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AIBU to ask why there is such a visceral response to children in boarding schools?

(307 Posts)
DaemonPantalaemon Wed 19-Jun-13 10:46:58

Is this a UK thing? I live in an African country where the best schools tend to be boarding schools, and so people are happy to send their children there. I was at such a school myself from the age of 12, and I never once thought that my parents had "sent me off" or 'dumped' me. In fact, I would say that 60 to 70% of the kids in my country are in boarding.

Does this mean that all the parents in my country who make this choice are bad parents? Or is this just a UK thing?

More importantly, I have heard really great things about the pastoral care at UK boarding schools, and would actually consider sending my own DC to a UK school when DC is about 12.

I am trying to get my head around why this would be such a bad choice, as it seems to be from the Mumsnet posts I have read. I can understand why some parents would not want to send their own DCs to such schools, but why is there such an immediate and visceral reaction about the choices that other parents make for THEIR children?

Surely parents who choose this option do it for the best reasons, and they would be careful about the schools they choose?

So why so much hate about choices other parents make for their own children?

SuperiorCat Wed 19-Jun-13 10:50:16

Because many people still believe that kids are shipped off in September and not seen until December with the odd letter home like it was in DH's days.

persimmon Wed 19-Jun-13 10:54:16

I guess at a gut level sending one's children away is unthinkable to a lot of people, therefore they judge those who do.
Here in the UK it's a class thing too, as boarding schools are generally way out of most people's budget.

DaemonPantalaemon Wed 19-Jun-13 10:54:40

SuperiorCat, thank you for the response. My understanding of UK schools is that they are not at all like that, we have been in touch with a wonderful school in Scotland where the children have lots of time to be at home, and when they are at school, receive wonderful care and attention.

I totally get that it is not a choice a lot people would make, but I am really puzzled by the equation that sending a child to boarding school means that you are a bad parent.

I guess my parents were bad 4 times over as my siblings and I all went to boardingsmile

whistleahappytune Wed 19-Jun-13 10:55:09

I think there's a huge difference between sending a 12 year old off to boarding school and sending a 7 year old, which is common in the UK. I would have loved to go to boarding school myself, as home life wasn't so great. I think it can work very well (depending on the child) for 11 and older. It's the very young ones crying for their mummies being sent off that feels cruel.

TarkaTheOtter Wed 19-Jun-13 10:58:44

I don't really have an opinion on them, but my husband and my father both have a visceral reaction because they were the child in that particular arrangement.

DaemonPantalaemon Wed 19-Jun-13 10:59:36

Persimmon thank you for your response. Yes, I have seen a lot of "class" related posts on Mumsnet. A lot of attitudes baffle me because I did go to a university in the UK for three years, but I never lived there long enough to really get all of the the angst about class. To me, a school is just a school, but it is clearly more in the UK. Luckily, my DC will do what I did, receive a world-class education from a fine British institution (not paid for by tax payers because it is private) and then bugger off home to escape all the class anxiety stuffsmile

luxemburgerli Wed 19-Jun-13 10:59:52

I think it also depends on the norms in your contry. If 70% of your peers do something, then you won't feel hard done by if it happens to you. But if very few around you are sent off to boarding school, that changes the child's perception a lot, I'd imagine.

aldiwhore Wed 19-Jun-13 11:01:10

I think that perhaps because many UK boarding schools are OLD there is a sense of the worst kind of boarding school experience that is far away from Harry Potter.

My brother suffered terribly at his old-school Private School and bullying was rife (my brother wasn't a boarder but a day student) and his best friend was mercilessly bullied by both pupils and his housemaster, it was very Victorian.

My Brother-in-law spent his childhood being very lonely, at boarding school.

However, I do not doubt that some more modern boarding schools or even some old ones that have cast off the Victorian shackles are excellent.

I also accept that for some families, boarding school is not about 'shipping' the child off, but actually in the child's best interests.

