We’re moving abroad – should we take the children or leave them at boarding school?

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We’re moving abroad – should we take the children or leave them at boarding school?

Prior to becoming a Head, my experience as a boarding housemaster and as a manager of boarding houses has given me a first-hand understanding of the trials and tribulations of this conundrum. Leaving your child at a boarding school is never easy and not a decision that should be made lightly.

Taking them with you retains the beauty of family life, love, encouragement, and safety, as well as offering the potential exposure to a new culture. However, for some such massive change, where they leave familiar surroundings and potentially long established friendship groups, causes huge disruption to their world. Key to any change is ‘buy in’ or understanding from all parties rather than aggressive responses and a hatred of their new surroundings: it really can be a fight or flight reaction. Some young people will profess to not wanting to be part of a new experience or, from another perspective our adult interpretation may assume they will not cope with such upheaval. However, never underestimate their resilience and ability to adapt. There are many questions a family should explore and discuss before finally making their decision.

In years gone by, leaving them at boarding school seemed a rather draconian method. Utilizing my experience,from working and leading within these environments, may go some way to start to manage or even influence your opinion. Today, boarding schools have spent vast sums upgrading facilities; in many cases in the twenty-first century boarding environments the Sixth Form will have en-suite facilities, dorms will cater for a maximum of 4 and in some cases, individual study rooms are available for pupils from Year 10. Facilities too are now a vital factor as to avoid and culture gap on arrival integration and induction through activities and house events are a prerequisite of any good boarding school.

The right choice is vital, as the needs of your son or daughter must be catered for both in and out of the class; there exists a diverse range to suit all needs. I feel that boarding at the right school, will prepare every student for university more comprehensively and let them begin to discover themselves, develop greater maturity in social situations, as well as start to have a really positive effect on an individual’s confidence and self-esteem.

Most will boast a caring community and a family atmosphere (and I add it is true in so many cases) but I would insist you visit where possible and ask the students already present in the school: see it in action for yourself. Equally, if you are browsing I would highly recommend the Boarding Schools’ Association websites(http://www.boarding.org.uk/ or http://www.boarding.org.au/) to explore and understand what options you have as parents and what you may expect, through a clear outline of the plethora of opportunities that exist in twenty-first-century boarding environments.

Good luck with your search and making the right decision with your son/daughter!

Harvey Trump
Head of Secondary
Sunmarke School & Fortes Education

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