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Thoughts of another year 9 parent

03/08/18

"My son was offered what I now consider to be a wonderful opportunity of attending boarding school. My initial thoughts about boarding schools were of an element of abandonment of my child; however, my son was very interested, so I supported him in this journey, still with an element of reservation and apprehension.  My role initially was to collate information in order to make an informed choice.  The financial element (school fees) was not initially a consideration as I was extremely averse to boarding whilst struggling with ensuring that my son received the best education possible.  I attended all the induction sessions to hear from scholars, speakers and representatives from [Royal SpringBoard] and the partner which put my son forward for the opportunity. 

As time went by I began to give boarding serious consideration, especially when I learnt that my son would be able to come home for “exeats” periodically - a new word in my vocabulary!! I was given a key piece of information which did not mean much at the time, but now I fully understand and it is that independent [boarding] schools are not simply about the education, but is rather an all-round experience and we are now living the dream. 

As a parent, it is a requirement to embrace the process, as you have to be fully committed and research information as to the protocol of boarding schools which are a little different from day schools.  It is important to ensure that you note information being imparted, such as you will need to know what your obligations are, for instance, insurances, payment of house funds, medical treatment (i.e. what happens if and when your child becomes ill and the fact that your child’s GP will now be different from yours), uniform required, etc. 

I was fortunate to have the support of the partner, but additionally, another parent going through the same emotional and practical changes as myself and running things through with her.  It was also helpful for my son to know another scholar going to the same school and sharing the same experiences as him. The Bursary Officer at the school is a good contact for matters to do with money.

When my son’s place in year 9 (Form 3 equivalent) at the school was confirmed, it was sheer relief and elation.  The first few weeks of boarding school were fine as this was a time of excitement for both of us; we had come to the end of a journey and were about to embark on a new beginning.  Reality now setting in, we realised that we were now recipients of a place at a boarding school, something I could only have dreamt about: this was a real opportunity! 

My son had settled in extremely well and I felt comfortable within his House, and the staff and the other boys welcomed him to the school.  Thankfully, he was used to doing prep at his former school, so there was not an issue with getting used to that part of the school system: one less “change” to get used to. It was as if that school was tailor-made for my son. 

However, the October half-term was quite difficult because as the “reality” set in and my son was at home for a couple of weeks, it was quite difficult for me to let him go again and I believe the same for him.  He became a little homesick, but as it became a little difficult, it was time for him to come home again and we began to settle once again.  Thankfully, the exeats broke up the difficulties with initial homesickness and with access to technology, we
were always just a text or phone call away from each other.

Another key factor is that when the children return from school they are physically tired and my son just really wants to rest as he is always doing something because their days are very busy and structured.  The difficulty and balance is to ensure that the boarder is not treated significantly different to the other siblings at home.  The fact that everyone is doing prep at the same time and has activities each day creates such a good quality and level of work-life balance and basically sets them up for future years. 

I absolutely love my son’s school, at times I want to stay there myself! He is at a home away from home, but receiving more opportunities than I could have ever have imagined or given to him. The staff in my son’s house are fantastic and we operate the home/school agreement wherein we liaise on all matters concerning my son, just as if he was in a day school.  The staff are used to the children being homesick and recognise the “signs” and deal with it sensitively; the pastoral care is excellent.  Each child has a tutor in their house, so each child is able to formulate a relationship and discuss any areas of concern they may have. The parent also has contact with this tutor. 

I was initially overwhelmed by the vastness and opulence of the surroundings, especially as there were under 400 students in the school.  This meant that the class sizes were a third of what my son was used to, which in itself is only within a dream.  Obviously, the smaller classes mean every child has the right amount of attention for their academic and pastoral care and believe me the results are clear to see. 

My son is a child who wants to achieve and do his best, so being around like-minded pupils is a plus and only serves to ensure that my son achieves his potential. The academic levels are much higher than his old school and this drives the children to push themselves that much more.  My son is having such a good time at his school; he has said that he really wishes that he had started in Form 1 (equivalent Year 7).

I too share my son’s view in that if I could have changed anything, it would have been to ensure that he starts in Form 1 and not Form 3.  Children are quite resilient and they catch up, however, I believe there are areas and opportunities which would have been afforded to him had he started earlier, however, I am so grateful for this wonderful opportunity that we have been afforded.

I still do believe that I am in an elitist environment, but I try and simply embrace it and am extremely thankful.  My son is very athletic and he did extremely well in the last sports' day and has now been earmarked for selection into an athletics club by the director of sports. 

Also, he participated in a Futsal competition and his team just missed out on representing the region in the national competitions.   Additionally, my son represented a team from Surrey, South Central District at the Gothia World Football Tournament in Sweden (a competition which hosts over 1,750 teams from around the world) and got to the quarter finals of his group.  These are a small example of opportunities which would not have been afforded to my son otherwise."

A day in the life

A day in the life

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