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Boarding school

Best age for boarding; 11 or 13?

56 replies

WhereWeGoingNext · 16/12/2022 13:55

I always though 13 was the right age with 11 being just that bit too young.

Looking around now at future options. I still have the above belief, but a lot of schools, especially state boarding schools, start at 11, not 13, therefore wondering what people thought was the best age? Is it best to go from 11 and be there the whole way through? If starting at 13, when the school starts at 11, how well do children integrate into existing boarding houses?

I appreciate something very similar has been asked recently, but particularly interested in
a) what age people think is the ‘best’ age for coping with boarding
b) entry at 13 into state boarding

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NewToWoo · 16/12/2022 13:58

I'd say 13. Some hormonal thing kicks in around then when they really want to break free from home and become independent. That would make boarding a much more appealing prospect. At 11 they may still get that desperate homesickness and feeling of abandonment which leads to boarding school syndrome. DS was ready to board by 13 - he didn't as his school didn't offer weekly boarding. But if they had, we'd have let him do it. He'd have loved it and stayed late most nights at school anyway.

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bridgetjonesmassivepants · 16/12/2022 13:59

Why does your child need to 'cope' with boarding? Why don't you just keep them at home with the family?

Your question makes it sound as though you think boarding is going to be traumatic at either age so why are you even considering it?

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WhereWeGoingNext · 16/12/2022 14:05

Family circumstances. Due to the nature of the job we can move very quickly and stay somewhere between 6months and 2years. Could be anywhere in the UK or oversees. We would like to give them stability during secondary school, especially for GCSEs and ALevels if they want to do them.

The DC will manage fine with moving school. They have been to plenty of schools, including ones where they didn’t even speak the same language as the rest of the kids on arrival. Their education has been varied, they have a lot of experience of different ways of being taught and of different countries and languages, have learned things they would never have learned with a more normal uk state education such as different history or geography which means they have a broader education in some ways, but have some areas which are a bit patchy. The whole point of boarding is stability during the exam years so they get to cover the content properly and have the opportunity to do as well as they can do. The question is which is the best time 11 of 13?

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SurpriseSparDay · 16/12/2022 14:12

@bridgetjonesmassivepants you may not have noticed this is the dedicated boarding school board - provided by MNHQ so that posters can discuss and ask advice about boarding without having to battle through anti-boarding rhetoric.

So this isn’t the place for your question.

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ZiaMcnab · 16/12/2022 14:13

I went to a boarding school from 11 to 18, I was a day pupil in the first and last 2 years, but boarded between 13 and 16 (through choice) and had a brilliant time. I'll also say, at my school, there was a huge influx of new pupils at 13 (there were about 60 of us in my year 8 and we went up to well over 100 in year 9) to the extent that most of us know have to really concentrate to remember if someone was there in the first 2 years or not, so I don't think you need to worry about the social aspect of it. In terms of helping with exams, I'm not so sure; I certainly got a lot less work done while I was boarding - including through GCSE's - because there were so many easy ways to distract ourselves, as we were always together! That might be different at other schools, of course, and maybe teenagers are a bit less irresponsible about that kind of thing than we were in the 90s?!

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bridgetjonesmassivepants · 16/12/2022 14:20

It was the use of the word 'coping' that prompted me to post. Also have direct experience of boarding school and was possibly unlucky but it was hellish.

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PuttingDownRoots · 16/12/2022 14:21

Ask their views. DD was quite certain in her views by 9yo... absolutely no boarding school but also couldn't cope with the idea of moving schools yet again.

Her younger sister, now also 9yo, would go to boarding school tomorrow and loved the moving around life.

So really, the best age is when they are ready. I've known kids start at all ages from Yr5 onwards. 11yo seemed most popular though. (Or 16).

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WhereWeGoingNext · 16/12/2022 14:28

@NewToWoo this is also why I was think 13.

Great point made @PuttingDownRoots. DS1 currently 9, nearly 10, so will ask him what he thinks. He does know boarding is on the cards at some point but I’ll ask when he thinks he might like to go.
DD and DS2 a little younger so I’ll ask them when the times right.

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WhereWeGoingNext · 16/12/2022 14:33

@ZiaMcnab nice to hear integration into boarding works well at 13. That’s reassuring.
In terms of exams, they get the results they get. But they have a much better chance of achieving when they have stability rather than being moved from one school to another right in the middle of the courses.

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Delectable · 16/12/2022 14:44

I went to boarding at 11. It was traumatic initially especially as I lost my mum only a few years before. However, by my senior years I made the best friends and 30yrs later we have a WhatsApp group where we keep in touch and support eachother though difficult times.
If we can afford it and I find a good one I'll like our children to do 3yrs as boarders.

Today's boarding seems more like fun going by my friend's children's experiences but they only do a few days a week or weeks at a time if their parents travel.

I'll say 13 is better if you can wait but let them have some short stints prior.

