Stephanie Cheah, Founder of the education consultancy Waypoints, offers some tips on how to find The Perfect Match in your choice of boarding school
There is a vast diversity of boarding schools in the UK which all have different things to offer. From single-sex schools in the bustling towns to co-educational schools in the countryside, every school has its own strengths to boast that attract different children. With this, it is important to note that just because a school has a well-known name, it is by no means a guarantee that the institution will suit your child. Furthermore, despite league-tables giving somewhat of an indication to the academic standards at a school, it may not ensure a high quality of education. Several schools owe their positions on the league tables to a selective intake of students rather than the quality of its teaching staff.
It is especially important to consider English language support if English is not your first language. Most overseas students will follow the standard curriculum which involves taking the same exams as native English speakers and many schools do provide support from teachers who teach EAL (English as an Additional Language). It is worth finding out whether or not these lessons have an additional cost, and what qualifications the teachers hold. Do they have both an EAL qualification as well as a teaching diploma?
The other students at the school will heavily influence a pupil’s experience. International students can provide diversity, resulting in friendships across religious and cultural divides. It may seem a benefit in the beginning for your child to have plenty of company from your own country. However, in some circumstances, large intakes of students from the same country can easily manifest itself in exclusive groups that are more reluctant to immerse themselves in the British culture. It can also cause students from other cultures to feel excluded. School admissions staff are often more than happy to provide statistics regarding the nationalities of their students which is something that one might want to consider. On the other hand, schools which have many British boarders living in the nearby area can result in a similarly unfortunate experience, especially with the rising popularity of “flexi boarding”. Several British boarding schools have many weekly boarders who go home for the weekend, providing a quieter or perhaps lonely atmosphere back at school. Schools at which most boarders are “full time”, are ones at which overseas pupils tend to prefer as the school does not empty out on the weekend.
In addition, take care of educational consultancies that are paid commissions. These consultants receive money from schools to guide students towards their school. They can often be spotted by guaranteeing your child a place at a school or by being reluctant to discuss other schools (which do not pay them a commission). The schools that pay them may not be the best schools, nor a school that will suit your child. Waypoints’ hallmark is objective and independent advice. Rest assured that we always provide tailored, non-biased guidance towards schools for your child. We have sent children to a wide variety of different schools based on their needs.
Be cautious with your timing in applying to independent British boarding schools. The main ages at which pupils enter are at 11, 13 and 16. Many schools fill up during these times and it is harder to find a place outside of these times. Both GCSEs and A levels are two year courses, meaning it could be less seamless joining at other ages.
The British educational system is beneficial to every child because of how versatile it is. Each child can find a school at which they will thrive and bring the best out of your child, as long as they look for it. At Waypoints, we offer help to pupils to navigate through a system, which can be rather complicated, with the ideal of finding a school which is The Perfect Match.