Benefits of a UK Preparatory Boarding School – by Richard Foster, Headmaster of Windlesham House School, West Sussex

14 Dec 2011

It is generally recognised all round the world, and I firmly believe it to be true, that an English Boarding Preparatory School is the best start to full-time education any parent can give their children, especially if they have aspirations for their child to go to one of the prestigious English Public Schools (Senior Independent Schools) and, indeed, a top English University.

There are a considerable number of reasons why this statement holds validity.  I am going to elaborate on eight of the most significant of these reasons. 

Highest Academic Standards 

Traditional English Boarding Preparatory Schools are totally focused on preparing children for entry to the very best Senior Independent Schools. On top of this the very brightest children have the opportunity to sit Academic Scholarships.

English Preparatory Schools were first started and continue to exist because they have all the necessary expertise, experience and resources to prepare children best individually to attain the highest academic results possible.

The academic rigour of an English Boarding Preparatory School with homework being done and supervised at school, extra study periods and subject clinics creates a work ethic that is second to none. The diversity of the curriculum enhances the children’s desire to extend themselves, they develop a love of learning.  Once this has been achieved in these all important formative years it never leaves an individual: it is surely one of the most significant life skills you can ever master.

Qualified and highly experienced E.F.L. teaching /tuition is available; many Preparatory Schools even have these staff on site and resident.

Outstanding All Round Education   

Notwithstanding the ultimate importance of academic excellence and the need to have an environment that gives each individual child the opportunity to fulfil their academic potential there is much more to a first class education than academic pursuit. The development of social skills that the ability and confidence to communicate with people is of paramount importance.  General manners and common courtesy are the principle ingredients in an English Preparatory School.  In a boarding environment these skills have all the more chance of being instilled because the child is away from home and all the distractions that come with that.

Life skills such as treating others with respect and developing attributes of kindness have to be learnt they cannot just be handed out.  A boarding school environment is the natural place to practise these skills on a daily basis.  Children learn from each other and gain much pleasure and satisfaction from this whole process.

Preparatory School Heads have very close links with their Senior Schools colleagues indeed I personally count many of them as my best friends.  Senior School Heads regularly visit Preparatory Schools and the children are often treated to visits by very distinguished people including members of the Royal Family, mayors, famous sportsman and other celebrities.

No other environment can provide this level of education better than an English Preparatory Boarding School. 

Level of Pastoral Care and Communication with Parents 

When encouraging parents to board their children at a young age the level of pastoral care has to be of paramount importance.  In order to reach his or her academic, physical and social potential a child has to be happy in his or her environment.  Parents are kept completely up to date with daily communication from their child and indeed their Houseparents, Tutors etc. Access to email, skype and telephone means that families are in close touch with each other at all times.

Opportunities to Develop Interests and Talents; To Discover Lifelong Hobbies

Fulfilling a child’s natural talent and giving each individual every opportunity to reach their potential is a key part of the English Boarding School philosophy.  There is a real desire to encourage and help each child discover what they enjoy, where his or her talents are and how he or she can best use and develop these natural gifts.

Whether it be in Art, Drama, DT, ICT, Music or sport there are staff with considerable expertise and experience who are passionate about their subject. What is especially significant about a boarding school environment is that the same staff are on hand to inspire, encourage and teach children over and above the normal school day.  To have this support on site early in the mornings right up to bed time seven days a week goes a long way to explaining why children feel so animated, stimulated and eager to develop their talents and skills.

Interests started at preparatory school become lifelong pastimes and hobbies.

Ability to Develop Physically and Mentally To Learn How To Play Team and Individual Sports

Sport is an integral part of the curriculum and children take physical exercise on a daily basis.  Every child takes part in organised team games and there is the opportunity for every individual to represent their house and the school in matches.

There is an emphasis on trying one’s hardest for the good of the team, and of learning how to win and how to lose graciously.  ‘Healthy in body: healthy in mind’ is synonymous with Boarding Preparatory School life.

Encouragement to Take Informed Risks and Develop the Taste of Success and the Pride of Achieving

The only way to learn properly is by making mistakes and taking risks.  The modern generation of children are increasingly reluctant to take informed risks because society has become over protective and stifles an individual’s natural instinct to experiment.  In a controlled and sensible way the atmosphere within an English Boarding Preparatory School allows and encourages children to have a go, to try something new.  Plenty of encouragement is given to try out for teams, perform in public, audition for drama productions and concerts etc.  Children have the freedom to make informed decisions for themselves.

They learn to enjoy the taste of success and most importantly to share the success with their friends because they are living together. They learn to take a pride in what they achieve. They learn to accept disappointment and how to turn disappointment into success.

Making Lifelong Friends, Preparation for the Global World, Respect for Different Ethnic Backgrounds

The friendships made during these formative years are very often lifelong and this is especially so in a boarding environment.  Children growing up together are very likely to bond because they know so much about each other.  English Boarding Preparatory Schools are increasingly more and more attractive to families from overseas.  Not only are the children guaranteed to speak English fluently but they learn about other countries and other cultures.  In the mix of their year group will be children of several different nationalities.

 Develop a sense of humour, enjoy life, having fun, experiencing a happy childhood

Whilst education is a very serious business and there are very necessary disciplines to learn and cultivate, children must develop and have a sense of enjoyment, a love of life.

A sense of humour is only gained through interaction with other people and there is no better environment than an English Boarding Preparatory School for this to be nurtured.  Children feed off each other at a very early age and the ability to laugh at oneself becomes instinctive.

Unless a child is happy he/she will not fulfil themselves at school.  It is vital that they have lots of fun and are not inhibited in enjoying their childhood.

Growing up too fast is an endemic problem in many environments and cultures.  The English Boarding Preparatory School system allows children to grow up naturally, nothing is enforced on the individual; they are able to feel very comfortable and content about themselves for what they are and who they are.

Peer pressure so often is seen as a force of evil – driving youngsters into drugs and violence.  It can, however, be the most positive of influences in the right setting.  Cheers from friends on Sports Day, applause from peers after a concert, laughter from classmates at a play, singing from dormitory mates on a birthday are powerful forces which, although external, build children from within.