It is easy to assume that a big boarding school equals a better boarding experience. However, this is not necessarily the case and it is certainly not always the right option for all children.
So, why should pupils – and parents – choose a smaller boarding school? The reasons are many and varied. At Farlington School, a day and boarding school in West Sussex, we have a strong tradition of catering for the individual needs of students in the classroom, on the sports field and, not least, in the boarding houses. The small class sizes ensure no one goes unnoticed and this is mirrored in both the houses, with small numbers of boarders from each year group.
There is an excellent staff-boarder ratio, giving students the opportunity to take part in a wide variety of trips and activities. The smaller community means that they won’t get lost in the crowd. Their suggestions are taken into account and implemented wherever possible. Whether it is choosing the next DVD or suggesting a specific weekend trip, the boarders’ opinions really count.
Home away from home
Fishponds, the junior boarding house, is exactly that: a house. This gives the younger boarders – ranging from Year 4 to Year 8 – a real sense of ‘coming home’ at the end of the school day and eases them into the boarding experience gently.
They share smaller bedrooms which are similar to a bedroom that they might have at home. The emphasis here is on allowing the girls to progress through the years and having something to look forward to, whether it be a later bedtime or more freedom and responsibility. The house is run much like a big family and the garden offers a safe and enclosed space for the pupils to go outside and play.
Staff get to know the girls well and are able to base decisions and privileges on a strong understanding of each individual boarder
When the girls graduate to the Mansion House – for boarders from Year 9 to Sixth Form – they are afforded more freedom to use their time as they see fit, although there are still games and activities on offer. It is because of the small community that we are able to allow the girls more freedom and independence. Staff get to know the girls well and are able to base decisions and privileges on a strong understanding of each individual boarder.
Being in a smaller school means that all students are known to all staff, whether or not they are boarders. This makes flexi and occasional boarding an easy option for parents, who will be safe in the knowledge that their child will be welcomed into the boarding ‘family’, and less daunting for those who may not be used to staying away from home.
Likewise, the Extended Day facility ensures that younger pupils can be cared for in a homely environment, giving peace of mind to busy working parents.