The popularity of prep school boarding

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by Dr Trevor Richards, Head of All Hallows Preparatory School
All-Hallows-Preparatory-School

In today’s rapidly changing and demanding world, where our view of life is distorted by social media and expectations of our young people are high, our prep boarding schools offer children an oasis into which they can escape.  

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With the jam-packed extra-curricular programmes that are part and parcel of any school offering boarding at this younger age, children can be children and they can pursue their hobbies and interests or discover new passions in the company of their friends. These opportunities are presented to boarders on their doorstep in a routine structure which allows them time to complete any homework or prep and of course includes time for relaxation.  

A generation or two ago, it was unusual for both parents to work, whereas today the opposite is true. Parents often have long days and overnight stays away from home. It is no wonder therefore that the popularity of flexi or weekly boarding is on the rise. For ‘full’ boarders, the addition of these ‘flexis’ creates a busy and vibrant boarding house making it an exciting, dynamic and energetic place.

The key role of a preparatory school lies in the name – to prepare. For pupils planning on boarding for the next stage of their education, prep schools can given them a priceless opportunity to board in a familiar environment, surrounded by their friends. A child who started flexi-boarding in Year 5 and increased this to weekly or full boarding by the end of Year 8 is likely to settle far more quickly into a new school, taking full advantage of all that is on offer, than a child who has had little or no experience of boarding.

Easing the transition to boarding

For new boarders, taster days and letters from future classmates help to make them feel welcomed. At All Hallows, regular video calls allow parents to feel at ease about their children and can help to replicate for them those end of day chats in the car or around the kitchen table, even though they may be miles away. 

Boarders are allowed mobile phones or tablets to enable them to keep in touch with their families. These devices can be isolating though so access is limited to ensure children are interacting with each other. Set times for calling home can establish expectations from both sides but we are always flexible about this. If a pupil needs to phone home, we do all we can to facilitate this as we want our children to be happy and confident.

Triangle of care

All prep boarding schools want their pupils to be in a triangle of care (child–parent–boarding staff) and this means fostering a close relationship between families and school. Acting in loco parentis means that we value regular phone calls and meetings with parents. These allow us to deal with any questions or concerns before they become an issue and to ensure that parents have total confidence in the school.

Living in a community

Lifelong friendships are made through the shared experiences and challenges that come from living in a community. At All Hallows, pupils grow and develop emotionally and as individuals, learning social skills and supporting each other along the way. These skills will stand them in excellent stead as they move on to face new challenges at their senior schools and beyond as happy, well-adjusted individuals.

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