The parents

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by The parents, how boarding enriches families
the parents

We have again included a ‘Pupils and parents’ section, which we believe provides some of the most compelling reading in the Guide. For those thinking about boarding, it is a marvellously positive advert for one of the real beacons of British education and a great credit to the whole of the boarding sector. 

Here is a small cross-section of the many contributions we have received from those currently boarding in the UK.

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Andy and Natalie Flay have two sons at Taunton School

Natalie and I have discovered that Taunton is truly interested in all children – not just the incredibly bright or sporty ones. It’s very egalitarian, both in its attitude to its pupils and in its parent base, and we’ve found this attitude permeates through Taunton School pupils. They really do understand that the more they put into life, inevitably, the more they get back. And we’ve discovered that both our boys really do have the most unbelievable opportunities to ‘put into’ their school careers. They’ve gone from a limited appreciation of the technical aspects of many sports to fully-fledged rugby, athletics, hockey, cricket, tennis and swimming aficionados. It’s been fantastic to watch them both develop such a love of sport. When we can, we do try and watch matches – though this is often difficult. However when we do we’re so impressed by the fact that Taunton regularly fields A, B, C and D teams. The mantra is that everyone should play competitive sport and have the opportunity to represent their school. 

Previously English was a burden our eldest son – if nothing else. It’s now his second favourite subject. How and where Taunton found the key to unlock this is beyond his frankly astonished parents – but we’re truly grateful – for his sake (not just our own!). We’ve also discovered that both boys can sing – and the eldest one seems to have developed a love of ‘treading the boards’! Last term we were both fortunate enough to watch him in the winning group in the Group Acting Class at the Taunton Arts Festival. He also made a brilliantly terrifying Chief Pirate in the Year 6 play, Pirates and Mermaids. We had no idea that he had any interest or ability in speech and drama and yet Taunton found it and drew it out of him!

As for boarding, our worries about how the boys might settle evaporated almost immediately. (Frequent postings have meant that they had both been to several schools and so we worried it might take them a while to settle.) The boarding team is kind, caring and imaginative and the boarders seem to absolutely love being there. Recently, when we finally managed to track our eldest son down via the telephone to wish him a happy birthday, he promptly informed us that he ‘couldn’t talk right now’ as he was too busy playing ‘Capture the Flag.’ That told us! 

In a nutshell it would be accurate to describe Taunton as a school that brilliantly draws children out of their comfort zones while managing to remain grounded, kind and caring. As a military family, I really don’t think we could have picked a better school for our boys. 

Gavin Genthall’s children are at Clifton College

As a Service family, we decided on Clifton for many reasons. The school’s high reputation across the academic, sporting and pastoral disciplines was our paramount concern and Clifton holds its own against its West Country competitors. Also, having a son and daughter with an age difference of two years, we clearly wanted a co-ed school that offered preparatory and upper school on the same site to simplify logistics. Similarly, in the event that we are posted abroad in future, and with our nearest family being in Scotland, we wanted a school that was easy for national and international travel. With Bristol International Airport only 25 minutes away, Bristol railway station 10 minutes away and the M4/M5 15 minutes away, the school was certainly the best linked of the dozen or so West Country schools we looked at. 

Although we didn’t initially realise it would be a major factor, the healthy ratio of day to boarding students has been a major bonus – our children have as many friends who are day pupils as boarders. So they are regularly invited for ‘sleepovers’ and now consider Bristol their home, something every Service family will recognise as important.

We initially looked at schools in rural or small town settings but we are delighted with our choice of a city school (albeit in a very leafy suburb). Its proximity to Clifton Village is perhaps one of the school’s unique selling points, being a wonderfully safe environment for the children to begin to venture into the city by themselves and with all the cosmopolitan attractions of Bristol to hand. 

Finally, Clifton manages to strike that fine balance of being receptive to the needs of Service families, but without having too many pupils from Service families. We wanted our children to grow up with children from a wide range of backgrounds. 

All in all, we would have absolutely no hesitation in recommending Clifton to other Service parents looking for a great place to educate their children.

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