Here are some questions parents often ask. The answers come from parents who were new to boarding school when their children were awarded full bursaries.
What will my child gain from attending boarding school?
Smaller class sizes. Higher standard of teaching. Academically stretched to reach full potential. Increased sporting participation. Wealth of non-academic activities to take part in. Great facilities. Structure fosters independence. Long holidays enable extended quality time to be spent with family. A contribution to social mobility.
Establishing independence, confidence and a deeper understanding of responsibility.
Maturity and a wider experience, not just of the academic kind.
Learning to live independently from family, building social networks and being supported by top professionals across a wide range of areas.
Opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise be available and the chance to excel in studies.
The chance to focus on studies, as well as on improving interpersonal and social skills and build confidence, without the everyday distractions that inner city teenagers usually face.
Opening more doors for future goals.
Living, sharing and working in a community with a common purpose to succeed. The great experience of the best teachers, who love to teach. Support structures to unleash full potential.
What challenges might my child face at boarding school and how can I help them overcome those?
Adapting to a different style of teaching and lifestyle.
Long hours and getting used to the routine of being a boarder, including learning to organise and manage oneself in the boarding house.
Prep and the extra study that is expected, on a daily basis.
Being away from home and being with strangers.
Being surrounded by pupils whose parents have lots of money.
Be a listening ear. Do not be too demanding of your child's time - they are incredibly busy - they will not always have time to answer the phone or reply promptly to texts. As time goes by you will work out when is the best time to get in touch with them. Don’t bombard your child with endless questions when they come home for the first time
Be encouraging and supportive. If struggling with academic work, urge your child to speak to the teachers about it. Help your child to be confident in their own abilities
Make sure your child knows that you are there for them. For example, I used to send my daughter funny postcards and stickers that only we would understand. Also I visited her regularly and attended her home and away games.
Explain to your child how they can excel in life as much or more than anyone else, given the opportunities offered, and also how they can be instrumental in their home community both during school holidays and after they’ve left school.
Reassure your child that, above all, you want them to be happy.
I know that the SpringBoard bursary covers the full fees and extras but will there be other ‘hidden’ expenses that I have to pay for?
The bursary covers the majority of expenses during the school year. We only really needed to buy the basics at first, such school shoes, pens/paper and other small items for our daughter’s room such as bedding and toiletries. She was also given spending money for her mobile and other personal purchases that were required while at school.
I have had to pay for have been tuck, toiletries, school shoes and text books. There is a second hand bookshop on site, however, that sells the text books at a fraction of the original price.
Social events or non-educational day trips need to be paid for.
The school notifies you in advance of additional costs, for example for things like school photos, so that you can decide if you want to incur the cost.
Will the SpringBoard bursary affect any other benefits that I already receive?
It may not do, but you should check with the boarding school and also ask your contact at the organisation which introduced you to SpringBoard.
You should check with the body for that particular benefit. If you are in receipt of certain benefits, some schools will require you to pay that benefit over to them during term time. You will be informed of this during the application process.
I only receive child benefit and that hasn’t been affected.
No, not that I am aware of. However it was important to declare to the Tax Credits office that my child was continuing in full time education. This was done via a letter from the boarding school.
If you receive Disability Living Allowance for your child who will be going to boarding school, it’s worthwhile speaking to the Department of Work and Pensions.
Can you give me any other advice before my child starts at boarding school?
Trust the process. Try not to worry. Even if it’s difficult at first, you will soon see the joy on your child’s face and this will put you at ease.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Go for it, and enjoy the experience. It is the opportunity of a lifetime.
Although you think this is going to be really hard for your child, they are going to be so busy and involved with their new adventure that they become adapted to their lifestyle quickly. It is harder for the parents, as your life is still the same but without a huge part of your life living at home. Have support from family and friends and just be proud of your child’s achievement in getting to boarding school. Your child is far stronger than you could ever imagine.
Be positive and patient and let your child enjoy this rare experience with minimal interference. Give your child time to settle at the start, and to make friends, and trust the authorities and all staff who are providing the various different types of support your child needs.
Read everything that the school sends to you and complete all forms. Follow all the instructions you are given. Explore the school website.
Make sure you go to all the preparatory events - at the school or organised by SpringBoard or by the organisation which introduced you to SpringBoard. They really help prepare you and your child for the experience to come.
