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boarding school information

(11 Posts)
brightandbeauiful Wed 04-May-16 05:45:02

Hi, my son wants to board for sixth form (from 2017) The whole area is entirely new to me, and I wonder if anyone has any advice on good websites/other sources of information where I can search geographically, and find out the strengths and ethos of particular schools, 100% boarders etc. Thanks.

happygardening Wed 04-May-16 08:53:29

Theres the Good Schools Guide who claim that their comments are made after they've visited a school and interviewed lots of teachers pupils parents etc but DS's prep was unrecognisable from their review! They're unlikely to write anything negative and I find some of their comment rather gushing. Tattler writes a slightly amusing similar and accurateish thing every year, But the schools know they're coming and will definitely be painting the roses, polishing the children and hiring goldfish for the visit!
You could post on here, there are quite a few of us with children at a variety of DS's and DD's a boarding school but some comments will be over fullsome their praise or contradictory and quite negative you will also get suggestions from people who don't have DC's there but have heard on the grapevine that X is great.
A boarding school's ethos must suit your DS and you as a family much more than a day school. The great adage one mans meet is another mans poison very much applies to boarding schools, I can think of a number of schools I wouldn't touch with a barge pole that many rave about and I know people have looked at DS's school and don't like it. You will also find current parents who have very different experiences, it's very dependent on the staff you and your DS meet and are involved with, if you and your DS are in step with the general ethos of the school and if it's living up to your individual expectations.
My advise is start of with a list of must haves, for example coed/SS, how selective this will be influenced by your DS's predicted grades, location; rural/market town/city, and most importantly location in terms of distance from home, there are many seasoned boarding school parents on here we would advise you 1 1/2 hours (one way ) max travelling is what you should be aiming for, of course if you live in the Scottish Highlands then you might have to reconsider this. Also equally important what sort of boarding do you want? Full, that means staying in school 7 days a week, perhaps being allowed out on Sunday and on set weekends, weekly, coming home on Saturday going back on Sunday night/Mobday morning or flexi boarding a few days a week. Full boarding only schools (or with just a handful of day pupils) are very much in the minority, most are weekly boarding with day pupils, it's slightly less important at 6th form level as 6th formers are more likely to stay at weekends even in predominately weekly boarding schools but IMO if you want full boarding choose a full boarding school it will have a different feel to it than a weekly boarding school with some full boarders. If you DS is a golf nut or a the world croquet champion do make sure they can offer his sport, however mainstream it might be don't just assume they'll do it. I don't hide my loathing of meaningless ritual and outdated ridiculous uniform, many boarding schools will have both of these in spades decide if you or your DS want this. If he's arty look at art depts ditto music, or if he wants to do an uncommon language is it offered? Do you want a big name with matching fees or a relatively unknown with possibly cheaper fees?
Look at your DS, boarding IME is a positive life changing experience but only if it work, those that do best are robust easy going types, it's not always easy to join in the 6th form because friendship will often have been established for three years, and the next two will go very quickly is your friendly and outgoing? If I was in your situation I think I might seriously look at schools with a significant intake in its 6th form or perhaps one that has separate boarding houses for 6th formers, this doesn't have to be written I stone but definitely something to consider. Don't look at loads you'll get confused, look at three or four, try and visit each school on a number of times and if possible not just on a open day/morning, watch the pupils and staff, when they're going about their every day lives they should look relaxed (your in their home) but purposeful, relationships between staff and pupils are more informal, and when you see pupils together in groups they're likely to be more cohesive and pupils will often sit physically closer to each other these are good signs. Ask difficult questions, if you here the same answers "it's the best school in the world with the best facilities, opportunities staff etc" then this is just someone telling you what they think you want to hear. No where is perfect it all about it working for your DS. Do think about ethos DS's school is very liberal with few rules I like this others might not, it's hands off parenting I also like this, a friends with a DS at another boarding school gets a brief report every three weeks she loves it, it would take me four weeks to work out how to log into the schools system to access it! Also although not majorly important how sociable do you want your school to be? DS2's school thankfully doesnt organise endless social events for parents but others do.
Others on here will come up with other things to consider.
What I'm trying to say amongst other things is that choosing a boarding schools a very personal thing no website or school advise organisation can really help you because we all see things differently, you can get general advise e.g. thats definitely a super selective full boarding school who don't do rugby but the sort of things that will make it work for your DS and you can only be found by visiting a school a few times observing it got yourself and asking the right questions.

