance does show whether a parent is bothered or not. In fact I find that rather an insulting comment. There are a number of reasons why a parent might chose a school further away eg special needs requirements, sports etc I have been both a 2 hour away parent and an overseas parent. We went to matches when we could (only one DC played in sports matches) and music concerts etc.

As a previous poster mentioned it is important to see where the majority of the pupils come from and the actual exeat policy. I really does vary from school to school. School buses for half term etc do make the distances easier. Even when we have been nearby both our DCs have often been busy at the weekend eg D of E, Outward Bound etc. They are very happy to be taken out to lunch/for the day but because of limited official exeats when the schools shut there has not been a problem returning them back late afternoon giving us plenty of time to get home.

IMO there is no point sending a DC to a particular school just because it is nearer. There are always compromises to be made. In an ideal world maybe 90 minutes is a perfect distance to be away from school..but sadly we don't all live in an ideal world.

LickleLemon Mon 09-Sep-13 22:52:22

I am currently living 2 hours and 15 minutes from DDs boarding school and I have to admit it is hard.

When we first chose the school we lived 1 hour 10 minutes away - that was quite easy and doable.

Sundays are a bit rubbish when she comes home if I am honest. The evening school run hangs over me all day. We leave at 5.30 (always a rush after tea, which means lunch has to also be early) and get back just before 8pm (assuming traffic ok). I hang around 15/20 minutes to chat to housemistress etc and then drive back - getting home around 11pm. I cannot ever go straight to bed after driving, so find myself say up until gone midnight. Monday morning is a bit of a killer.

The cost of fuel in the car has also meant we now limit attending functions etc or find ourselves - booking into a local premier inn to deal with 2 or 3 school events on close succession - assuming time allows.

That said - I love the school. I really do believe it is THE school for my DD and no where else would come close. We have gritted our teeth and got on with it for the past 3 years since we moved and will need to grit them some more soon as we are due to move again and this time will be 3 hours awaysad. Thankfully for commuting reasons only DD is in her final year at this school so hopefully we will cope OK with the short amount of time we will have to do a 7 hour Sunday night school run.

elQuintoConyo Mon 09-Sep-13 22:54:35

Yes, you are completely right, BlackMogul my DF actually asked to be posted to another camp in Germany or, even better, Saudi Arabia, but Lincoln was as far as they were going to send him. So, from a 1hour distance to a 5hour distance in one fell swoop.

But, yeah, you continue spouting bollocks hmm

difficultpickle Tue 10-Sep-13 08:12:20

At this stage I'd like to be involved with ds's activities at school. That may change as he gets older. The school we saw was co-ed and definitely proper full boarding.

We live very near a single sex full boarding school and that is a tempting prospect. Ds's school said it was a bit of a long shot for ds but having had him assessed recently by an EP (at the school's suggestion) he is capable of being scholarship material for that school so we may have a look there too. Having said that I think it will have to be truly outstanding to beat the school we saw last weekend. Not only did we enjoy the day but the follow up has been excellent too - email the same afternoon thanking us for our visit and an email yesterday morning from the director of music inviting ds to come and play for him. That followed on from a conversation at lunch and I am very impressed he remembered my name when I was just one of a number of parents to speak to him.

ILoveChocolatePudding Tue 10-Sep-13 20:25:16

I would suggest that your child's needs should be the driver to your school choice first and foremost and hopefully the EP report will clearly identify what those needs are.

There are always ways to make a school work whether it be local or some distance away. As mother of child with additional needs, I have found on the basis of previous prep school that parents will go to extreme lengths if it is the right school. At that school which offered weekly boarding, one child commuted on weekly basis first from Paris and then Switzerland because the school met the child's needs and to the best of my knowledge they did not use a helicopter.

Trishbradley Mon 23-Sep-13 09:45:05

We chose a school 1.50 hr away but the journey is straight down the M5 and do not find it a problem, though would think differently if it was across country. We felt it was more important to get the right school for DS, which we seem to have done. The school has parent consultations for boarders when you collect for half term which works well. If there is an event at school, you can always stay for a night locally. We have a campervan which has proved very useful.

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