What will be the best thing about my child attending boarding school?
The whole experience: to be given the opportunity to excel academically, varied sports participation, music lessons, weekend activities and friends made.
The change in attitude, maturity, the quality of education and the exposure to a different world. My child had a very limited view of his future before.
Broadening your child’s experiences and integrating them into the network of friends/tutors who will assist them going forward in their chosen path in life.
The increased confidence, self-belief, independence and raised aspirations.
Seeing my child enjoy academic success and the levels of respect afforded to her by staff and other pupils.
Your child will become someone who makes a difference to the community by sharing the knowledge and skills they gain at boarding school.
Learning to follow a set of rules, with no room for excuses!
How often will my child be able to come home?
It depends on the guidance from the relevant school and also on your particular child. I spoke to my son when I knew it was convenient, mostly of an evening, but only a couple of time a week at the most.
Your child will have long days and be incredibly busy. More so in the first few weeks when they are getting used to their new routine, so you may not get a prompt answer. At my child’s school, there is no restriction on how often you can phone, text or email your child, but you will soon establish the best times to communicate.
I send messages and pictures every day, but I don't expect a reply all the time or straight away. I also ask my child’s opinion on things to do with home so that she still feels a part of the decision-making, as if she was at home.
I talk to my child on the telephone at least twice a week, but text every day. I found that texting throughout the early stages was helpful, as speaking to each other on the telephone was emotional. You can keep in contact whenever you want to, as long as it isn't during schooling hours.
I call my child twice a week after prep or weekends.
I call most days, in the early evening.
It is best to limit the calls at first, because it they are very difficult. It’s important to give your child time to settle and focus, as well as to bond with other pupils and the boarding house staff.”
How often can I or should I phone, text or email my child?
Who is my main point of contact at the boarding school?
The House Master/Mistress or House Parent. You will also have contact with Matron and your child’s tutor.
I contact the House Parent first, but you will be given contact numbers and email addresses for different members of staff whom you may need to speak to.
How often will the boarding school get in touch with me?
It depends on the school and on your own child. Generally, you will receive at least one detailed report per term. You will be contacted from time to time regarding trips, dinners, performances and talks. You will often be asked to provide up-to-date contact details and to update your child’s medical history.
I receive regular updates via email regarding general school information, with a link to the school’s parent portal. Other than that, if anything personal regarding my son needs addressing, we are contacted by the House Master via phone/email.
The various departments in the school are in touch with me on a regular basis. I'm also kept in touch constantly via email about events and important information.
I get lots of emails from the school and occasional phone calls.
I have a question about something to do with school: who shall I ask?
Usually most queries can be directed to the Housemaster/mistress in the first instance. You may be sent a guide which explains various personnel roles. The school website is a valuable source for information.
I initially ask the House Parent, but also sometimes speak to subject teachers.
What is my child's school food like?
There is a wide variety of food that covers all the food groups. There is a salad bar, soup and cereal stations, options for main meals and the children are invited to have a say on the menu.
Well-planned, multi-option menus which cater for my son's food allergies.
Plentiful with a wide variety of meals. Caters for vegetarian and special dietary requirements.
My daughter says she misses spicy foods, but that most of the time the food is very healthy.
My son says not too great, but it is edible.
Very nutritional and varied meals, which my daughter says she is happy with.
What are my child's sleeping arrangements at boarding school?
Each school will be different and each boarding house may be different within each school. It also depends on the age of your child. For my son’s first year, he slept in a dormitory with four other boys. After that he had his own room.
My daughter has her own room, but has previously shared. For the first few years in the lower school, you change rooms and roommates. This helps to build long lasting friendships and enable the pupils to better understand each other.
Usually, the younger pupils sleep in dormitories with typically 5 or 6 pupils in each. As they get older, they either have their own rooms or may share a room with another pupil.
There is a time by which the pupils must be in their rooms at night. It depends on the age of the pupils, but for the older ones it may be 10pm or 11pm.
In a mixed school, the boys and girls sleep in separate houses or in separate parts of their house.
What are my child's laundry arrangements (including bedding)?
Each school will be different. Some schools you can have items washed every day or there is one set day. Details will be provided once your child starts at school. Some schools have washing machines so pupils can wash items themselves, which is useful if you missed laundry day. You will usually need to provide your own powder, liquid or tablets.
