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Advice needed on boarding secondary schools academic, sporty aspie boy

(19 Posts)
Mumof3inneedofadvice Mon 23-Apr-18 12:47:43

Firstly I want to ask you to be gentle with me. I appreciate I'm in a very very fortunate position but I'm asking (with a name change) in all seriousness and I'd be so grateful to avoid any posts about my errors or why I should move him to state school etc.

My son attends a highly academic day school where he does really well. He's not top of the class but he more than keeps up with no drama. He has a few good friends and He loves the high level of sport they play and is a great cricketer particularly and plays on most teams in the top 3 which is fab.

He has high functioning aspergers but in many respects you might question the diagnosis as to the outside world he's just a 'normal' (what's normal!) 10 year old shy bright sporty boy. He struggles with things in his life such as literal meanings and has no natural empathy. He is also dyspraxic which surprises people when they see him playing sport.

All of this I tell you for background as I need some advice. His father is from a boarding school back ground. Our son has always felt happier to be at home and that's all great but recently he indicated he might like to board. I don't want to stop him having that opportunity if he'd like it but I'm keen to get advice on where to look. His current school goes to 18 so I can't ask them, and no one leaves - it is really an amazing school but just without the boarding experience.

I'd love to hear thoughts. We went to see Winchester which sits similarly academically but I feel, maybe wrongly, that their pastoral care just won't be good enough. Also all the 'quirky boy's are in college which is fine but our son whilst super bright compared to the average isn't a 'genius' and I think might be lost in college.

I'm just really interested in hearing from people, who don't know us, and aren't experts - just hearing the word on the street! i'm not expecting any definitive answers but would so love to hear thoughts on other academic schools and anyone who has an aspie boy at boarding school and whether the schools are good. His current school could not be better at handling any issues and I have nothing but praise for them. It's just an idea and would love to hear thoughts.

Thanks so much.

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Needmoresleep Mon 23-Apr-18 13:03:58

Weekly boarding at Westminster? They dont have the same reputation for sport, but its two full afternoons a week, the encourage participation and it is (relatively) easy to make the team.

Boarding parents suggest that the week is so full on, helped by the fact that day pupils can come in for breakfast and stay for supper, that boardng DC mainly use the Saturday night and Sunday at home to sleep and chill. Sixth form boarding can then be full, augmented by new sixth-formers including girls.

WoodenCat Mon 23-Apr-18 13:05:43

If he’s happy at a great school which goes to 18 and you have no personal need (rather than family tradition) to send him to boarding school, then why move him?

MiniMum97 Mon 23-Apr-18 13:21:23

Having a son with Aspergers, I wouldn't move him if he's happy at his current school regardless of his "interest" in boarding. At his age he is unlikely to understand what this means in practice and as his parent you need to make these choices for him. Children on the autistic spectrum don't do well with change and it can be incredibly hard to find a school that suits them. Equally kids can be horribly cruel and if he is at a school where he is accepted and liked don't assume that this will be the case everywhere. In fact, I would thank your lucky stars he is at a school where he seems happy and accepted and has the pastoral care he needs. It was a real struggle for my son. He's also still little, he'll have plenty of time to experience being away from home when he is older, he doesn't need that experience now. I wouldn't rock the boat.

Gruach Mon 23-Apr-18 13:35:33

As someone who thinks boarding is great for the right child - I can’t see why you’d move him from a school where he’s happy and settled and doing well. (Not coasting.)

Is there any reason why he wants to board apart from wanting to emulate (or feeling he ought to emulate?) his father? I rather feel that you would know if he’d outgrown his current environment - but you don’t say that. I’m also curious about what his father feels about it.

There’s something in your description that suggests you’re not completely convinced boarding would be ideal. It would be a shame to move him only for him to struggle.

Gruach Mon 23-Apr-18 13:36:22

Meant to say - has he done much staying away from home?

Mumof3inneedofadvice Mon 23-Apr-18 13:38:05

@minimum97 everything you say is what I've said before but hearing from someone who doesn't know me and us is really helpful as reassurance.
@woodencat I've certainly felt this but wanted to make sure i'm investigating all the options
@needmoresleep I didn't know it offered some boarding that's really interesting thanks.

