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The North's Leading Boarding Schools on Why Your Child Should Board

2 pupils laughing together Barnard Castle School
February 2023
Reading time 3 Minutes

That is the question. These leading boarding schools hopefully have the answer

Kieran McLaughlin, headmaster of Durham School, says boarding schools allow pupils to develop life skills that will support them in the future in a safe and stable environment, with a dedicated team of pastoral staff always on hand. ‘They will develop independence and skills to support themselves, such as getting up on time, making sure they’re in the right place at the right time, and looking after themselves and their belongings,’ he explains. ‘However, all this is done under the watchful eyes of housemistresses, housemasters, and matrons who are always around to lend a helping hand while these skills are still in development. Pupils will also learn how to live with others, how to share communal spaces, and be able to compromise and consider the needs of others. Boarding pupils are also able to attend extracurricular activities after school or in the morning before school, such as study drop-in sessions or sports training.

‘Teachers are able to communicate with parents on any issues, creating a culture of support. This extends to our boarding houses, which many pupils consider a second family, or a home-away-from-home. Our peer support system allows older pupils to support the younger pupils, so they can get help and advice from someone who has been through the same experience, and to help them prepare for the next steps.’

There are a number of things to consider when choosing a boarding school, and Kieran shares a few of them. ‘Of course, there are the logistical issues, such as location, whether they offer different types of boarding such as occasional, weekly or full-time boarding, and what subjects and extra-curricular opportunities there are at the school,’ he says. ‘It is also important to consider the more emotional side of boarding – how does the school feel to you when you visit? Do the school’s values align with those of you as parents and the family? Is the accommodation comfortable? Are the boarding staff friendly and approachable – do you like them? What activities are offered on evenings or at weekends for boarding pupils? All of these are very important questions to ask when considering a boarding school.’

At Strathallan, they strive to provide opportunities for all to excel, and with broad curriculum options and extensive co-curricular activities, pupils’ days are packed from morning to evening. ‘This is one of the biggest benefits of attending a boarding school: the chance to try a huge variety of different experiences and meet lots of new friends all in one place,’ suggests headmaster Mark Lauder.

‘Because most of our staff live onsite and everyone is involved in the pastoral life of the school, Strathallan is a warm and welcoming community that is home to every one of our boarding pupils.

Read More: How Northern Schools are Supporting Students for Further Education and Beyond

Pupils dressed in various activity/sporting costumes Strathallan

With specialist medical care and an experienced pastoral team, our pastoral care is rated sector-leading by the Care Inspectorate, and visitors and families talk about the “feel” of the school when they are here,’ says Mark. ‘Everyone has an important part to play in the Strathallan family, and many of our day pupils stay on after the teaching day for tea, prep and activities that run well into the evening. It’s this sense of inclusivity and support that permeates the entire experience for boarders and day pupils alike.’

For parents considering a boarding school for their child, Mark says it’s really important to consider the needs of individual pupils to find a school that will support their needs and ambitions for the future: ‘The feel of the school is an important consideration for parents and pupils. We believe in celebrating achievements large and small, fostering strong values and forging friendships to support every one of our pupils throughout school and prepare them for the future.’

Tony Jackson, headmaster of Barnard Castle School, says boarders become rounded, independent, and responsible young people. ‘[They] develop empathy and kindness for their peers, as well as a true appreciation for the family environment, mutual trust, and respect,’ he adds.

‘[They] develop empathy and kindness for their peers,
as well as a true appreciation for the family
environment, mutual trust, and respect’

Students in class Durham School

‘Choosing a school for your child is one of the most challenging and important decisions you will have to make, and we do not underestimate the magnitude of such a judgement. Prospective parents should look for a school where they can expect to be known, where they can share the journey with their child/children. Ultimately, a school which works and offers opportunities that give young people every chance to flourish, equipping them with the tools with which to clear the path ahead of them that awaits them beyond the classroom and school environment.’

At Barney, the boarding family is a community of pupils from a variety of countries, with the largest percentage coming from UK-based families. ‘Many of our boarding pupils live in the local area, preferring to board and “beat the bus”, where they use the time saved on school bus travel to complete additional study in the morning,’ Tony continues.

‘The “family feel” permeates across the houses and, despite a healthy competition between them, there is a togetherness amongst our boarders, which sums up the Barney community. Senior pupils will often be found mentoring and coaching younger pupils and everyone is made to feel at home in an inclusive, integrated environment.’

Visit the individual schools’ websites to browse and consider their boarding opportunities.

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