Seven things the best UK boarding schools for international students do to create a family atmosphere
Leaving your home country and family at a young age must be daunting. So, how do the best UK boarding schools for international students ensure that these students quickly settle into boarding school life?
UK boarding schools welcome international students from countries all around the world. Some are as young as eight and may have never left their home country before.
Many are keen to attend UK boarding schools, but don’t yet have the required standard of English, knowledge of subjects or familiarity with the British schooling system. They usually therefore seek to attend an international school for one or two years before going onto attend a UK boarding school.
So, what measures do the best UK boarding schools take to make their boarding houses feel like home to students, with the staff and fellow students starting to feel like an extended family? We think there are seven key aspects:
1) A high ratio of full-time dedicated house staff
The best UK boarding schools have a high ratio of trained boarding house staff which really helps to quickly get to know each student. What do they miss from home? Is anything troubling them? What do they love doing – are they football or netball mad, or do they love playing the piano, dancing or art? What would make them feel more at home?
Generous staffing also allows top boarding schools to keep a close eye on all students and quickly pick up and deal with any signs of loneliness or unhappiness.
2) Dedicated staff on hand 24 hours a day
As with most things in life, the more you put in, the more you get out. The best UK boarding schools have house staff who live on-site and are always on hand should anything crop up, day or night.
The boarding house becomes the temporary family of students whilst at boarding school. If dedicated staff are always on hand when they are feeling homesick, unwell or struggling with homework for example, students will feel as though they are part of an extended family. This is something which is developed in the boarding house and nurtured by the House staff willing to go the extra mile.
3) Keeping students busy
Ensuring students are busy and active doing things they enjoy makes for happy children! The best UK boarding schools know this and pack out their free time with sports, activities, trips and excursions. This includes keeping them busy over the weekend after Saturday morning lessons.
Spending their leisure time with fellow students, rather than in their bedrooms, helps students to quickly make friends and improve their English.
4) No closed exeats
Some international schools have closed exeats which require students to leave the School to stay with a guardian for some weekends.
But, the best UK boarding schools tend to prefer open exeats, where leaving the School is optional. This means that even during an exeat weekend, those students who choose to remain at school, can continue to enjoy a full range of extra-curricular activities, whilst continuing to improve their English and build relationships.
5) Small class sizes
When children are not being cared for by boarding house staff, they are in the classroom. Exceptionally small class sizes (5 – 8 students) are extremely important not only for academic reasons, but to allow teachers to really get to know each student.
Teaching and house staff in the best UK boarding schools communicate regularly to build a full picture of all students, allowing both teams to contribute to ensuring students are happy and fulfilled and feel part of their new family.
6) Not sharing a bedroom with too many other students
Most international students have their own bedroom at home or perhaps share with a sibling. They would therefore prefer to also have their own bedroom in a boarding house or to only share with one other student.
Whilst some prefer the privacy of a single bedroom, others prefer the company of another student. But most would prefer not to have to share their bedroom with many other students.
However, large common rooms with lots of games and activities, allowing students to relax and play with their new friends are definitely a big plus.
7) A comprehensive induction programme
The best UK boarding schools provide training and guidance to students in their first few weeks to ensure they feel safe and well looked after. This may include subjects like Street Awareness and Crime Prevention, Road Safety and On-line safety. This is important as life in the UK may be very different in nature from the home countries of the international students.
Student safety is of course of the utmost importance at all times!
Simon Bonelli-Bean – Senior Housemaster, Sherborne International
What do you think is the most important thing a UK boarding school can do to create a family atmosphere for its students? Please comment below …