Updated: Sep 20, 2018
September; a month of 'firsts' for many families across the country; first day of school, first day of secondary school...first day of boarding school - gulp! Now, having worked in many boarding schools in my time, I have been there for many of these firsts and shared them with many families who were embarking on that anxiety-inducing road of boarding. Whether that be 'full' boarding or 'flexi', it all comes with those 'pre-game' jitters. We have asked a few of our former clients' and their children to pass on any pearls of wisdom they have to help you and your child settle quickly into the new routine of school life.
Let us begin with some pointers from one of Downe House's alumnae - a seasoned boarder who spent 5 years in the boarding house!
- Everyone is nervous and in the same boat starting a new school and boarding. So just immerse yourself.
- For parents - no news is good news!
- Ask questions! Everyone in school is happy to help if you are confused about something or lost - they won't expect you to know everything for a while.
- Lastly, involve yourself in as much as possible. The further up the school you go, the less time you will have to enjoy everything boarding has to offer. Keeping busy is also a great distraction!
From a parent's perspective (Former Bradfield College parent)
- Send them off with a smile, even if you are crying on the inside (which you will be!)! There is nothing more comforting for your little one when mum & dad are happy and positive about the boarding quarters - even if you are wondering how on earth the children will fair with those awful communal bathrooms.
- That first term is the hardest, longest and darkest (environmentally speaking with the evenings beginning to draw in) so keep yourself busy and always remember why you chose that particular school. You KNOW that pastoral care is what was top on your search list!
- Make communication and interactions with your child calm and positive while they are settling in. There will be home sickness - from you both! But reassure each time that being at school is far more exciting and stimulating than being at home.
- Lastly, name tag everything, yes pants n'all! Although my son still only comes home with one set of socks each time term ends! Also, I always include a bottle of pillow spray in their luggage, which always comes home unused but the intention is there!
From the front line - former Houseparent
- The staff will have been preparing for your child's arrival for weeks' in advance. We will be aware of any additional support your child may need, or any allergies etc ahead of your child arriving, so try not to worry too much if you think they may have a wobble when you leave. We have so many strategies that work wonders for those who struggle to settle.
- We like to keep them extra busy in house in that first term. There will be lots of team-building exercises, trips out and cross-house competition to really get them in the spirit of boarding.
- Some barding schools operate a no-contact policy in the first few weeks' of term. This may fill you with dread, but just know that they will be having a great time & we will always contact you if we feel your child will benefit from it. Their safety and health is always our focus.
- Always ask questions if you are not sure of anything. We would never want parents to go away feeling like they have things playing on their mind. We will have been asked many things, many times before, so never feel like you can't ask!
So there's a little round-up of tips you may find useful if you are a family who are about to embark on the boarding school journey. Remember, if you need any help in your school search, or just that little bit of extra support please do contact us!