Year 12 Parent
When I first heard about this opportunity for my child, I was overwhelmed with joy and gratitude that our efforts had paid dividends. I was equally apprehensive not to let such an opportunity slip. Those mixed feelings and emotions did not take away the joy, satisfaction and pride for my son’s achievement.
First impressions of boarding school when my son visited for the first time were positive and he shared plenty of stories with us and his siblings. He was impressed with what he saw and learned from the staff. He felt welcomed into the elite facilities and buildings dating back many centuries. He could not imagine that he could be part of something so great. He was proud of his achievement.
My experience of the boarding school admission process was straightforward, with the Access Adviser providing all the necessary information and guidance. She was always present and provided support tailored to us, which encouraged us to open up with any worries. It was a great advantage that my son was able to go on the Football Tour before school started, as this provided an opportunity to bond with other pupils: he made friends during this event and his opinion of the boys he met helped to cement his enthusiasm for going to boarding school.
The boarding staff were very supportive and friendly. At some point, the boys were encouraged to prepare meals. My son used this opportunity to exhibit his cooking skills, to the other boys’ surprise. He won the hearts and minds of the other boys, as well as the kitchen staff. He forged good relationships with other staff too, such as the library staff, for example, and this helped to minimize his worries of the school being an elitist institution. Every child and every parent were treated equally and respected by staff and pupils alike.
I found that the main challenge was managing personal effects and satisfying the school’s requirements. The Housemaster and Matron were very handy and supportive, and at the same time they focused on driving the message through to the child and parent. At such moments, parents need to be firm and let the rules take control.
Be confident and strong that your child will come up against his individual weaknesses, but be positive as the lessons he learns from this will only make him strong. Simple advice from the experts to keep away for two or three weeks at the beginning of term should be followed. It enables your child to find their way within the system.
It was always great to welcome my son back home and I was full of relief, especially when I heard about his first experiences. He was exhausted and strangely had a different feel; it was very difficult to piece together what he made of the experience. Yet time flew and off he went back to school.
My advice to new parents is to be open-minded and to be prepared to learn not only from the school, but equally from their own child. The admission process and the school rules may vary from school to school but the wider picture and message remain the same: to support a child to reach his or her potential. This does not come easy and without having to adjust, adapt to new challenges, and find oneself in places other than one’s comfort zone.
The school is family friendly, and many boarding schools share similar values. Relating and engaging with other families has proved to be very helpful to us and our son. Keeping in touch with the key players - Access Adviser, Housemaster, Matron, Personal Tutor/Sport Head Coach, etc is vital. Sometimes the child's manner of approach in expressing his or her needs to the key players in the school is all it takes to have those needs met.
It’s important to visit the school from time to time, whether to see your child play in a sports fixture or to watch a favourite sport or event: this is invaluable to child, yourselves and his siblings, and to other boys or friends of his and their parents. Such trips are vital moments to bond with other extended families and relatives, etc.
If the school is a long way from your home, some long leaves or short breaks are better spent closer to school, as this saves hassle and time lost travelling. Any chance to spend such time with relatives or school friends is good and has to be agreed with the Housemaster and contact details provided beforehand.
School term reports are targeted opinions of those involved in your child's academic and social life at school. At my son’s school, two written reports by the personal tutor and the housemaster summarize everything about his performance. Those reports are individually tailored and written in such a manner as to enable full understanding. Advise your child on issues raised and, if possible, provide him copies to take with him back to school. Reports from individual subjects teachers are better discussed with the personal tutor, but what you see is what you get - you would rather encourage the child to walk his way up. Never be carried away thinking that your child was academically sound or so: remember that your child is competing with the best in the country. Psychologically, your child may be facing difficulties dealing with the various challenges in school. You will always be given the chance to participate in discussions about any issues or problems. Patience is what it takes at such moments.
Finally, the support received from the partner who put my son forward and made the scholarship possible can only be summarized by a conversation my son's friend had with him at school. He told my son that he will make sure that when he grows up he will fund scholarships. He used my son as an example of people whom he loves and cherishes, but equally someone he could not have met if not if my son had not had his scholarship opportunity. My son was touched by his friend’s words. Revisiting this conversation he had with his school friend with us says a lot how much value is added in him. The impact the scholarship programme has on the children can only be for the betterment of society. The partners have set the ball rolling, and it is sinking into the young minds of the future generation to channel their energy to similar courses. Thank you.