7:00am to 8:00am
Depending how old your child is, they will either be woken up by one of the House staff team coming into their dormitory or knocking on the door of their room. They will be getting up and getting themselves to breakfast which may be in the boarding house itself or in a large communal dining room. Some will fit in a quick shower before breakfast and some after. Bathroom facilities are shared which can take some getting used to at the beginning. Some new boarding houses for sixth form students have en-suite bathrooms but this is not to be expected!
House matrons are available in the morning in case anyone feels unwell or has lost items of uniform or just wants a comforting chat. They are also making sure that everyone has breakfast and is organised for the start of the day. Pupils make sure that they have everything they need for the lessons until lunch time before leaving the house. Some Housemasters or Housemistresses will have a quick house meeting over breakfast to give information about events such as sports fixtures for that day.
8:30am to 8:50am
This is usually when the school day starts. Some pupils will see their personal tutor first before lessons start. On some days there will be an assembly for the whole school or for year groups. Some schools have assembly every morning with hymn singing and different people addressing the school on a variety of topical issues.
8:30am to 1:00pm
Pupils will have lessons all morning with a 20 minute break around 11.00 for a snack with their year group. When they first start pupils are usually taken from lesson to lesson by their tutor for the first week until they know their way around the school. Lessons will not take place in one classroom; pupils move from one department to another to be taught by specialist staff. It can all seem very daunting at first but the older pupils are very good at redirecting a lost new girl or boy. Pupils will often have a buddy who will make sure they are in the right place at the right time. Many schools have peer mentoring systems which consist of volunteers who are trained to help younger pupils settle in and deal with any problems such as homesickness. After the first couple of weeks pupils feel confident that they know where they are going and which lesson comes next.
This may be in a large communal dining room or back in the boarding house. It may be self-service or a more formal arrangement with a seating plan to mix up year groups so that pupils get to know everyone in their house over the first few weeks. School food is now very good indeed but your child may need to be prepared to try foods that are unfamiliar. There are often ‘theme’ days such as pizza day or Chinese New Year day. There will usually be a hot option, a vegetarian dish, salad, soup and a choice of fruit or dessert. Fuel is required to get through a busy day and the children are encouraged to eat well.
Back to afternoon lessons. As the winter nights draw in some schools have a break after lunch for outdoor sports and activities and resume lessons from 4pm to 6pm. Others will carry on until approximately 4.30pm then build in the extra-curricular programme afterwards. Your child will have their own timetable with some slots called ‘study periods’ for more independent learning. For these they will be based in a library or IT room and encouraged to make a start on their homework assignments or other projects. It is not a time for personal emails or playing games! Sixth form pupils will have more study periods during their day and they will learn to use this time productively.
There will be time for sports, societies and clubs either before or after the evening meal. All pupils are encouraged to take part in activities which do not form part of the formal curriculum. Schools offer a wide range of activities, eg sports such as trampolining, fencing, martial arts or creative options such as art and drama clubs. Joining clubs is important, not just to make new friends, but also to build new skills not learnt in the classroom such as debatin , forming your own business company or finding out about engineering or a charity such as Amnesty International. Often pupils decide to start their own club encouraged by the staff.
After the evening meal there will be a period of quiet time in the house for prep, or homework. This could be in a large prep room supervised by a member of staff or in the pupil’s own room. Each pupil will have a timetable for which subjects should be tackled that evening and how long the tasks should take. For new and younger pupils support is available to help them get into a good routine and to work well. Some prep is aimed at consolidating knowledge or skills taught during the day’s lessons or it could be looking ahead and researching a topic independently. Pupils are also encouraged to read widely by borrowing books and resources from the school library. House staff will tell tutors and teachers if a pupil is having real difficulty with a subject and getting stressed so that extra support can be put in place.
Between prep and bed time, depending on the age of the child, there will be time to relax, be with friends, call home or maybe get involved with house activities such as a House Singing Competition practice. During the lighter evenings there may be time to go out and visit friends from another house or play a quick game of football or tennis. Younger pupils are encouraged to wind down from the excitements of the day and have some quiet reading time before house staff come round and put the lights out.
The Housemaster or Housemistress is normally on duty in the evenings, with a matron, but when he or she has some time off, a House Tutor will be on duty instead. It is important that there are enough members of staff around in the houses in the evening and pupils should always be able to find someone to talk to, if needed. There is usually a prefect system too, which encourages the older pupils to help the Housemaster or Housemistress run the house and keep an eye on the younger members.
Bedtimes start at around 9.30pm for years 7 and 8. Mobiles phones for younger pupils will be handed in to house staff for safe keeping overnight and access to the internet may well be restricted overnight. Older pupils are encouraged to establish good working and sleeping habits but will not have a set time for lights out. House staff will keep an eye on pupils who are working too late and getting tired and intervene when appropriate.
“We didn’t expect that our boarding houses would soon become like large, new families in which we feel well-known and appreciated.” (SpringBoard pupils)