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Boarding school

Best age for boarding; 11 or 13?

54 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

OP posts:

Bambala · 19/02/2023 13:14

I went at 7 and have boarding school syndrome. I would send boys at 13 and girls at 16 once their hormones have settled and they have learnt to deal with mood cycles and the friendship dramas have calmed down a bit. But every child is so didfferent so no one size fits all.


WhereWeGoingNext · 06/04/2023 21:32

At the risk of dragging this back up again, but I’m going to answer @SurpriseSparDay question.

We’ve talked about it a lot. DS, well he’s only 10 so he can’t make a decision like this, it’s going to be ultimately a parental decision but we are going to listen to what he wants.
DS understands why we are considering boarding. We have also said, if he really doesn’t want to board, we won’t force him. He has mentioned he might like it “because it will be like Harry Potter and I can learn magic” to which I replied “erm, sort of, you can live with your friends but the closest magic will probably be Chemistry which is a bit like potions”. Anyways, he (and we) would like to look at some schools. Whether he goes at 11 or 13 (or at all) is still unclear but we are going to investigate.
What we have done is got the entire list of state boarding schools and have made a list of all the logistically possible ones based on up to 1.5 max drive from where a potential UK guardian would live. (I’m going to start another thread about these schools not to mix the two together). After Easter I’ll be getting in touch with all (or maybe only some) of the schools to have an initial chat and will be doing my own research into them to make sure they fit what we want as a family. Will also involve DS in looking at the websites as well as any visits we decide to go on after the initial investigations. I’m still
leaning towards 13, but doing some research and looking now won’t do any harm, we can always go back again.
That’s about as far as we’ve got really.

OP posts:

BoardingSchoolMater · 07/04/2023 08:22

@ Just noticed that a PP said that it's better to choose a school which is either full boarding or as near as possible to that, as the hybrid versions do tend to empty out at weekends. One of my DC went to a school that was day and boarding for some time (then went to a full boarding school), and the others went to full boarding schools. The latter was much better, as the timetable and activities are all then based around all the pupils being there all the time (apart from exeats and holidays, obviously).


SurpriseSparDay · 07/04/2023 08:29

Good to see you’re making progress!

Few points - for the benefit of other uncertain parents, at traditional independent schools as well as state:

DS, well he’s only 10 so he can’t make a decision like this

Obviously. But when I said the child should drive the decision I meant it. It’s not all that unusual for children to make the first enquiry - of their parents or sometimes a school. But in general, it’s you who will notice whether your child wants or needs something you can’t provide at home in combination with day school - space, challenge, more time with a wider range of friends, better teaching, whatever. And then, when you visit schools with them, you’ll see if their eyes light up from the minute you step through the gates, you’ll see if they’re yearning to join in with the pupils they encounter, you’ll notice if they keep positively quoting the staff you met, or sighing over the new environment …

We have also said, if he really doesn’t want to board, we won’t force him.

As I said, I have no experience of state boarding, but I can say that over wide experience I have never, in this century, encountered a boarding school that would accept a child who discernibly did not want to be there. All those interviews and seemingly inconsequential chats while they show the child around aren’t just to assess their knowledge of Latin. There is absolutely no benefit to a school in having unwilling pupils.

This thread is primarily about state boarding - but for our senior boarding school parents were required to register their interest (small fee which covers admin and timely reminders of each stage of the application timetable) before the child was ten and a half, and the first stage of entrance exams happened around eleven years old. Most places may be a little more flexible, but you do need to be on your toes and pretty well organised.

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