brightandbeauiful Wed 04-May-16 09:52:00

That's such a helpful post, thanks! We currently live overseas, and have done for the past 3 years..DS feels that he'd like to do his A levels back in the UK..he's happy here, but there are a lot of things/different opportunities about the UK that he misses.
Not bothered about a big name, my sense is that reasonably small and friendly with good music and outdoorsy opportunities (he really misses the Scouts/DoE kind of stuff!)would suit him well
So he would be boarding for a whole half term at a time (I guess that would be noticeable if the majority of his peers are day pupils)
Thanks again!

lifeisunjust Wed 04-May-16 12:36:53

Bright the only box duke of yorks doesnt tick is location on your wishlist. Outdoor is its biggest strength and then hard to beat facilities with separate 6th form house then the staff. I cannot fault the school.

stealthsquiggle Wed 04-May-16 21:29:29

Sedbergh? A "big name", I know, but definitely outdoorsy...

HildaFlorence Wed 04-May-16 21:32:59

Royal hospital school in Suffolk.Outdoorsy , not too selective , lots of boarders in at weekends , convenient for Stansted and only an hour north of London .Fabulous music.

Gruach Thu 05-May-16 05:42:46

He won't be boarding for a whole half term at a time! Summer term has barely started and the first short leave (compulsory, everyone has to go home or stay with relatives, guardian, whatever) at "our" school is this weekend. Then it'll be half term soon, then another short leave ...

So - your options as regards locality should really take into account areas where you have family or close friends who could act as guardians. That means providing a home from home, taking him out, turning up to sports matches, concerts, plays or whatever he's involved with, staying in contact and responding to expressed and unexpressed needs, maintaining the conversation on sex, drugs, bullying, chatting to his housemaster, liaising with the matron and basically keeping on top of things in your place. This is surely much better undertaken by someone you know and trust rather than a random person from a list.

The other thing is that you really need to know what sort of GCSE (or equivalent) results he's likely to achieve. Most well thought of schools are extremely choosy about sixth form entrants so (unless he is an academic star) you may need to be realistic about choice of school.

Gruach Thu 05-May-16 06:05:24

And, of course, as he'll be in the sixth form it would be best if the guardian were someone who could provide support and practical help regarding university or other options - assuming he wants to do that here. It may be that you're near enough or flexible enough to be able to fly over for every university visit - but as you've been away for a few years you may not personally be able to provide the most helpful advice on UCAS related matters. In your shoes this is what I'd want a guardian to do. (Even if you don't think it's likely that he'll stay in the UK for university.)

lifeisunjust Thu 05-May-16 07:34:32

At my son's boarding school, the entire UCAS and university process is taken care of by school as regards helping with choices and completing the application. I didn't need to be in the UK or any other relative in the UK either to deal with UCAS. The school actually forbids parents from writing the students' personal statements and universities are fully aware of this and I see it as a great advantage as the universities know they are genuine and can judge candidates better.

A student at a full week boarding school should really be independent enough to be able to take themselves to their own university interviews! That's what the students do at my son's school. He just went to Glasgow, Birmingham, Warwick, Kent and Surrey. All I did was pay for the ticket and he took himself there and he'd never been to any of them before. I don't think it is at all essential to have a relative to take them there, these are almost adults, not babies. I'm certain my son's 5 offers and firm choice of Surrey was down to him NOT having a parent or guardian with him to coach and cosset him.

If you choose a school where most students are full boarders and no obligatory exeats, the only time your son will leave will be Christmas, Easter, Summer and 3 half terms, so 6 times a year. If you are so far away, practically that might mean staying in the UK 3 half terms a year and the UK has trains and planes and I'm sure your son could manage getting himself across the UK on his own to grandparents. For that reason, I would concentrate on finding schools easily accessible to transport to grandparents but not necessarily schools on the grandparents' doorsteps.

Gruach Thu 05-May-16 08:18:55

Oh, certainly one expects a school to play its full role in university choice and application. (I never suggested that parents should write pupils' personal statements!) And certainly some 16/17/18 year olds are happy to make visits alone or with friends. But I think it's kinder to make sure there is a supportive adult outside school who can be turned to for additional help, lifts, cash, a shoulder to cry on.

I'm not familiar with schools that don't include compulsory exeats and optional day/evenings/lunches out. I'm sure that might be useful for non-UK resident parents - but I wouldn't have liked it myself as a boarding teenager, I wouldn't choose it for the child currently boarding and I think it would be a shame to limit choice to only that category of school.

Each to her own ...

BoffinMum Fri 06-May-16 20:38:36

Some of the state boarding schools are terrific and well worth a look.

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