A Kent boarding school has broken with almost a century of tradition by admitting its first day pupils.
Benenden School had been the last all-girls’ school in the UK to offer full boarding only, before the new term saw it welcome a handful of day boarders in years 9 and 12. Numbers have been kept low in a bid to help the newcomers’ smooth integration.
While the move has been designed to widen access, the Princess Royal’s alma mater has stressed its intention to remain predominantly a boarding facility.
“Demand for boarding at Benenden remains incredibly strong and we are in the fortunate position of being oversubscribed, with waiting lists in operation,” said Anne Wakefield, Benenden’s deputy head – boarding and pastoral care.
“At the same time, family life has evolved in recent decades, and we are aware that boarding does not suit all families. Our intention is to help as many families as possible to benefit from the complete education that we offer.”
During their first few days the new day boarders joined the rest of the school in the traditional autumn term curtain-raiser, House Dram, in which each boarding house puts on a performance from scratch over three days. They will also be invited to join in some of the 150 co-curricular activities available outside of lesson times.
“It is incredibly exciting to have welcomed the first day boarders to Benenden,” said school head, Samantha Price.
“We have long been asked by local families if we could introduce day boarding and the way in which our new day boarders have seamlessly become part of Benenden reassures me that we have definitely made the right decision.”
One of the new lower fifth day boarders, Yasmin Budd, said: “It’s been really good so far. Before I came here, I thought it was going to be quite strict and that it was all about the academics. [Instead], there’s a lot more to it, like friendships and sports and things to help you in life.”
It was in 1923 that three teachers from Wycombe Abbey – Christine Sheldon, Anne Hindle and Kathleen Bird – founded Benenden with the aim of creating a “happy school with personal integrity and service to others always in mind, where everyone would be given the chance to follow her own bent”.
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