2 sets of bedding were supplied by ourselves (quilt covers & pillow slips) which were then laundered by the school. My son's laundry was collected and returned to his shelf in the laundry room.
I provided my daughter’s bedding, but her school did provide bedding. She needed to take her own towels though. All of her laundry is done by herself as there is a laundry room at the end of her bedroom corridor. She does buy her own washing detergents. The cleaners do laundry if it is left out for them, but my daughter prefers to do her own.
All beds are single and you are responsible for providing bedding (including a duvet and pillow). I would recommend a mattress protector as well, especially for the winter months. All laundry is done by the House staff and the days and times are coordinated by the House Matron. Dry Cleaning and ironing are also done.
My daughter’s laundry is taken care of by the school. During the school holidays, her room is thoroughly cleaned and she brings all of her belongings home for us to assess. This allows us and the school to start the new term on a clean slate and helps to eliminate clutter.
My son puts his laundry in a labelled bag and hands it to Laundry in the morning. It gets washed and he collects it. Bedlinen is changed every week.
What happens if my child is ill and will the boarding school tell me?
During the day they will need to go to the school medical centre. If an illness occurs at night, they will need to contact the Matron or Houseparent. If they are too ill to do this, they should alert a nearby student. The school will not usually contact you for minor matters such as administering a headache tablet or plaster. They will always contact you for anything more serious and will tell you what action has been taken. It is imperative the school has up-to-date contact details.
The school has a health centre which attends to the children when they are sick and the school will then notify parents
There is a nurse at the school and a sick bay for pupils to stay in if really unwell. The school keeps a written record of illnesses and treatments. If your child was very poorly, the nurse or Houseparent would contact you. It was a requirement of my daughter's school that she changed her GP to one local to the school, which meant that she was taken off her home GP’s list. But if she was ill when at home, she could attend her home GP’s surgery as a temporary resident or she could go to a walk-in clinic.
The school will email to advise you so that you are aware that your child is ill. You can then speak to your child to comfort them.
The school would inform us as soon as they felt it necessary when a child became unwell.
Will my child find it easy to make friends with other children from fee-paying families?
My daughter has not had any problems and has found it quite easy to make friends. She's not an extrovert or exceptionally sociable, but all the pupils in her year have bonded very well. It is important to note that not everyone who is 'fee paying 'is rich. Some families have made huge sacrifices to enable their children to go to boarding school. Don't let perceived wealth be a barrier to your child enjoying this amazing opportunity.
Yes. It depends on the child, obviously, but the school really helps the social mixing/interaction process through various activities.
Definitely. The boarding environment is a very intensive process with shared common experiences. There is not a lot of space for excessive belongings, so wealth is not flashed around. All my son's friends know he is a bursary pupil and he has always got someone to socialise with especially in his free time and he regularly meets up with his fellow boarders over the holidays.
It is just like state school: your child will meet someone there with similar interests and will then be welcomed into a wider group. Whatever social circle your child has entered through, life will be no different at boarding school.
Will people treat my child differently because my child is a bursary pupil?
Not in my experience. At some schools, only a limited number of people know which pupils are bursary pupils, but in other schools it is widely known. At my son's school everyone knows and bursary pupils are regularly invited to attend functions and give talks. This has not stopped my son socialising with his school friends who aren’t bursary pupils over the holidays and staying over at their houses.
My son didn't experience any problems. And it’s important for a bursary pupil not to lose their sense of who they really are: they were chosen for more than their academic ability and it’s good to remember that.
No, not at all. This is something parents worry about, but all the pupils get to know and accept each other from face value. Now that my child has told people about her status, everyone has been amazing with her and all are proud of her achievements.
No. The atmosphere in my son's school is very welcoming.
At my daughter’s school, only a certain number of staff know who is in receipt of a bursary so it really is up to you if you wish to keep it secret. Personally, I'm not ashamed to say I couldn't afford the school fees and everyone knows my daughter is a bursary pupil.
Will going to boarding school change my child?
Yes. My daughter is so much more confident and independent in herself. More outgoing and with bigger aspirations for the future. There are honestly no negative differences whatsoever with her.