BarbarianMum Wed 19-Jun-13 11:01:44

There are also cultural differences. In West Africa, for example, it's pretty common for children to spend chunks of their childhood away from their parents - generally staying with an aunt, or uncle's family, or with grandparents. I guess it's not such a big step from there mentally, to send them to boarding school.

In the UK these days families tend to be more nuclear and it's not typical for children to be away from home. And a lot of people have heard bad things about boarding from friends or relatives from 'the good old days' when it was considered character building by certain classes to pack their children off from the age of 7 and visit them annually.

DaemonPantalaemon Wed 19-Jun-13 11:02:02

Whistleahappytune, thanks for that perspective, In my country, kids generally go to BS when they are 12, so to us it is the norm. But I totally see your point about 7 year olds. I would not send DC to BS until he is 12, but I would never judge those who act differently, because i do not know their situations.

Hullygully Wed 19-Jun-13 11:02:14

People don't realise how much it's changed. I didn't send mine and dh had an awful time, but a lot of their friends board at the same school and have a brilliant time.

diplodocus Wed 19-Jun-13 11:03:28

I think in the UK there is a real cultural divide. It's very rare for parents to board their children unless they themselves have boarded so for some groups of society it's the norm, whereas for others it's incredibly alien. Parents who are from a boarding background frequently say things like "we need to do this because of our work" whereas those of us from non-boarding background would see this as a very extreme solution to a common problem and use other childcare options. It also seems strange to us when we hear parents say "our DD / DS wanted to board at 11" as ours are not brought up to see this as the norm / haven't had tales of high jinks in the dorms all their lives and would be (as a rule) completely horrified at the thought. As a person from a non-boarding background I find it really hard to get my head round, despite having a number of "boarding" friends who I trust to do the best for their children and who are boarding them from 12 / 13.

HabbaDabbaDoo Wed 19-Jun-13 11:05:41

I have relatives from the 'old country' that send their kids over to study in the UK. It's fairly 'normal' in some cultures. I wouldn't do it with my kids but I don't get judgy pants over those who do. This is of course providing that the child is happy to board.

neunundneunzigluftballons Wed 19-Jun-13 11:06:34

I have also met a lot of the people who went through and were less than complimentary about the experience, then again some others flourished. I can see a benefit for 12 year olds in some circumstaces but sending younger children does not sit well with me at all.

LoveWine Wed 19-Jun-13 11:08:00

I am from another EU country (currently living in the UK) and where I'm from people have a different perception of boarding schools. Almost nobody here sends their kids off to a school like this and in fact it is considered unthinkable to do so unless your child has some sort of special needs or behavioral problems in which case you might want to consider a more specialized environment. This is mostly due to the fact that publicly funded schools are way better than private ones so there is no need to send your children away when you can get a very good education while having them at home. Boarding schools as I mentioned are for children with more special needs.

In fact, private schools in this part of the world are considered second class as it is perceived that if you have to pay for your child to get into a school then that child is not actually very good. Public schools have a highly selective admission process.

That said, people do send some teenagers to high schools in other cities where the schools in their area are not very good, but it's not a common thing and almost never before high school. I guess things in the UK are different as the public/private education here is a whole other story. I am one of those people (mostly due to my own experience) who will never send their kids to boarding schools and I'd rather move to a different area with better schools than live apart from my small children, especially in their most formative years.

aldiwhore Wed 19-Jun-13 11:08:13

True Hully I guess you have to view it on a school by school basis, I know my brother's old school hasn't changed enough, but mostly the children there are of old money and it's a deemed as character building (destroying in my brother's case).

Bunbaker Wed 19-Jun-13 11:08:32

When I was a teenager the only children I knew who were at boarding school were there because their parents worked abroad or were in the armed forces.

Also, as far as I know boarding schools tend not to be state schools and are beyond the pockets of most families. I think they still have this image of Tom Brown's Schooldays.

Personally I would hate to send DD to boarding school as she would hate it. She has never been on any school residential trips even though I have encouraged her to, but she just won't go.

