Hockerill Weekly Boarding? How good is it?

(26 Posts)
vghappy Tue 04-Mar-14 10:41:55

My son has been offerred a weekly boarding place at Hockerill to start from Sep 2014. I am very nervous about this and already feel very depressed at the thought that i will not have enough time to spend with him. My husband is very keen to send him for boarding. My son is very happy and excited. He is quite Academic and is doing very well in his middle school now. Do they allow children to partly stay at home say (thur/Fri/Sat) instead of the whole week ? How good are the boarding facilities? Can you pls share your experiences? Can we accept the offer now and then move closer to the school and then just pay the fees and bring my DS home as often as we want?

ZeroSomeGameThingy Tue 04-Mar-14 10:50:42

Why was your Ds entered for a boarding place if you did not want him to board? Are you saying you were railroaded into it by other members of your family?

Fwiw boarding is enormous fun for children who want to do it. But no child will be happy if they think a parent feels negative about it.

How old is your Ds and how did this situation arise? Particularly since, as I understand it, children have to meet certain "need" criteria to qualify for a place at Hockerill.

culprit Tue 04-Mar-14 11:40:51

The kids tend to love boarding and don't want to go home. The children I know who do it, don't actually like having nights at home because it is disruptive and if they are ever going to feel home sick, its after they have been home during the week.

I don't think they will be as flexible as you are hoping. It wouldn't be fair on the children who can't go home, if the boarding house was empty, except for them.

Daily boarding is more flexible because it doesn't really effect anyone else if a child goes home at 5 instead of 7.

The boys I know who live very close now (but need boarding because the father is due to be posted abroad soon) do not go home in the week, even though they live 3 miles away.

vghappy Tue 04-Mar-14 11:59:35

My DS is 11 and we live in Stevenage with very few options for Secondary schools. Hence we applied for both Day/Weekly boarding at hockerill. We did apply for some local good secondary schools(like Knights templar in Baldock) and did not get in. We just have the weekly boarding option from Hockerill now. Also, i work in london and my husband travels a lot!! I think it is going to be tough for any parent initially to send their child for Boarding...How are the Boarding facilities in hockerill? How is the pastoral care? Do children really get help in the evening with their homework? How is the catering facilities? What happens if kids find it difficult to cope with more than one language? My son is great at maths(already on level 7 now). How is the maths dept at hockerill? Are they able to stretch boarders?

ZeroSomeGameThingy Tue 04-Mar-14 12:17:27

But you should have checked all these things before you entered him! You seem to have completely misunderstood the seriousness with which families approach boarding. Which is (forgive me) exactly why you think things are going to be "tough".

Before you enter a child for any school you need to have

visited that school with your child

met the teaching staff and discussed all aspects of the curriculum in relation to your son.

visited the boarding houses, met the boarding staff, discussed pastoral care...

I'm sure your child is perfectly well able to thrive but it is disappointing that you seem to have taken no care at all to check the things that were important to you before you applied for a place. Most parents have questions before a child starts boarding - but the basic things you are asking should have been covered long before this point.

Did you avoid checking the details because you were not keen on the idea? If you are serious about your DS taking up this place I suggest you urgently arrange to go back to the school - with him - and discuss all your concerns with the relevant staff.

hertsandessex Tue 04-Mar-14 13:07:42

OP I have a daughter weekly boarding and another starting this September. I can understand your concerns. We had the same feelings when our daughter started. The main thing is that your son wants to go - he will have a great time and do very well! Regarding staying some nights this is not really allowed. I know some people who have difficulties settling stay at home Sunday night and come back early Monday morning but I don't think anybody regularly comes home on other nights. The odd night is ok for family reaons but not regularly. However, there is more flexibility on children popping out in the evening for a meal or for some activities especially at the beginning. The danger is that they miss prep and other activities but perhaps one night a week is ok. The boarding facilities are fine. For year 9-11 the girls is a lot better than the boys as the girls was built recently but the boys seems fine . The refectory is excellent and there is also a modern health centre. Overall it is a great place and almost everybody is very happy. As for your plan of paying the fees and moving closer to the school so he can just come home unfortunately that would not be permitted. Your only choice would be to move extremely close (like say less than 800m) and go on the waiting list for a normal day place. They don't come up often but there is a small chance. Let me know if anything else.

hertsandessex Tue 04-Mar-14 13:16:14

How is the pastoral care?

Excellent. Lots of staff supervising and watching out for them and regular reports back. Also very easy to communicate with boarding staff by phone or email (better than rest of school to be honest!)