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happygardening Mon 23-Apr-18 14:01:14

My quirky lone wolf super bright (genius on his IQ score) went to Winchester he wasn’t in College there were plenty more like him not in College. There are also quite a few with ASD who aren’t in College.
My DS found the pastoral care to be very supportive. A lot depends on the individual HM all I can say is that we found DS’s to be brilliant he genuinely supported and cared for the boys and was always there for them and to go the extra mile and beyond. The atmosphere is pretty unique, the environment is very civilised and the relationship/ cameraderie between the boys is outstanding and again very civilised, if you read the last ISI report is says boys feel they can genuinely be themselves there is no pressure to conform I generally don’t have a lot of time for these reports but I think that is pretty accurate description. There will inevitably be banter between boys when they live in close proximity but my DS told me once that anything physical e.g pushing shoving etc is very frowned upon by the boys. Ive worked in other boarding schools so have something to compare it against. Of course they’re will always be some of have a different experience as there would be in any school but all DS’s friends who I met over the years were very happy there.
Sport is good but not fab but this might have changed with the new head who I think is more interested in sport that the old one who was a genuine 100% died in the wool intellectual.

Needmoresleep Mon 23-Apr-18 14:06:43

Yes, about a third up till sixth form. Boarding at Westminster is a different experience than perhaps the full-boarding experience elsewhere. But not less valuable for that. Quite a lot of the boys won't live far away but their parents have full-on careers so a combination of weekly boarding plus family weekends suits everyone. Or live a bit too far away for a daily commute.

I would have though that the breaks might be particularly useful for an aspie boy. DS did a weeks trial boarding which he loved, but ended up exhausted so was very happy to return home at the end of the week. He regularly went in for breakfast, and often studied with (day and boarding) friends in the evening and went to the gym after. Boarding friends were able to join him and other doing London things like public lectures at the LSE, plus all the EC stuff like choir rehersals, sport and drama.

Westminster is very good with bright "quirky" boys.

Sixthform is then a different experience and a very good preperation for University. Girls join, a third of whom will be boarders. Full boarding is allowed. Living in the centre of London with lots of friends and good pastoral care is fun. DD used to go in on a Sunday morning to have brunch and study with her boarding friends. They would then head off for some noodle place for supper.

I also though the sport was very good. A huge range is available and everyone is expected to take part. Some are very good, and certain sports (rowing, fencing, climbing) are strong. Every so often they then have a strong football, hockey or cricket 11. No rugby, and quite a lot of interhouse sport, which had the sporty kids trying everything. (Mixed netball.) A lot of DCs peers, who may not have considered themselves sporty, then keep up sport through University. Music is very very strong, as is drama and debating.

Mumto3teenagekids Mon 23-Apr-18 14:09:38

"if it ain't broke don't fix it" with regard to children and schools (even more so for an ASD child, I would have thought).
Most important thing is to have them happy, so if he is, why change it.
Just curious, why is boarding such a big deal?

Mumof3inneedofadvice Mon 23-Apr-18 14:49:38

@Gruach you're right really I was just making some inquiries. Previously I adamantly thought he'd be better at home because home is a safe space. BUT because he mentioned it himself I didn't want to discount the option. Reason he mentions it probably as you say because of his father (although to be fair he never mentions it) more likely because of family - all his cousins board so it's very much the norm in our family. He hasn't a clue really what it means so I think my heart says it isnt' right but as I say I don't want to discount. He'd like to find a holiday camp he said for a few days - no idea if there is such a thing!

Thanks @happygardening - i did get the feel the HM is totally vital - lovely to hear you got it right and you give a very glowing report of the school thank you.

@mumto3teenagekids I think you're right - that's what worries me. Husband (and extended family) feel so much to be gained in terms of friendships and independence from boarding. i boarded myself but hated it but I'm trying to look at it for each child in own merit not just because I loathed it!

@needmoresleep - thanks for info very helpful.

