Covid Crisis Boosts Popularity of Boarding School

By School House

3 years ago

Covid lockdowns have served to highlight a huge gulf between the amount of home learning carried out by pupils at state and private schools. Some parents are going one step further in the quest to keep cooped up kids safe and happy.  

Chris Bury, Senior Boarding Housemaster from Bedford School explains.

The pandemic has made parents look for the most structured learning provision for their children, and private schools have logged a record number of new pupil applications as a result.

However, while independent schools have been able to offer a full suite of online lessons for fee-paying pupils, like all schools they have struggled to provide extracurricular opportunities at the same level as before, especially where sport is concerned.

This has contributed to the rapidly declining mental health of a lot of isolated children. Therefore, boarding school is an option that parents are considering.  

The Covid Effect

Coronavirus has put families to the test – and for many, it hasn’t been easy. A lot of families have been forced to address their work-life balance while examining the full requirements of younger members of the household. They may also be exploring which changes are here to stay.

Working from home is certainly going to be a growing trend as we exit the pandemic. Similarly, most parents are starting to recognise that a child’s education is made up of so much more than lessons and textbooks.

This point is perhaps one of the biggest contributing factors to boarding school’s rise in popularity.

Is Boarding Best?

Doctors have warned of a “surge” in mental health cases in young people.

Much of this is linked to the closure of schools but rather than struggling from an educational perspective, what most children are missing is contact with friends and a variety of outdoor, extracurricular and sports activities.

This has led many families to consider the benefits of boarding post-Covid – an opportunity not just to return to school but to live it in every sense of the word.

Jo Reid, an independent researcher, recently carried out some analysis of the views of parents, pupils and teachers at Bedford School to better understand what they saw as the advantages.

“Bedford School is a much loved and valued home for all its boarders and highly regarded by their families,” she said. “Boarding has a number of advantages as far as the boys are concerned from simple things like the fact that they have no journey to school, through to the structure and routine, the fact that they have expertise on hand to help them with homework and the wealth of activities and opportunities they are given out of regular school hours.

“Both parents and boys also said the sense of belonging and the availability of role models in the boarding community also helps with negotiating the teen years.

“Many parent respondents observed that the development of useful time management and diplomacy skills plus an instinct for independence, resilience and tolerance can be attributed to the boarding experience.

That independence enables them to make decisions assertively, to take responsibility for themselves in their day-to-day life, to handle conflict: it’s great preparation for taking the next steps in life – whether to university or into the workplace – with confidence.”

Modern Day Boarding

Jo Reid also acknowledged that many myths and stereotypes that surround boarding can easily be dispelled with direct information from schools like ours.

Boarding school isn’t strict and suffocating, it’s nurturing and inclusive. It’s not cold porridge, it’s three freshly prepared, nutritious meals a day. 

Time with parents is seen as more valuable than it was when they were day boys while hanging out with your friends most of the week is seen as the teenage dream.

The weekly letter home has been replaced by email and Facetime calls and parents can contact staff instantly, and vice versa.

In short, today children aren’t ‘sent away’ to boarding school, they choose to go.

“Parents of boarders today are completely confident that modern boarding care is excellent and are reassured that house staff have their son’s best interests at heart, can deal effectively with any behavioural, health or academic issues that arise and trust them to act in loco parentis.

“Boarders are essentially a part of two families – the one at home and the one in the boarding house.” she said. 

Chris Bury

Read more about Bedford School on their listing here.