Yes. My son has matured into a wonderful young man and made many new friends. He has experienced many opportunities one could only dream of and he can now look forward to using this going forwards in life.
He is more considerate and is learning to handle his emotions in a more appropriate way, as well as becoming more independent.
She now has a greater understanding of the world around her and how to interact with people.
Much more confident (although not arrogant), ambitious, studious, independent, more open minded and willing to try new things.
Yes: more focused, studious, respectful and obedient.
Once my child starts at boarding school, is the partner (the organisation which put my child forward for this opportunity) still involved with them and with me?
Yes they are and this relationship is extremely important to the whole process. Part of the responsibility of being awarded a SpringBoard bursary is that the bursary pupil gives back to their community. The partner will help to facilitate this and will also help and support you in the unlikely event that you need assistance in resolving a matter with the boarding school.
We have lots of contact with them. It really helps to know that they are there throughout this process which is quite alien to my family, as none of my family or my husband has ever been to boarding school.
Yes, very much. There are a great support and are there cheering on both the parent and child all the way! Our contact has been great in keeping the children grounded and focused on the end goal.
Yes; they supported us throughout the application process and, since our child went to boarding school, they support both us and him as required.
How will my other children cope when their sibling is away at boarding school and what advice can you give me to support them?
The important thing is to discuss the change with them before it happens. It is important that they understand that their sibling is not going away for extremely long periods like months or years and that they are going away for a good reason. In this day and age, there are many ways for them to keep in touch with one another and you can encourage them to do that.
Life at boarding school is temporary and home will always be just that: home. This is a sacrifice for all the involved family and it is important to remind each other of the benefits of such a sacrifice. Involve other children as much as possible and also allow them to have time alone with the child who is at boarding school. This can be an inspiration for younger children: my nephews are enamored by the opportunity afforded to my daughter and tell everyone she's famous!
Honestly, my son is made up as he gets all the attention now. He does miss his sister, but if you keep them involved with conversations, it is fine. He will text her himself at times and she has posted him letters about school life which he really enjoys receiving. They are a lot closer now as well and appreciate each other more.
My other daughter loves it both when her sister is away (when she says she gets all the attention) and when she is at home (when she says it's fun because she gets to hear about boarding school life and catch up with her big sister.
My son enjoys having the undivided attention! As his older sibling comes home every three weeks, the intervening weeks go by quickly and their relationship is unaffected.
Obviously my child is missed and we look forward to him coming home each time. Get other siblings involved, ask if they want to come along when dropping off at boarding school and make sure they communicate with each other.
It was initially difficult, but occasional visits and attending events helps them to see each other and to talk. Also encourage them to keep in touch.
What are the other parents at boarding school like? Will I have much to do with them?
The other parents have been very welcoming. Not all the children have previously been to prep boarding school, so it will also be the first time their child attends a boarding school. Your first time meeting the other parents will usually be at the New Boys or Girls Lunch. After that at sports fixtures, parents meetings, occasional lunches or dinners. Your school may circulate parent contact details for social purposes, especially if pupils stay over at each other houses.
They are very approachable and we usually meet them if we visit the school for meetings or when collecting my son's belongings at the end of term. A few of the parents that live nearer the school than us have invited my son to join them on family birthdays and home visits.
Other parents are ok and very supportive, especially during games, events and parties.
Most of the other parents are very nice and talkative. They try and get me involved - one family invited us to their picnic at the school which was very nice.
The parents I’ve come into contact with have been very nice and supportive. There have been sleepovers, trips, holidays and parties for our children so we have had the opportunity to get to know each other.
What is Prize Giving/Speech Day like?
I’ve had the pleasure of attending Prize Giving/Speech Day to see my daughter receive an award. What comes across clearly is the sense of camaraderie amongst the pupils and also the amount of work that the staff have put in to make such an event the success it is. An eye opener for me was how well attended by parents the occasion is.
It is very enlightening as you get to see your child in another environment and it makes you realise how much they are enjoying the school.
A formal celebration of the school's achievements. There may also be a lunch, exhibitions and sport fixtures.
Very interesting event. It gives me the opportunity to meet with other parents and talk to other children of my son's year group.
It is a wonderful experience - an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of the pupils. Also to find out about the different projects the school has planned and to get to meet some of the parents at the picnic in the park. I loved the church service.
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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