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Life at boarding school

One of the main advantages of a boarding school education is that your child will be able to focus on learning, and everything they do at their boarding school will be targeted to enhance their education.

This means that even when they are not in the classroom, they will be taking part in the numerous after-school activities offered by boarding schools, and developing new life skills.

They will also be living in a boarding house that will become your child’s new home during term time.

What will your child’s boarding house be like?

Your child will be well cared for and appreciated within their boarding house. They will take part in house competitions against other houses and be encouraged as they grow older to take responsibility for themselves and others. There are leadership positions in the houses, such as the prefect system, peer mentoring groups and social committees to organise house events.

Who lives in the boarding house?

Typically, approximately 60 pupils from 13 to 18 years.

The housemaster or housemistress (in part of the house), often with their own family. They are very ‘hands on’. They usually do a small amount of teaching, as well as running the boarding house, and are supported by a team of house tutors, who are other teachers.

The house matron, who is a very important person who spends a lot of time caring for the pupils.

Is it very different from living at home?

Yes: it is not easy learning to live with 60 other people and there will be downs as well as ups along the way.

But: this is all part of the process of learning to be flexible and understanding other people. Your child will learn about boundaries, what is acceptable and what is not. There are times when they will have to stand their ground and other times when they will have to accept that they have misjudged a situation. It is all invaluable experience for the future, as they learn to make good relationships and get along with many different people.

We didn’t expect that our boarding houses would soon become like large, new families in which we feel well-known and appreciated.

- Royal SpringBoard pupil

What will your child do in a typical day at boarding school?

All times are approximate

7.00am to 8.00am

Depending on how old your child is, they will either be woken up by one of the House staff team coming into their dormitory or knocking on the door of their room.  They will be getting up and getting themselves to breakfast which may be in the boarding house itself or in a large communal dining room.

Some will fit in a quick shower before breakfast and some after. Most bathroom facilities are shared which can take some getting used to at the beginning. Some new boarding houses for sixth form students have en-suite bathrooms but this is not to be expected!

House matrons are available in the morning in case anyone feels unwell or has lost items of uniform or just wants a comforting chat. They are also making sure that everyone has breakfast and is organised at the start of the day.

All pupils are encouraged to be as clean and tidy as possible, despite there being cleaning staff in the school. In some of the common rooms, there may be a rota for light duties, such as washing up.  Laundry is normally done in the in-house laundry by the cleaning staff, but some variations to the system may apply.

Pupils make sure that they have everything they need for the lessons until lunchtime before leaving the house. Some Housemasters or Housemistresses will have a quick house meeting over breakfast to give information about events such as sports fixtures for that day.

8.30am to 8.50am

This is usually when the school day starts. Some pupils will see their personal tutor first before lessons start. On some days there will be an assembly for the whole school or for year groups.

8.30am to 1.00pm

Pupils will have lessons all morning with a 20 minute break around 11.00am for a snack with their year group. When they first start pupils are usually taken from lesson to lesson by their tutor for the first week until they know their way around the school. Lessons will not take place in one classroom; pupils move from one department to another to be taught by specialist staff.

It can all seem very daunting at first but the older pupils are very good at redirecting a lost new girl or boy. Pupils will often have a buddy who will make sure they are in the right place at the right time. Many schools have peer mentoring systems which consist of volunteers who are trained to help younger pupils settle in and deal with any problems such as homesickness.

Lunchtime

This may be in a large communal dining room or back in the boarding house. It may be self-service or a more formal arrangement with a seating plan to mix up year groups so that pupils get to know everyone in their house over the first few weeks.

School food is now very good indeed but your child may need to be prepared to try foods that are unfamiliar. There are often ‘theme’ days such as pizza day or Chinese New Year day.  There will usually be a hot option, a vegetarian dish, salad, soup and a choice of fruit or dessert.

2.00pm

Back to afternoon lessons. As the winter nights draw in, some schools have a break after lunch for outdoor sports and activities and resume lessons from 4.00pm to 6.00pm. Others will carry on until approximately 4.30pm then build in the extra-curricular programme afterwards.

Your child will have their own timetable with some slots called ‘study periods’ for more independent learning. For these, they will be based in a library or IT room and encouraged to make a start on their homework assignments or other projects. Sixth form pupils will have more study periods during their day and they will learn to use this time productively.

After school

There will be time for sports, societies and clubs either before or after the evening meal. All pupils are encouraged to take part in activities which do not form part of the formal curriculum. Schools offer a wide range of activities, e.g. sports such as trampolining, fencing, martial arts or creative options such as art and drama clubs.

Joining clubs is important, not just to make new friends, but also to build new skills not learnt in the classroom such as debating , forming your own business company or finding out about engineering or a charity such as Amnesty International. Often pupils decide to start their own club encouraged by the staff.

After the evening meal, there will be a period of quiet time in the house for prep, or homework. This could be in a large prep room supervised by a member of staff or in the pupil’s own room. Each pupil will have a timetable for which subjects should be tackled that evening and how long the tasks should take. For new and younger pupils support is available to help them get into a good routine and to work well.

Some prep is aimed at consolidating knowledge or skills taught during the day’s lessons or it could be looking ahead and researching a topic independently. Pupils are also encouraged to read widely by borrowing books and resources from the school library. House staff will tell tutors and teachers if a pupil is having real difficulty with a subject and getting stressed so that extra support can be put in place.

Social time

Between prep and bedtime, depending on the age of the child, there will be time to relax, be with friends, call home or maybe get involved with house activities such as a house singing competition practice.

During the lighter evenings, there may be time to go out and visit friends from another house or play a quick game of football or tennis. Younger pupils are encouraged to wind down from the excitements of the day and have some quiet reading time before house staff come round and put the lights out.

The housemaster or housemistress is normally on duty in the evenings, with a matron, but when he or she has some time off, a house tutor will be on duty instead. It is important that there are enough members of staff around in the houses in the evening and pupils should always be able to find someone to talk to, if needed.

There is usually a prefect system too, which encourages the older pupils to help the housemaster or housemistress run the house and keep an eye on the younger members.

Bedtime

Bedtimes start at around 9.30pm for years 7 and 8. Mobile phones for younger pupils will be handed in to house staff for safekeeping overnight and access to the internet may well be restricted overnight.

Older pupils are encouraged to establish good working and sleeping habits but will not have a set time for lights out. House staff will keep an eye on pupils who are working too late and getting tired and intervene when appropriate.