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Any advise on boys Boarding Prep

(8 Posts)
Iwillbethereinaminute Thu 03-Mar-16 01:43:34

We have started to look at prep schools for our son.We are open to full or weekly boarding and are looking at the Berkshire or Oxfordshire schools. Does anyone have advise on which school would be best for a very bright boy,loves music and drama.Not particularily sporty but good socially.He would start in year 4

Drinkstoomuchcoffee Thu 03-Mar-16 15:35:48

Very much a buyers market as these schools are finding it difficult to fill boarding places as most UK families no longer choose this option at Y4. Have a look at the "new at boarding prep thread". If you are British and your DS is half way sensible and you can pay, they will bite your arm off for him. Do not be led into boarding at 8 because they tell you it maximises chances for "top" public schools. It is no longer the case. You can easily start at 10 or 11 and achieve the same objective.

What boarding option do you want? Ludgrove and Cothill have more of a full boarding ethos - the last two full boarding boys preps in England. Others ate becoming more flexible in their offerings.
Do you want your DS to come home at weekends? Every weekend? Friday to Monday? After games on Saturday to Sunday evening? A couple of nights a week in the first instance? In practice, even at the "full" boarding schools you will have a fixed exeat every three weeks, one extra optional weekend away each side of the fixed exeat and a Sunday outing each side of the fixed exeat. This means you can see your DS every weekend if you want. But - if say you are abroad- it also means that his friends may go home/to grannies every weekend and he may be on his own or with a very small number of overseas students. This is particularly the case at Y4. And it is not great for the child left behind. If you are contemplating Saturday nights at school, ask a lot of questions about how many boys are in on a Saturday night. Then ask again. And again. And be prepared for them to lie to you. There will be few, if any, Y4s. Also check if exeats also include Mondays. That can also be abit of an issue.

Which senior schools are you looking at? Look at the destination schools. The Berks/Oxfordshire schools you are looking at all send boys to the most competitive senior schools, so they will all get the right boy in. But if your DC is not a bright all rounder they cannot perform miracles so don't expect them to.

Do you want a small school eg Sunningdale/Woodcote? Or something bigger?100 boys in total can be very nurturing at the bottom end but can get a bit limiting for a 6ft 2 13 year old who has been there for five years. It means your DS gets to be in all the teams - but if he is a potential county level player it may be a bit frustrating playing with half the team made up of what would be third team players in a bigger school. And it means you never really get to play strong teams. So unless you are also playing outside schools it can be a bit of a shock when they move on to senior school.

Do you want to go for matches during the week? How easy are they to get to? Will you drive? Use public transport? Do you have friends/family at any of them who can keep an eye on your DS if you are not around?

All of these schools have a very similar offering facilities wise. All offer academics, drama and music. All send boys to a range of "top" schools. So- I would work back from what I expected to happen at weekends, decide on size and then visit.

Iwillbethereinaminute Thu 03-Mar-16 16:09:54

Thank you for the advise,we live in the UK so those schools would be a couple of hours away.I would like the option of taking my son out on a Saturday night but ideally one with lots going on at the weekend.I really like the look of Sunningdale and Horris Hill especially Horris Hill as they seems to put a lot of effort into weekend activities.Also like the size and it sends boys on to top schools(I know nothing is guaranteed).We would hope our son would go on to one ,he is bright and always keen to try new things so I think boarding school would suit him.He is not particularly sporty but he loves music and drama.We could certainly travel to matches and other school events.

Iwillbethereinaminute Thu 03-Mar-16 16:51:15

Drinkstomuchcoffee,do you have a DS who is going or has gone to boarding prep,what age did he start at?

Drinkstoomuchcoffee Thu 03-Mar-16 16:54:29

Not sure how much experience you/your family have of boarding in Y4 or what may be pushing you in that direction. But if it is music and drama you are after, don't forget you can access that at a day school, or as a day student in a boarding prep.
If you are in London, there are schools like Papplewick and Woodcote who run buses each day. This offers the best of both worlds as your DS can get used to the school as a day boy and then move gradually into boarding as he gets older.
We have friends whose son went to HH (boarding from Y7) and they were very happy with it.

Iwillbethereinaminute Thu 03-Mar-16 17:14:23

We don't live in London and the school my son attends has a very narrow curriculum.He is doing really well but needs to be stretched academically.He plays the violin,the only boy in this school and we want him to be in an environment where there are lots of boys like him.Did your friends son get everything he wanted out of Horris Hill and did he board there?

Drinkstoomuchcoffee Thu 03-Mar-16 18:42:14

Friends son started boarding at HH at 11. He enjoyed it - and went on to a good senior school. Family were very happy.
Our own DC went to a day/boarding prep with a lot of full boarders. DC 1 full boarded from 11 for various complicated reasons which I will not outline for fear of outing myself! Bright, very robust, all rounder - went on to the senior school of our choice. I cannot fault the prep school. Facilities, staff, pastoral care etc were wonderful. But as DC1 themselves put it, the bottom line is that these schools are institutions and the boarding staff cannot begin to duplicate the care you would give your child get at home. Your DS will get homesick. And not just at the start. Boarding staff down play this and stress how busy they keep the children - but the reality is that your child will sometimes be sad and unhappy simply because they are not at home with you. When they are miserable/stressed/fed up/just want to be close to someone - no-one is going to sit with them on the sofa and give them a cuddle as you probably would at home. And they miss that. I think this is really important for younger children in particular. The other point is that boarding fundamentally changes your relationship with your child. They adapt, become more self sufficient and no longer need you in the same way. Normal at 11 or 13 maybe - but small boys and girls need their parents. And their parents need them.
Our younger DC started at the same school as day students. This was, for us, the ideal solution. There was no shock to the system as there is when you drop them off as boarders and drive away. They were able to access all the activites of a busy boarding prep but still come home at night. If we wanted them to board for a few nights they could and both did choose to board for longer periods in preparation for senior school.
There are many children at their senior schools who had never boarded before they started at 13. None had any problems accessing these schools. And with the benefit of hindsight, I would say there is little or no advantage to an earlier boarding for start for native English speakers - unless there are special circumstances at home.
So do think it through very carefully. Especially for a Y4 start. Don't be swayed by the glossy brochures and the stories of sleepovers and fun in the dorm. At Y4 all that comes at an emotional price. Sometimes circumstances mean that price is worth/must be paid. But it is not a decision to be taken lightly.

Iwillbethereinaminute Fri 04-Mar-16 06:21:38

Thank you for all the advise, I do know there is a lot to consider did perhaps 11 would be a better age but I would worry( maybe wrongly so) that he would be behind compared to a boy who had been there from a younger age.However if most boys start at 11 then this maybe this wouldn't be the case.The schools do give you the impression that they have lots of very young boys and I would need complete trust if I were to sent my son.

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