Do children really get help in the evening with their homework?

Yes they do get some but it is more supervision than help. They tend to help eachother a lot and staff seem to be willing to help during break and lunchtime. It is a place where children need to take responsibility and ask for help if they need it.

How is the catering facilities?

Excellent facilites. Breakfast and lunch very good. Evening meal less so but fine. Children are well fed and go to town to top up with things themselves once a week.

What happens if kids find it difficult to cope with more than one language?

Virtually everybody does but I think in extreme cases in year 10 or 11 they are allowed to drop and spend the time on other things but it is exceptionally rare.

My son is great at maths(already on level 7 now). How is the maths dept at hockerill? Are they able to stretch boarders?

I have experience of top set and it is extremely strong. My daughter was strong at maths in primary and was a bit shocked at the speed they move and the level of the group. It starts of a bit slow as the children find their feet and teachers work out the right level but by middle/end of year 7 they are going very quickly. The NC scores are very high. Not being stretched is very unlikely.

MmeMorrible Tue 04-Mar-14 14:15:46

Hi OP my DD has also just been offered a place for weekly boarding at Hockerill from September. The idea of boarding came from her and she is excited and elated to have been offered a place.

I do understand some anxiety of your part. I am sure that it will more difficult for DH, DS and I than it will be for DD. She is naturally outgoing and gregarious and will join in with everything with gusto. We will miss her and have to adjust to there being 3 of us midweek instead of 4. We will fairly locally and are planning to meet DD in town for a coffee and take her out to dinner sometimes during the week as and when this is permitted by the school.

We went to the open day and were very impressed by the boarding facilities and the number of after school activities on offer. Have you read the boarding Ofstead report as this might help to put your mind at rest about the quali of the provision.

I think the thing that sold us on the school though was observing the warm and humerous interactions between the pupils, teachers and office staff as we waited for our boarding interview.

hertsandessex Tue 04-Mar-14 16:11:09

Welcome to the Hockerill family MmeMorrible. Well done to DD. I'm sure she will love the school and Winchester in particular. There is a lovely atmosphere there. If anything like us DD will soon not want to meet you in town for a coffee but will want to make use of the one day a week they are allowed out to explore with friends! That said the odd dinner out is always permitted.

vghappy Thu 06-Mar-14 10:26:29

Many thanks for all your response. It is very reassuring. We visited the school twice before applying for a place. But its very nice to hear from other parents. Still lots of questions in mind....
1. Day boarding was our first choice followed by weekly boarding. If we move closer to the school, is there a chance of getting a DAY boarding place? Or is this virtually impossible? Once we accept weekly, do we have to stick to it?
2. I heard that they have saturday morning lessons. But it is not every week i guess. If there is no saturday morning lesson, do they let weekly boarders go home by friday evening?
3. Apart from the boarding fees what are the other extra costs involved? How often are the school trips? How expensive are they?
4. We heard that they have history/geography lessons in French/German. Is this for everybody or only for those who want it? How does that work?

Many thanks. Really Appreciate it...
I am still very nervous...

hertsandessex Thu 06-Mar-14 10:44:23

Glad you feel a bit better. On your questions:

1. Extremely unlikely you will be able to switch to day boarding. Rarely do people leave and when they do places are allocated from waiting list based on "day boarding need" and being a weekly boarder doesn't put you in a better place to somebody not at school. Moving very close and waiting for normal day place is much more likely to work but if you join as weekly in your mind you should be comfortable that it most likely to be for 5 years.
2. Saturday lessons are almost every week with one exeat weekend off every half-term. Weekly boarders have to stay until lunchtime on Saturday. The odd Friday home maybe ok but basically they have to stay at school. As I said before basically they have to board 6 nights a week (maybe not Sunday in some extreme cases) and there is no way around it so stop searching!
3. Not many other school fees apart from music lessons. Couple of trips in year 7 maybe £400 and £300 although not compulsory. One in year 8 about £500. The big ones are trip to Japan if do Japanese (maybe £1500?) or rugby tour to USA.
4. History/geog in French or German are for those that end up on bilingual track if they are good enough in year 7. I think this ends up being at least half of children. Starts in year 9 I think. A lot music lessons in French or German in year 7 as well. Seems to work well - really helps language skills and supposedly doesn't effect history or geog learning. Mixing learning across subjects is a big part of the MYP and then IB style of teaching at Hockerill.

hertsandessex Thu 06-Mar-14 10:46:06

Just to clarify on the exeat weekends weekly boarders leave at 4pm on Friday.

