Thursday 15th April 2021
Sue Baillie, Head of Queen Margaret’s, York, gives reassuring words on the practicalities of parenting from a distance when considering a boarding school for your child…
When considering the prospect of boarding school it is easy to think about it as ‘sending your child away’ to school and somehow losing that important family connection in the process. Gone are the days when schools or parents considered this to be the best way to nurture and educate children, but still there is a real place for boarding. The close relationship between parents, school and child is at the heart of a good boarding school and serves to reassure parents that they can still have an active role in their child’s development whilst they are away. Boarding schools are geared up to ensuring that children feel it is their second home, there is always a friendly guiding hand and a wide range of activities to keep them occupied.
It goes without saying that the right school for your child should be one that has an open-door policy for you to visit, a warm welcome from the Head, and you will meet students who are clearly at ease with themselves and each other. The school should have measures in place such as Personal Tutors who check in with their tutees regularly and contact parents to share the good news as well as any concerns, plus dedicated House Staff who know the importance of good relationships and build an atmosphere of acceptance and respect within their boarding houses. Communication between parents and school is essential, regardless of distance, and a personalised approach enables parents to feel reassured that the school knows their child and knows them. No concern should be too small, no need for reassurance too inconvenient and a healthy respect for that sixth sense parents have, even over Zoom, should form part of the support a school offers its families.
Being a teenager isn’t easy for young people, or their parents! As children grow in independence, self-awareness and the increasing commitments of study, they simultaneously believe they need their parents less whilst parents know they want to guide even more. When we read about the rise of mental health issues, the levels of anxiety in young people and the dangers of disengagement, it is hard for parents not to fear the worst, even more so when they are away from their children. In these circumstances there is no better place than a boarding school where teenagers are embraced by their community, where the values of that community are at the heart of everything they do and where they are cared for by staff who collectively have had hundreds of years of experience supporting teenagers – they are experts in their field.
When they are not spending their weekends immersed in high-adrenaline days out (think climbing walls, trampolining or kayaking), or even just enjoying some relaxed time in-house, knowing they can get in touch with their parents, wherever they might be posted in the world, is reassuring for students thanks to open and efficient channels of communication. Boarding schools can also offer the degree of flexibility every busy family needs, with weekly boarding options or facilitating trips home around parents’ leave.
“As a Forces Family the decision we had to make about our daughters’ education was one of the most important and personal choices we have ever had to make. Our girls have found their boarding school to be the most wonderful, kind and caring home from home where they are constantly encouraged and stimulated by the superb teaching staff; nurtured and supported by the boarding staff; and constantly engaged by the wide range of sport and enrichment opportunities available to them across the school.”~ Forces Parents
Boarding builds friendships which last a lifetime and for teenagers, friendships are everything. Where better to forge those meaningful and supportive relationships than in a community with shared values, a shared sense of fun, shared interests and shared responsibilities? So often our students and alumnae talk about their strong, long lasting friendships – we all want our children to blossom in those meaningful relationships which they carry with them wherever their path in life takes them, after all we want our children to lead incredible lives where they can be who they are. A supportive boarding environment will offer the opportunity for your child to shape their own future whilst being nurtured and encouraged every step of the way.
Sue Baillie is Head of Queen Margaret’s – a full boarding, flexible boarding and day school for girls aged 11-18 in the heart of North Yorkshire.
The RAF FF thank Sue for her supportive article to help the RAF community. Whilst this is written through Queen Margaret’s – this online article is aimed at sharing general information and all parents are encouraged to do their own research in finding a suitable boarding school.