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Justcallmebebes · 16/12/2022 14:47

I went at 11. My parents were overseas. It seemed fine at the time and some had been there from 8. In retrospect, it was too young especially as I was alone in a foreign country. Made me v independent and resilient tho

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OlafLovesAnna · 16/12/2022 14:57

Both of my boys went to a state boarding school at 13. We were living in Europe at the time and like you moved very frequently. It worked well for both, the older one was always open to boarding and the younger went from saying a flat out 'No' to the idea at 11 to being quite keen on the idea by mid Year 8.


We recently went to visit an indie prep for our youngest with the view that she might like to board from Yr 7 and she loved it so much she begged and begged to start early.


In our experience as long as the move is 'child driven' it's been really positive.

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Forsuchatimeasthis · 17/12/2022 07:50

I believe every child is different in term of personality and maturity. If the child is willing to board I believe the experience is going to be better. Both DC started boarding at 11. With few months for one of them to settle they are both very happy kids now.

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Legoninjago1 · 17/12/2022 12:48

Everyone is different. Totally depends on the child and the school and the circumstances etc. I boarded at 8 and loved it. Boarded at a different school at 11 and hated it! Changed schools at 15 and loved it again! My 8 year old flexi boards and loves it when all his friends are in with him. He declines to do it on days when there aren't enough of them in. He also checks the breakfast menu to see which days he'll do!
If you're choosing a school where the main intake is at 11+ I would think it would be preferable to start when everyone else does. Otherwise go with a 13+ school.

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iamthankful · 17/12/2022 14:35

Definitely 13 for me. DS does weekly boarding and he loves it.

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Sunnysideup999 · 17/12/2022 14:49

I’d leave it as late as possible . 11 is still very young

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astarsheis · 17/12/2022 14:49

Very similar situation to yours. DCs started boarding at 13 and thoroughly enjoyed it. DS had a bit of a trickier start as is (still) very poor at organisation and keeping his room tidy. DS did look at schools at 11 only because other friends were starting at that age but we decided it was too soon for him.
One of the most important part in choosing a school was that it had to be full boarding as we didn't want DC at a school that emptied at weekends.

Also...as we lived in countries with good British Schools they always knew that they could come home to us if they didn't like it.
They both loved it and have grown in to amazing adults and we are a very close family.

@bridgetjonesmassivepants no place on this thread for you lovely 😉

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SleepingisanArt · 17/12/2022 14:51

I boarded from 11 (went to many primary schools due to dad's work) so boarded from the start of senior school. There were already some friendship groups as there was a 'prep' school which started at 5! I really enjoyed it, benefitted from meeting girls from all backgrounds and countries and all the extra activities (sport, DofE etc). I have friends from school who hated it so it does depend on each child. My school was all girls but is now co-ed.

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Bloomberg · 23/12/2022 20:03

Search "boarding school syndrome", definitely 13

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Hoppinggreen · 23/12/2022 20:06

bridgetjonesmassivepants · 16/12/2022 13:59

Why does your child need to 'cope' with boarding? Why don't you just keep them at home with the family?

Your question makes it sound as though you think boarding is going to be traumatic at either age so why are you even considering it?

This board was created so that people who use Boarding schools don’t have to justify their choice to people who believe Boarding schools damage children and families
Its why I usually keep well away from it

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cansu · 23/12/2022 20:11

Surely it depends on your child. Some will be able to cope at 11, some at 13 and some won't cope whatever age. It will also depend on how often they will come home and what support they will have if things don't work out.

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Bloomberg · 23/12/2022 20:17

I believe some kids cope well at 11+ I just think my kids need more parental attachment, guidance and influences before 13+ so I will choose 13+ , definitely not 9+ though.

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Lilgamesh2 · 27/12/2022 18:07

I don't understand the use of the word "cope" in this context, it's meaningless.

The vast majority of 11 year old will cry for weeks and find full time boarding very hard at the start. They will, of course, adapt over time in the same way that any human adapts to any difficult life change in order to "cope" with it. As parents you have to hope that their coping mechanism is one that won't be destructive later in life.

So of course they "cope", for better or worse. 11 year olds will cope with anything if they have no choice in the matter. That doesn't mean that it's not hard or damaging. In fact, it doesn't mean anything at all. What is the alternative to coping? There is none.

It's generally easier on those that go away at 13 in my experience but if there's a smaller intake at 13 that can pose other challenges.

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Eughsame · 27/12/2022 18:31

Really depends on the school and the children. I very happily would have gone younger (and really wanted to) but I can see how some children wouldn’t have coped so well. By 13 the children who have boarded together earlier are a lot closer - there was a large clique which was already v comfortable at school and with each other - which could be a bit tricky to navigate. So it also depends on the school size and intakes. I would have an ongoing chat with mine and see how they are feeling.

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AnAdultCat · 27/12/2022 18:36

I work in a boys senior boarding house and would say it really depends on the individual child. I think if you can wait until 13/14 then I would. It's quite hard whatever age they start, but by the time they reach 6th form age they all have happy memories and usually don't want to go home in the holidays!

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