vghappy Fri 07-Mar-14 20:13:38

Thanks a ton for your reply. Given me a lot of clarity.
Few more more questions.... Sorry to be a pain.
1.How is the mobile phone usage policy? Do kids have them at the boarding house? Hope the usage is strict as my son could get carried away using it a lot to play games! Can we talk to them on a regular basis especially in the initial days?
2.Regarding popping out to the town centre midweek, I thought it was just the older children who do that. Are even yr 7/8 allowed to go out on their own? What is the approximate weekly pocket money we need to give? Is it necessary?
3. Are we allowed to give them some fruits/biscuits for them to keep at their room so that they can have it when they are really hungry. My son is vegetarian. They did mention that they cater to vegetarians but might have limited options I think.
Many thanks . Really appreciate your help!!

hertsandessex Fri 07-Mar-14 20:34:26

No problem - the more you get to grips with the detail then the more comfortable you will be.
1. They are allowed mobile phones after the first 2-3 weeks assuming they have behaved. They have to hand them in to the office overnight and get them back in the morning for a little before school. They don't have them all the time but enough to waste a lot of time if not careful. You might want to make sure data usage is restricted. In the first few weeks before phones they can use the payphones and you can call back. If things are difficult can call via office.
2. No year 7 are allowed out although maybe only after first half-term and only if they have behaved. They have to go in pairs and take phones. Sounds like a big thing but lots of day pupils walk home 20 mins everyday alone. Up to you how much you give. Some just a few pounds to buy some snacks while others seem to have more and debit cards. Full boarders tend to need more as have things to buy.
3. Yes they are allowed a "tuck box" in their room and keep pretty much whatever they want.

Also so you know in the summer term the children come in for a taster session and to find out room mates and parents get to meet other parents. People swap details and over the summer likely to be some events for people to meet and ask the old hands these sorts of questions.

Hope that helps.

MmeMorrible Sat 08-Mar-14 10:35:44

I'm finding all this info really useful, so many thanks Herts.

We're worrying that we haven't received a big pack of information yet. We paid the deposit on Tuesday and posted back the health declaration form with a covering letter accepting the place. Do you know when we will get some more details?

Nothing to add other than that my DH attended here 15 years ago and has nothing but good, positive things to say about it.

hertsandessex Sat 08-Mar-14 11:56:19

MmeMorrible - I have sent you a private message.

hertsandessex Sun 09-Mar-14 21:55:58

Just to add that find out all the forms and information will be sent out in May.

vghappy Tue 11-Mar-14 11:35:45

Thanks..Hope to get the info in May. I will be pulling my son out from an outstanding middle school in Buntingford(Edwinstree) for this move to hockerill. Also, all us at home including DH, DD will be missing him during the week. I am hoping this will be all worth it!! Hope hockerill stands out than other schools. Still unsure....Having sleepless nights.

bloomfieldtj Wed 12-Mar-14 10:20:55

vghappy - may I ask why you're pulling your son out of his outstanding middle school? For the record, I have a DD in Yr 8 at Hockerill (full boarder). I am very happy indeed with the school. She's doing really well. Hoping my son can join her next September.

