BRITISH BOARDING SCHOOLS
BRITISH BOARDING SCHOOLS
For Chinese students, immersion in an English-speaking environment from an early age can make the difference between technically accurate command of the language and confident, natural fluency. In today’s global market, this can be a huge advantage. Education standards in British boarding schools have never been higher, and today’s discriminating and demanding parents will find that schools match their expectations, aiming to provide the very best environment in which a child can grow and learn.
British boarding schools offer the following benefits:
High academic standards
Many of the British boarding schools are top of the league tables for public examinations, expecting the best standards from their pupils and staff. Highly qualified and experienced staff teaching small classes enable considerable achievements on the part of their pupils, who then access the best universities. Less academic children also thrive in such an environment.
A safe environment
High standards of professional pastoral care are the norm, and are assured by regular inspections that produce published reports. Pupils will be well cared for in a happy community in comfortable surroundings. Healthy eating is encouraged and schools maintain high standards of medical care of pupils. Many schools are also fortunate in having superb buildings and grounds in which to grow and learn.
Support for international students
Schools are alert to the particular needs of international students, and value the huge contribution they have to make to the academic and social life of the schools. Respect for different cultures is fostered in the mixed communities which prepare pupils for the modern world. Most schools ensure that individual or group lessons in English as an additional language are available, and broad programmes of activities are available.
An extracurricular life
The activities a pupil enjoys after school and at the weekend will be wide-ranging, challenging and fun. With excellent facilities for sport, music, art and drama at their disposal, and tutors and coaches on call, schools make a different world of opportunities available to pupils outside the teaching day.
A home away from home
Schools work hard to make the transition from home to school as smooth as possible, especially if a child is coming from overseas. A 12-year-old is likely to find him or herself sharing a large bedroom with about half a dozen other youngsters, but having his or her own private space, with a wardrobe and locker and sometimes a built-in desk. The combination of private space and company is important for helping children build friendships which may last a lifetime. This companionship, coupled with a busy life outside the classroom as well as within it, and easy contact with parents, helps a child to weather the early days of missing home and begin to enjoy all that school life has to offer.
Children learn to understand different people and different cultures by making friends and living in a thriving community based on mutual respect, an excellent preparation for the adult world. International students will make progress in English by leaps and bounds, not just because of the expert tuition, but also because of the close daily contact and shared activities with English-speaking pupils.
Older children are likely to find the numbers in their bedrooms diminish, with perhaps two or three sharing up to the age of 16, and single study-bedrooms – often with en-suite facilities – rapidly becoming the norm for sixth-form students preparing for university. The older the students, the more likely they are to have established their friendships and the more likely it is that they will wish to spend more time studying: there may be fewer people in the room, but the desks will be larger, the shelves more laden.
At all ages of boarding, schools offer comfortable, pleasant accommodation, with single study-bedrooms frequently larger than those at university. Communal areas, such as common rooms and, for older pupils, kitchens, are well equipped and have the advantage of staff supervision, ensuring that students learn to respect other users and the facilities at their disposal.
All of this will be overseen by friendly, professional, committed and dedicated house parents, for whom the happiness of the boarding house depends upon the happiness of individual boarders and the strength of the relationships they build with each other. Often, they become the most significant people in a child’s boarding life and they take that privilege very seriously indeed.
Clubs and activities offer opportunities beyond the academic day to discover and nurture talents, to explore occupations that may be life-changing. One young woman who went on to represent England as a rower recalls of her early days at boarding school: ‘I’ll never forget the day someone said “Does anyone fancy rowing?”, and I’d never thought of it before, but I said yes – and it changed my life.’
The extended day gives children the time and the chance to try something different, or pursue an established interest. School plays and musicals need directors, stage managers and lighting technicians as well as actors. Many a serious musician, with hours in the music practice rooms to hone their skills, has found time at boarding school to get together with like-minded students and start a rock band.
Sport plays a major part in the lives of many boarding schools, with whole afternoons given to its practice, and matches frequently played by players at all levels of enthusiasm and skill, both after school and on Saturdays. Many of the UK’s Olympians were able to find the time for excellence because they were boarders. Not having to run for the bus in their teens may have given them the time to be good enough eventually to run – or row, or swim – for their country.
In addition to high-quality classrooms, laboratories, dormitories and common rooms, boarding schools are able to offer superb facilities such as theatres, swimming pools, courts, pitches and tracks, the essentials for both serious application and participation for fun. A boarding life is likely to be the very opposite of the limited life sometimes led by children who live a distance from school and are caught by the logistics of transport or parental availability. Prep (the term commonly used for homework), a choir practice, a game of football and a swim before cocoa with friends and bed with a good book is a better framework for an evening than hours spent at a computer or watching television.
A place to learn
Boarding schools are likely to spot the potential in any child, nurture it and expect that success will follow. Some of the schools are among the best in the world academically; others provide the environment in which less high-flying talents can develop and flourish. You can be certain that all British boarding schools seek to help all pupils achieve their full potential. Their academic record is second to none, a consequence of small classes taught by highly professional teachers, in settings with excellent facilities and an overall ethos of achievement being the norm.
Perhaps more important, in all of them, academic success is something of which to be proud. As one boarder recently remarked, ‘It’s definitely cool to do well – people expect you to do your best in everything, and there’s loads of help available if you’re finding it tough.’ For international students, this help is likely to include specialist teaching of English as an additional language. With this support in addition to the usual curriculum lessons, pupils from overseas have an outstanding record in British schools, going on to universities either here or in their own countries.