Children, once they overcome the initial homesickness and settling in period, love boarding. Parents are often worried or filled with misplaced guilt and fears about allowing their children to board and yet their children would have a very different view. For many, boarding opens up new worlds and creates a wonderfully supportive and nurturing ‘double home’ life style.
The first home is still the family home. This is still where the child’s heart is and often parents are fearful that their children will in some way grow away from them or no longer need them. We have always found this to be the opposite. Home becomes a very treasured place where children have special time with their families and look forward to being there. Family is still very important to boarders and being away does not diminish it; nor does it leave children with a sense of sadness or longing but rather excited anticipation.
The second home – school. Imagine a home which is entirely built for children, play areas, games, endless fun filled evenings of activities and surrounded by adults who have a vocational belief in working with children, their well-being and nurture. Imagine a home filled with many friends and a cosy, homely bedroom filled with their personal belongings and decorated with their own special items. This is boarding 2014.
The age of technology has made communication between boarders and their families very easy. Whether parents are in the UK or abroad, mobile phone, face to face IT communications and the internet have made our world smaller and the boarding pupil’s family ever closer and accessible. With mid-week visits and the opportunity to go home at weekends, for many of our boarders home and family are never more than a few days away.
Boarding is not instead of family but a supporting boost to a busy family life. Boarding families become adept at clearing the decks during the week so that when they are with their children, they have quality time together. Schools in their part, should support boarders to complete school work during the working week so that weekends are free of school work thereby supporting family time.
Many pupils these days flexi board and even with one or two nights away from home we see a noticeable increase in pupil confidence and independence. Boarding, rather than crushing confidence and building fears, works in reverse. We find that boarding pupils become very capable socially, look after each other and have a great sense of awareness of others. They build positive relationships across a wide range of age groups and are confident talking to adults. They are good at creating new games and activities and are a proactive bunch of individuals who thrive both socially and academically.
As parents we all want the best for our children. With mothers and fathers working hard to provide a good life for their families, boarding is often a fabulously positive solution to supporting every member of the family through the working week and taking much of the stress and pressure of juggling family life away; child care, pick-ups, drop-offs, collections from bus stops, train journeys, tube rides, traffic jams, juggling activities and after school clubs, etc. etc all solved. The down side? There really isn’t one and if you don’t believe me, ask a boarder.
Head of Bedales Prep, Dunhurst
Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.