Gardenia123 Sat 05-Apr-14 14:48:12

Dear VGhappy,

Others have answered a lot of the practical questions but I do think you are right to feel anxious about missing your son and the fact that boarding is difficult for parents. I have two children who are weekly boarders and overall I would say that I am extremely pleased with the school and the boarding, despite various ups and downs - to be expected. When they first went I was absolutely bereft - it was a lot harder than I'd anticipated - but as time went on I began to get a feel for the rhythm of boarding life and to enjoy their absences, getting on with work and catching up with friends etc and to really appreciate the weekends (short) and the holidays (long). It is pretty easy to communicate with both your child and with the boarding staff and they tend to be fairly flexible when necessary - but as others have said - your child will probably prefer to just do what everyone else does and get into the pace of life at school. It is not really advisable to take them out overnight unless there's a good reason. There are a lot of opportunities for them to be involved with music, sport and other activities - many of which they may be thinking of giving up in a normal school - at around the age of 13 or 14. Hockerill makes children understand that it is cool to learn and it is cool to succeed. There is very little in the way of bullying and problems have always been resolved quickly and efficiently in my experience. The bottom line is to see how your son enjoys it. Even at their lowest ebb (when work pressure, illness and fatigue take over) my two say that they would not want to leave or to go back to a day school. The school is pretty pressurised - I would certainly not worry about your child being stretched. It is a sharp learning curve in the early days as they have to remember so much and do so many things for themselves - but it is amazing to see how they somehow scramble through it and become independent and mature very quickly. In my view they do not get enough help with homework - but they do become good at working independently. I would like them to have more help with things like revision for tests where I feel the day kids have an advantage, but they all seem to get there in the end. I would say to be prepared to do nothing much at the weekends initially. They are very short and they often have washing, ironing and homework to be done and they are tired. I found it a good idea to prepare some food in advance so that valuable time wasn't spent in the kitchen. The food at school is ok in the daytime but the evening meal at the moment is not great and in my view a cause for concern, although this kind of thing has a tendency to change. There is a lot of stodge and its not very nutritionally balanced despite what they say. You can supply them with healthy tuck but they don't always eat it. Unfortunately they are very close to a Spar where a lot of rubbish appears to be bought and consumed. I think the main thing about boarding which no amount of visiting really prepares you for is the fact that you have to relinquish a certain amount of control and accept the fact that your child is being partly brought up by complete strangers. This was hard for me to come to terms with and I wish I'd thought about this more in advance - but ultimately it wouldn't have changed the outcome. It's a good school, the kids are well looked after and they are happy. No school is perfect - but Hockerill is one of the better ones. The other nice thing is that even as they hit the teenage years, boarders are so delighted to be at home that they don't tend to want to waste time fighting or complaining or being grumpy. They are pretty happy just to enjoy family life, eat nice food and catch up on sleep. I do not feel that my relationship with my children has suffered. In fact I'd say that in some ways it has brought us closer. It's a bit of a roller coaster in the early days but things do settle down. My advice would be to get as many email addresses as possible from fellow parents when you have the initial meetings and create a little support group to see you through the tough times. The school organises coffee mornings and other events which are also a good way of meeting other parents. You can also invite full boarders back to your house for exeat weekends which is a good way of getting to know some of your child's friends a bit better. Anyway good luck - I'm sure you will all be fine.

2GirlsDad Wed 07-May-14 02:25:42

OP, I have a daughter at the school. If you look up the academic results you will see they are pretty good for a comprehensive, they are not far from the top.
One thing you should be aware is that generally the school ethos is that they know better. Yes, you will get support and understanding and flexibility when your child starts but although Hockerill does not have a very long tradition as a boarding school, it is unlikely they will accept any suggestions - and most parents concur that even when it is accepted, there is no acknowledgement or even any reply.
Boarding life can be a lot of fun for a young teen (often distracting) and although they have supervised prep, you will not experience the same level of oversight and support as a parent could give, specially true when you have a strong academic child. Day kids have a definite advantage.
Also true for parents since part of boarding fees contribute to the greater good of all students (clubs, medical centre, etc) instead of focusing on boarders (and boarding staff ratios are high and support during prep limited for example).
Evening meals have been a problem for years (menus are not available to parents). The last Head did what he could but the problem is still there. Some children go hungry (and the school knows this). Tuck and Spar shopping are what children turn to, unless they are day boarders (in this case parents cook prepare supper).
Generally staff look well after the children but you cannot expect the same level of attention as a parent would. Children are taught to be independent and you hear some cases of children not requesting medical support and that going unnoticed (specially on full boarders).
Language teaching is where the school really stands out, although overall all teachers are pretty good, there are some surprisingly not and that do not seem to be managed.

Good luck!

lerump Sun 11-May-14 22:45:18

I would agree with some of the points above - there seems to be a distinct lack of supervision for some of the pupils as a lot of the bad behaviour seen in the late afternoon/early evening in town seems to come from students from Hockerill roaming through the Sainsburys' carpark eating junk food and yelling at each other. This may be a minority but the reputation locally for bullying at the school would worry me too. Type the school name in twitter and it makes interesting reading. People are too hung up on the academic reputation and forget the important things like turning out socialable pupils.

2GirlsDad Mon 12-May-14 14:40:08

You have to keep in mind that this is a state school and for example they do take their share of SENs, etc that they seem to manage well.
Behaviour is well managed at school and I have not heard of any serious incidents of bullying.
I cannot comment on behaviour at the town centre and how it compares to students from the other schools or whether it relates to Hockerill day or boarding students? Perhaps lerump can clarify?

Happy123456123 Sat 14-Jun-14 16:11:30

I am in yr 7 in hockerill trust me it fine. But I'm a full boarder and I live in Africa but it is good an i am sure your son will like it. I started in 2013 and will be in yr 8 it's an amazing school.

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