The standard of boarding schools in the UK has never been higher, with the ‘new era’ of boarding ushering in more flexible options for parents and children.
Boarding schools are a fantastic option for many families, providing a home away from home that allows children to focus their full attention on both their studies and extra-curricular activities.
In this blog, we speak to Aileen Kane, director of operations at the Boarding Schools’ Association (BSA), who discussed the main benefits of sending your child to a boarding school – read on to find out what they are.
Tell us about your role at the BSA
“As director of operations my role is extremely varied, dealing with communications, media, immigration, finances – anything that isn’t recruitment really!”
Have you seen any changes in the number of parents sending their children to boarding schools in recent years?
“As the largest organisation of its kind in the world, the BSA has 590 member schools globally. There are 76,000 boarding school pupils in the UK, and we have seen registration rates remain largely steady over the last 10-12 years.
“Nothing has changed so far in terms of the impact of Brexit, as the immigration system for our international pupils remains the same. In fact, the Independent Schools Council reports that pupil numbers from the EU are actually up across the board.”
How does attending a boarding school benefit a child and their parents?
“A boarding school can suit a family in any way that they wish it to. We are now in a new era of boarding that can be as flexible as families need it to be, with schools offering flexi, weekly and full boarding.
“Flexi boarding is increasingly popular and could involve the child staying for just one or two nights a week, providing a good introduction to boarding for younger students. Even just staying for a couple of nights a week gives students extra time for activities and clubs, while being fully supported doing their homework in the evenings too. Having this extra time to carry out schoolwork means that when children do go home, they can enjoy pure family time without the stress of taking schoolwork home.
“This quality time is especially valuable for working families - they can dedicate their down time to having fun, instead of having to pester their children to do their homework!”
How does boarding school prepare children for life after school?
“The most common piece of feedback we receive from pupils is the opportunities they can take advantage of at boarding school – by cutting out travel time they can do more important things like socialising, playing sports or learning a new skill.
“Usually towards sixth form we find that children request to board full time so that they can do more prep for exams and university applications. Older students have a lot of independence and responsibility for their own studies and when they do leave school, they are really well prepared for university life.
“Some of the most valuable things children take away from boarding school are their lifelong friendships – friends who they probably would never have crossed paths with otherwise. Boarding school pupils leave with a global outlook on the world, which is a valuable thing in an increasingly global world of work.”
What advice would you give parents thinking of registering their child at a boarding school?
“Every boarding school is fantastic, and no two are the same – so my advice is to go and visit at least two or three to find one that suits your family. It is probably the biggest financial and emotional investment a family will make, so it’s worth taking your time in your search.
“Definitely attend an open day and ask to come back for a visit on a normal school day too so you can get a feel for the everyday life of the school. Talk to the staff and parents once you’ve narrowed down your choice and make sure to attend some of the school’s community events too.”
What might a day in the life of a child at boarding school look like?
“Of course, routines will differ among the age groups, but typically they will get up and ready, have breakfast (either in the boarding house or dining room), then service which can involve an assembly or attending chapel. Then lessons will begin after registration, with a morning break and lunch break in between.
“The evenings consist of activities like music lessons and clubs, before having dinner followed by more activities. Then before bed they’ll have an evening snack, with bedtimes being staggered throughout the age groups.
“Boarding schools will usually have a policy in place which means there are no electronic devices after bedtimes – obviously this too is dependent on age groups, as the older students can manage their own time better.”
What are the differences, if any, between boarding schools in Scotland and England?
“I wouldn’t say there were really any major differences between boarding schools in Scotland and England. Rather, there is more of a difference between boarding schools in the country and those in the cities, which really goes back to my point that all boarding schools are unique in their own way.
“All of our Scottish schools are fantastic, with the natural countryside of Scotland perfect for enjoying outdoor activities. The key thing when considering a school is to choose the right one to suit your child’s skills – some will be more sport-focused, some academic, some musical.
“Choosing a school is really a very emotional decision, and often the child will know straight away when they walk through the doors that this one is the school for them. It’s just like when you’re buying a house – you know immediately and instinctively when you’ve found the perfect one.”