Try to be as positive as possible with your child as you get ready for them to start boarding. Children pick up very quickly on anxiety and it will make it more difficult for them to settle in if they are also worried about what is going on at home or how much their parents are missing them.
Try not to worry. It is very natural to have concerns before your child starts boarding and every parent is in the same position. Many children start boarding school not knowing anyone else who is joining and school staff are very experienced in settling them in quickly. This will mean your child being very busy and not having much time to call you. Those early phone calls home are often the trigger for tears which is natural and not a cause for concern. The house staff will tell you if there is more than normal homesickness and it often takes a term for life to settle down into a routine for everyone. It is a huge change for your child and the best way to ensure successful transition to boarding is to make them feel that their family is proud of them and working with the school to give the support they need.
Your son or daughter’s Housemaster or Housemistress should give you their contact details and often those of the house matron or tutor. Keep these handy and build up a good line of communication with these key people in your child’s life. They will not mind contact if you are genuinely concerned about something or need to pass on information. However, remember that they are busy and may have a teaching timetable as well as looking after the house. They may not be able to get back to you straight away and a short silence may just mean that they are trying to find out the answer to your query. You will soon get used to the relationship and find that the house staff will get to know your child very well and give you confidence that he or she is being well looked after.
Hair/ jewellery etc
Experiments with hair colour or other forms of body decoration just before starting to board are not a good idea. Most schools will have strict rules about piercings, dyed hair etc. Also, it is not a good idea for your child to take jewellery of value with them. Schools usually allow simple stud earrings and a plain watch but do not encourage more than that for sensible reasons. Items with sentimental or monetary value are best left at home. At some schools girls will have to tie long hair up during the day and for sport.
Your child will be given a school email address and it will be protected by a security firewall. Often schools do not allow students access to sites such as Facebook and the internet may be switched off at their bedtime for younger pupils.
Read carefully through the information provided by the school. This can be daunting and is not always written with bursary pupils in mind. Have your list of extras that are paid for under a SpringBoard bursary to hand and query anything you are not sure about with your partner organisation, with the school or with SpringBoard. Everyone is there to help.
These are usually essential from GCSE years upwards and certainly for sixth formers. In younger years the school may supply all students with a tablet. The school should send you information on this before starting. This is not specifically covered by the SpringBoard bursary, however schools are usually very helpful in either lending a laptop or selling on a second hand one. The insurance can be paid for by the extras fund which is part of the SpringBoard bursary.
Do try to label everything as clearly and securely as possible. Lost items of kit cause stress for all concerned. Using a permanent marker is often more useful than sewing on labels which can come off in the wash. Providing a net laundry bag to keep socks and underwear together in a school wash is a good idea if you can explain to your child how to use it. This may prevent a single sock crisis!
Schools have their own medical centres staffed by well-qualified nurses with doctors attending regular clinics for pupils or access to a local facility. Before your child starts you will be asked to provide details of their medical history and it is very important that you tell them all about issues such as allergies, asthma and previous injuries so that they can be well prepared to care for your child. The house matrons also attend regular training sessions on first aid and can give basic care in the house such as paracetamol for headaches. Anything more serious will be referred to the central medical team. Medical cover is offered by the school and personal accident insurance is covered by the extras fund which is part of the SpringBoard bursary. Schools will also have access to trained counsellors for pupils who need some expert help in dealing with issues such as bereavement.
Every school will have its own policy regarding mobile phones and some are much more relaxed than others. Phones may be handed in to the house staff at bedtime. This is for sensible reasons: it prevents students using the phone late at night and allows better sleep for all. Parents must respect these rules and NOT provide an extra phone or try to call after bedtime. You will be encouraged to speak at times which fit into the busy school timetable such as lunchtime or early evening. Skype can be a useful way of keeping in touch with your child. It is free to download on a computer and you can see each other as well as talk.
For younger pupils who are not so used to doing things for themselves, encourage your child to learn skills such as when to put clothes in the laundry, how to make their bed and how to manage their own personal care before they start boarding. Matrons are there to help but it will make your son or daughter feel much more confident if they are already quite independent. Older pupils are often expected to use a house laundry for their personal washing while towels and sheets are done by the school service. It therefore helps if they are already familiar with a washing machine and iron!
School food is usually very good indeed. Your child may eat in a large dining hall or in the smaller environment of the house but staff will be keeping an eye on what they are eating and encouraging them to make good choices. It helps a lot if your child is happy to try a variety of different foods which may involve being more adventurous than normal. This may take a while and it is natural for them to miss home cooking at first. They are going to be very busy and need plenty of good quality food so cannot afford to be very fussy and insist on what they have at home. All schools will cater for vegetarians, children with allergies and those who need halal meat.
The basics are needed to start with. Do not feel you have to buy all the kit until you know what sports your child is playing. Items such as hockey sticks or lacrosse sticks can often be borrowed from the school. Your child will tell you if they really need their own. Gum shields are, however, absolutely essential from the start and the school should help you to order one. If not ask your dentist to help or send your child with a shop bought one until the school mouthguard is fitted.
Things to Take
Your son or daughter will have an area in their shared dormitory or single room which they can personalise to make them feel at home. It may just be a small pin board. Photos from home and small posters are fine. Often their storage space will be small so be sensible about how much they can take. A couple of changes of non-uniform clothing (often called mufti) is needed for weekends and you will be able to gauge this much better after the first term.
Try to remember that your son or daughter will be living in a community which abides by strict timetables for lessons and activities such as evening homework or prep. They will not be able to phone whenever they like and parents need to bear their school routine in mind. This is for the very good reason that a busy child is less likely to feel homesick. Often the weekends are a good time to catch up on what has gone on during the week.
Your child does not need everything on the list right at the beginning at the autumn term. He or she needs a change of uniform and basic sports uniform to get started but sound advice is wait before getting items such as a coat. It will not be needed straight away and there may be a second hand shop with items of very good quality. Many parents are happy to use second hand items such as coats or blazers which do not get much wear and many schools will provide this service. Pupils will be expected to look smart on occasions such as Sunday church services and open days. For boys this usually means wearing the suit which is part of the uniform anyway and for girls it may entail a special ‘Sunday’ best outfit. The joining instructions from your school should make this clear. Children go up in shoe sizes very often so if a uniform list says you should provide two pairs of shoes or trainers, ignore it. You will probably be buying more in a few months anyway!
Schools will often have lessons or scheduled activities on Saturday mornings and sports fixtures in the afternoons. Sunday will be a quieter day which may involve the whole school attending a church service, or a house outing or an activity such as a birthday party or house based games. Many schools have weekends when everyone has a break and goes home. These may be called exeats or leave-out weekends. House staff will contact you to make the travel arrangements if your child is coming home and this can be paid for from the extras fund which is part of the SpringBoard bursary. If you wish to go and see your child over a weekend to watch a match, or take them out for a local lunch on Sunday, this should be fine but always check in advance with the house staff so that you are expected.
The SpringBoard Bursary Foundation
Portland House, Bressenden Place, London SW1E 5RS
Tel: 020 7869 8141
A charitable company registered in England
Company number 8102408 | Charity number 1147938
Registered office address: Narrow Quay House, Narrow Quay, Bristol BS1 4QA
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