George Masters, Deputy Headmaster at Felsted School, explores the benefits of weekly boarding
With more parents working full-time, quality family time can get squeezed out by work obligations, the daily commute, the school run, sports, music and drama commitments and homework.
It is not surprising therefore that weekly boarding, for five nights per week, is becoming an increasingly popular option for busy parents – shifting the focus for adults and children alike towards work in the week, so that quality family time can be enjoyed at home at the weekends.
Boarding from Monday to Friday gives children an academic boost, thanks to increased access to libraries, computers and assistance from teaching staff, while they are working on homework in the evenings. This is an attractive option for parents, who may prefer not to become an expert in the GCSE history syllabus, and it can also help to avoid counter-productive homework battles.
George at Felsted says: “We are receiving a growing number of weekly boarders, which is not surprising. For many children, this offers the best of both worlds: they can enjoy school during the week, work hard and spend plenty of time with their friends in activities and socialising, then relax at home with their family at weekends. Parents like the fact that they do not have to nag about homework and feel that home time is then ‘quality time’. Many opt for boarding schools within an hour’s drive so they can easily support their child’s co-curricular activities such as sports matches, concerts and drama productions.”
But how do you know if your child would thrive in such an environment?
“All children are different,” says George “but most flourish in modern boarding communities. Speaking from experience, weekly boarding is hugely rewarding; children form life-long friendships with children from different countries and cultures as well as those more local. Contact with parents is available whenever they want it; boarders develop their characters, learning independence, versatility, resilience, leadership, teamwork and communication skills that set them up for life.”
He adds: “In comparison with traditional full boarding, where children board for the entire term, many children are much more at ease knowing they will see their family every weekend. Younger children in particular know it won’t be long until they see their parents (and vice versa) so there’s barely time to feel homesick.”
Gone are the days of cold showers and weekly phone calls to mum and dad – modern boarding schools now provide a comfortable ‘home from home’ experience, even including en-suite bedrooms, cosy common rooms with flat screen TVs and squashy sofas, WiFi, and kitchens for toast and hot chocolate before bed.
What tips does George have for any parents considering weekly boarding?
“Most important is spending time in the schools you are considering. Ask plenty of questions (both parents and children) to really get under the skin of the place and understand the ethos and atmosphere. Talk with other boarders and parents of boarders to get a full picture of life at the school. Many schools offer taster nights, so do take advantage of these. Finally, make sure you meet the people who will be caring for your child, and observe the relationships between both staff and boarders and between the boarders themselves – is there a positive and welcoming atmosphere? Do the children seem relaxed yet purposeful and, above all, happy?”
Felsted School in Essex is located 20 minutes south of Saffron Walden and offers day and boarding options (3, 5 or 7 nights) for all students from the age of 4 to 18. A flexi-boarding option is also available for children from ages 8 to 13, whereby parents can book in their child for a single night, or multiple nights on a termly basis.