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How to choose the right boarding school

To board, or not to board? Preparing to send your son away to a boarding school comes with mixed emotions. Your head says it can produce the best educational outcome, but separation from your child can be an incredibly stressful experience. Involving your son in the decision-making process so that they feel a sense of control over what is happening is important.

When it comes to choosing the right boarding school for your child, there are a huge number of things to consider. While not every school is right for you, there are practical steps that parents can follow.

Here’s how to choose a boarding school for your son.

Research the school

Read every bit of information you can get your hands on. From the school website to their prospectus – even their social media page – every piece of information will give you insight into the school’s philosophy, values, beliefs and mission. For detailed information on how to research schools, download our Comprehensive Guide To Choosing The Right School For Your Son.

Learn about the boarding community

Boarding families often develop a close community based on the common interest of their children being boarders. Ask about the boarding community or parent association to discover the support network available. 

Tour the school

While it’s not always easy, if you can take some time to visit the schools you are considering, it will make your choice a lot easier. Walk around the school and look at the different facilities they have to offer – they are more important than you might think.

Get a feel for the student body too – how do they behave and interact, with each other and their teachers? Is there a lot of cultural diversity?

Can you afford the fees?

This is an obvious question but something that often needs a bit more research. Some schools split the cost of tuition and boarding, others put them together as a lump sum. But what about additional costs? These could include excursions, tutoring, music tuition or sport lessons. Try and get an understanding of what you might end up paying in a year on top of the school fees. 

Get a feel for warmth and camaraderie

Visiting the boarding schools that you are considering is a critical step in the decision-making process. Boys can be boisterous at times but there should be a genuine warmth and camaraderie that is clearly evident, both in the interactions between the boys themselves, and also between the staff and the boys in their care. There should also be a palpable pride in ‘their’ House, which is invariably the best House to be in. 

Is there a sense of personal responsibility?

Boarding creates the environment for students to become part of a new community, where there is an expectation that they will give the best of themselves in all their endeavours. This aspect is particularly powerful in a boarding setting where boys take on leadership roles and explore the notion of personal responsibility from an early age. Ask staff about how leadership and personal responsibility is encouraged. It might be as simple as boys taking ownership of their living space, or it might be through leadership programs.

Learn about the pastoral care

An important factor to consider is knowing what support your child will receive from boarding staff. Will they be assisted academically? What about emotional and psychological support? Ask the school about its pastoral care program and acquire an understanding of the staffing situation. 

Following these practical steps will help families to make the right choice when deciding where their son will fit in and flourish. 

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