Much is made by boarding schools in their promotional material and press releases about the many advantages of a boarding education.
These include close friendships, excellent recreational facilities, opportunities to build life-long friendships, 24/7 activity programmes, regular visits home and a multitude of opportunities for parents to visit school, to name but a few.
These advantages clearly apply to those below the major public examination years, and continue throughout a school career, but for more senior pupils, what are the longer term advantages which will set them up for the rest of their lives?
Philip Rossiter, Housemaster of Rogerson (GCSE Year House/Year 11 / S4), at Merchiston Castle in Edinburgh, explains: ‘Without doubt, major examination years have become increasingly pressurised in recent years, providing a real challenge for today’s young people. In a boarding environment, there is a real sense of camaraderie, and a sense of “we’re all in this together”, which helps everyone to cope with the pressure. Everyone has easy access to peers, senior pupils and members of staff, offering increased opportunity to discuss work issues in evenings and at weekends, when there is also easy access to library facilities.
‘At Merchiston, there are a number of distinct advantages on the academic front for the boys, in addition to those stated above. They have access to specialist teachers, both in terms of support clinics run in departments and academic staff covering evening duties in boarding houses outwith normal working hours, including weekends. At decision-making times, evenings give access to specialist UCAS application and careers advice to discuss choices with a wide range of staff, who have “bought into” this 24/7 lifestyle, resulting in a much closer bond between teacher and pupil, enabling teachers to really know their charges.’
There are other advantages too.
Philip continued: ‘The longer school day in a boarding environment, which offers extended contact time with teachers, has great benefits in other areas of a pupil’s life, because it gives ample time for a wide range of other pursuits, with no detrimental effect on their studies. Character-building pursuits are on offer in abundance, outside the 9–4, Monday to Friday daily routine: Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, community links, and outward bound pursuits, alongside a myriad of sporting, artistic, and general interest activities, again cementing the close bond between teachers and pupils.
‘At Merchiston, specialist sporting programmes, outside interests within Edinburgh, easy opportunities for organised trips to plays, concerts, art galleries and other cultural pursuits are also readily available, and on our doorstep, tailored to the needs and interests of the individual. There is also an ever-increasing range of leadership opportunities for senior pupils, who can really make their mark as role models within the school structure.
‘For parents, modern day boarding is not a “hands off” experience. There are innumerable opportunities for meetings and discussions with key staff, along with occasional events which offer purely social interaction, which build a true feeling of partnership between home and school, with the pupil right at the centre of this relationship.
‘We see the success of what we offer to our pupils on many occasions, but, perhaps most significantly on their “graduation day” at the end of their school careers: they are leaving not just a school, but a place where they have grown up together in every respect – the genuine affection they have for their friends and their school is unaffected and obvious.
‘The community which they have belong to provides realistic preparation for 21st century life, both professionally and socially, and offers future world-wide networking opportunities. This is what modern day boarding can offer, and should be an appealing prospect to many.’
Click HERE to visit the Merchiston Castle school site.