HabbaDabbaDoo Wed 19-Jun-13 11:09:42

My DD loves the idea of boarding. She spends about 4 weeks a year on residential trips eg PGL and school trips. She has a great time what with the rveningvmidnight feasts, chatting under the covers etc.

DaemonPantalaemon Wed 19-Jun-13 11:09:48

BarbarianMum, you are spot on on the cultural differences. I think nothing of sending DC to spend a week in a different city with his grandmother, but it would probably be frowned upon in the UK. We also have all sorts of aunts, uncles etc that he is happy to visit and play with their kids etc. so he does not have the expectation that he should always be with me and his dad, as has so man other people in his life. Like you say, BS is probably just a step from this.

Luxermburgli (fantastic name), that is a good point. If BS is the done thing, no one remarks on it, so where day schooling is the done thing, BS is remarked upon. I just wish there wasn't so much judgement around this issue.

Somethingyesterday Wed 19-Jun-13 11:11:34

Daemon (your wonderful name has brightened my morning!) you've been reading the revivified zombie thread haven't you?

Two obvious points:

1) Boarding schools have changed beyond recognition in the last 20 odd years - so even quite youngish adults might have had bad experiences that are no longer relevant to making the choice today.

2) Only a relatively tiny number of children board - so the vast majority of responses will come from people who perhaps have no direct experience of boarding schools today.

Startail Wed 19-Jun-13 11:16:46

because I much I needed my own space as a child/teen, boarding school is mine and DD1's idea of hell.

DD2 might quite like it.

Even then, I don't think having the same peer group for everything is totally healthy.

Living in a very isolated rural area it was inevitable as everyone went to the same secondary school.

Here DDs have friends that go to different schools, both from primary and through extra curricular things and that allows them to make friends without the latest gossip following them.

lydiajones Wed 19-Jun-13 11:20:57

My view of boarding schools is tainted by my experience. I didn't want to go but was sent anyway at age 9 due to parents working abroad. I was lonely, had few friends and was painfully shy - there was no where to escape from it. Every term I counted the days till the end of term. I only got letters from my parents (no phone calls allowed) and only saw them in the holidays and some half terms. When I started boarding school my childhood basically finished as all the things I had liked like dolls etc. were ridiculed and there was no time just to play in your room, everything had a strict timetable. We even had a cleaning rota when one week a month you would have to get up early and clean parts of the school!! I was practically mute for the first 3 years at the first school but no one thought that I might need some help even though at home I had been a normal chatty child.

My parents were aware that I was unhappy but never to my knowledge tried to do anything about it. They never really believed me as they thought just because I was confident at home that I was making a fuss about going. I still can't really forgive them especially as my children are approaching the age I was sent.

Am sure it is totally different now but it is still not for all children and if your children say they don't want to go please listen to them. Not every child is happy to live away from home no matter how great the educational opportunity.

DaemonPantalaemon Wed 19-Jun-13 11:23:34

Somethingyeterday I actually wanted Lyrasdaemon but it was takensmile I love Phillip Pullman. Indeed, I was prompted by the zombie thread, and by another where a mother with a son not doing well in BS has been vilified no end.

I hope this confession does not ban me for sort of breaking the MN rule about threads about threadssmile

morganster Wed 19-Jun-13 11:27:58

I think they've changed massively since the "olden days". But unfortunately that's how a lot of people remember them.

My nephew wanted to board because he likes having people around him, likes organised sports, music etc and likes the sense of order.

The pastoral care seems excellent - his housemaster will email with any problems. He comes home any weekends he likes. Parents are invited every other weekend to have tea/watch sporting events. If he didn't like it he could come out. But he's been boarding for a few years now and enjoys it.

His mum and dad have demanding jobs and his sibling has left home now. So being at home on his own a fair bit would not be much fun. Whilst he's there he's safe, has plenty of activities to enjoy, is well fed and is making some great mates. He's also getting good teaching.

I think it wouldn't suit every child. I'm a private person and I'd hate to have people around me all the time. But for some it can be great.

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