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Gruach Mon 23-Apr-18 15:05:58

I do think it would be a good idea for him to try some ‘away’ activities to see how he gets on.

No harm in visiting a few schools to get an idea though. Best done before he’s 10 and a half, for the widest choice. (Particularly if he might prefer his own room at school ...)

WoodenCat Mon 23-Apr-18 15:43:11

You can make fabulous lasting friends at any school - and arguably more friends as you can go to different groups / sports / activities in your local community. You can also learn independence at home in an entirely different way to the boarding experience. I speak as someone with family at boarding and day schools. The day children are excellent at navigating daily interactions - shops, restaurants, directions etc. The boarders are nervous about this but very good at mixing in with groups and doing sleepovers.

happygardening Mon 23-Apr-18 20:11:03

“The day children are excellent at navigating daily interactions shops restaurants directions etc. The boarders are more nervous”
This couldn’t be more far removed from my experience of boarders if it tried!! In fact I slightly worry that my DS is too good at navigating restaurants especially the expensive ones! Shopping etc doesn’t seem to have presented any kind of problem either apparent at uni he can live on £10 a week thus freeing him up to eat in restaurants!

Zodlebud Mon 23-Apr-18 20:39:36

I know nothing about it as a school but Uppingham do residential summer courses in sports and a wide range of other activities.

A short one week in a residential school setting (albeit outside term time) will help both you and him see if he’s really interested in it. There’s something to be said for sharing a dorm with other people, Aspie or not!!!!!

WoodenCat Mon 23-Apr-18 21:15:03

happygardening I would hope by the age of 18+ most adults would be able to ask their way / cope with a restaurant, expensive or otherwise. My observation is based on young teens and tweens and how they have coped with daily life as a result of being exposed to regular interactions and as a result of being somewhat more sheltered in their schools as they don’t have the same freedoms on evenings and weekends to just live normal life, it’s all organised outings and group activities rather than being sent to the local shop for a pint of milk for example. I’m not anti boarding as it can be great, in the right circs and for the right reasons but if there’s no need to send a child there and they have an excellent school already why risk upsetting that situation by uprooting them and sending them somewhere new.

happygardening Mon 23-Apr-18 21:37:46

“Being sent to the local shop to buy a pint of milk.”
My children have been brought up in a very rural community as “tweens” and “young teens” neither had never travelled on a public bus as we didn’t have any, or nipped out and bought a pint of milk, as the nearest shop was 7 miles away! At boarding prep in the top year maybe even yr 7 I’m struggling to remember they were allowed into the local town unsupervised. At Winchester boys have considerable freedom in fact some friends with DC’s at day schools were a little surprised by how much freedom they had and said they wouldn’t have let their DC’s have that amount of freedom. Boarding schools vary on the amount of freedom pupils get some IMO are stifling others aren’t. The key is to find one that matches your ethos on life.
Secondly boarders are only at school 32 - 33 weeks of the year there’s plenty of opportunities to buy the milk or get on a bus when you not at school, should such things be available to you.

sendsummer Tue 24-Apr-18 04:25:38

Mumof3 whatever the eventual answer to whether a boarding school like Winchester is a positive move for your DS in year 9 IMO it is worth keeping the options open at this stage. He can attempt the entrance pretests (if not too late) for Winchester and Westminster (for weekly boarding) and the process of that and beyond will give him and you whether it is really something he is excited by or is just that the grass is greener or he wants to emulate his father.
I know of and about a large number of boys like your DS who have very much enjoyed Winchester and said they felt at ease and supported. There are some who made the transfer from a very academic day school because they got bored of it by year 8.
It does seem to provide the right environment for 'quirky' boys to get all the positives out of boarding. Westminster would provide an alternative if you are close enough to London and your DS likes being in the centre of a city. Those from Winchester speak very fondly of the feeling of space, esthetics and tranquility from its location and buildings compared to a school in a city.

Mumof3inneedofadvice Tue 24-Apr-18 22:07:11

thank you all so much for your significant and helpful input. So appreciated and kind.

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