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Updated on November 25, 2016

Are Boarding Schools Really As Great As They Claim to Be… or Are There Disadvantages?

There is no denying that you often do get the best with boarding schools. The standard of education, the dedication of the teachers,the extra curricular activities and other benefits are fantastic.

There is one point worth noting however and that is how greatly your child benefits from a boarding school will depend on 3 factors.

  • Your child’s personality.
  • Which boarding school you enroll them in.
  • How well prepared your child is.

Each of these will directly affect your child’s performance and how well they adapt to their boarding school life.

Different children have different temperaments and whilst some children will take to boarding school like a fish to water, others may feel like a square peg in a round hole.

Whether or not your child thrives, rebels or becomes a recluse in the school, will depend on their mindset. You will need to discuss the matter with your child and see how they feel about boarding school and if they are not keen; you’ll need to explain why boarding school will benefit them and point out the positive elements of living at school.

Let us look at the advantages and disadvantages of boarding at school.

One of the biggest benefits of boarding schools is the bonding that it creates amongst the students. Unlike conventional day schools where the students go home once school is over, in boarding schools, children spend a lot more time with their peers.

Strong friendships are built and there is a sense of camaraderie and comfort in being in a community of ones own peers. Many children from boarding schools go on to become adults whilst still maintaining very close ties with their friends from school.

Alternatively there will always be children who do not ‘fit in’ with the rest. When this happens, they can often be left feeling isolated and depressed. It is vital that you speak to your child regularly, especially in the early days to see how well he or she is fitting in with the school culture and getting along with their peers.

Discipline and control

Another benefit of boarding schools is that often the discipline and control is generally higher. The school authorities always have a watchful eye to prevent their students from getting involved with alcohol, drugs, crazy parties and other pursuits that curious children and especially teenagers always get up to.

The disadvantage here is that even in such protected environments, there can be ‘secret’ enclosed peer groups that appear cool and exert pressure on the other children who want to be part of the ‘cool gang.’Those children that do not fit in will find ways to express their unhappiness either by rebelling or getting up to unproductive activities.

Additional activities

While boarding schools usually have interesting and varied activities to keep the children socially engaged when school hours are over, it can sometimes create the feeling that school just does not seem to end . Some children may just want a break from their peers and school life. If they feel like they don’t have time to just be by themselves, they may end up hating everything about school and will not be happy.

On some occasions the boarding schools may not have staff that have the expertise to supervise certain activities that your child may enjoy. For example, if your child is interested in gymnastics or rock climbing, the school may not be able to offer these activities if they do not have staff who specialise in these activities.

The difficulty here is that a child is then stuck having to choose activities that the school offers instead of what they actually have an interest in. It is important that you do your research and try to match your child to a school that offers the type of activites they enjoy.


Fitting in and adjusting

Homesickness is another disadvantage of boarding school. Since these are usually the formative years, a child who is feeling lonely and depressed in boarding school can grow up into an adult with self-esteem issues.

This is a very important point for parents to understand and make sure that there is sufficient pastoral care on site as well as regular communication from home. It is true that most children who go to boarding schools grow up to become outgoing, self-assured and intelligent adults with the right care and support.

Teaching Standards and Fees

Generally, you can often expect the standard of education, teachers’ qualifications and curriculum in boarding schools to be excellent.The school will go out of their way to support students’ in weaker subjects and get them to perform at their full potential. Of course, the only drawback here is that this level of education comes at a price and it can be a relatively hefty one at that depending on the reputation of the school.

The fees at some boarding schools are quite high these days and show no signs of reducing. It can be argued however, that you do get what you pay for and if you are able to afford the fees, you should seriously consider enrolling your child.

Points to help your child cope with boarding school

  • Communicate well with your child and see what they like about the school and what they don’t like. Ask for specific details so that you can address them. You can even speak to the school staff and they will help your childs transition into the new environment.

  • Ensure that the school has counselors and Pastoral care so that children who are homesick or unhappy will have trained staff to talk to. This will help them adjust to boarding school more easily.

  • Inform your child a few months in advance about boarding school and what they can expect before enrolling them in one. Make it sound exciting and get them interested and involved. It should be something they should look forward to. Letting them know in advance will help them prepare mentally and come to terms with the idea.

  • If you are based overseas, do check out the school that you will be sending your child to. Bring your child on a trip to the school so that they get an idea of what to expect and it will not be a rude shock for them. Being familiar with their surroundings will help them to adjust more easily.

Now that you know what to expect from boarding schools, do carefully weigh up the pros and cons to decide what is right both for your child and you. Overall, boarding schools are great and if you can afford it and your child likes the idea of it, this is definitely something worth investing in.

© 2016 John Lynston


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