The benefits of a boarding school education: How boarding can help young people develop essential life skills
PUBLISHED: 13:15 02 October 2020 | UPDATED: 13:15 02 October 2020
Being a boarder can engender independence, tolerance and emotional intelligence, says Barney Durrant, headteacher at St Lawrence College, an independent school in Kent.
He believes it can also help young people learn life skills, forge deep friendships and enjoy the benefits of extracurricular activities and support with their learning after school.
Q: Can you tell us a little about St Lawrence College?
We are a medium-sized day and boarding independent school, for children aged three to 18. We have a really strong Christian ethos and sense of community and were recently afforded High Performance Learning World Class School status – one of only 14 schools in the world at the time. This is about empowering pupils in their education and not putting boundaries on what they can achieve. We are committed to music, art and drama, and do especially well in sports: last year we were national champions in both girls’ outdoor, and boys’ indoor hockey.
Q: Tell us about boarding at an independent school?
We have a new girls’ boarding house, set around a large atrium, and two boys’ boarding houses; all rooms are en suite. It is really the evenings where boarding comes into its own. After dinner, there is prep time, where staff, prefects and peers are available if you have a problem with homework. After that, there are many different activities to take part in or some go to the gym or chat with their friends. What’s lovely is that there is a good sense of structure, together with independence. If you asked the pupils what they enjoyed, they would say friendships and the feel of community.
Q: What benefits do you as a teacher see?
They become confident and resilient. When you are living with a group of people, you genuinely understand tolerance and diversity: what it is to live with someone different to you. Education is not just about exam results, it is also about preparing for the future and learning life skills. I think you breed emotional intelligence through boarding.
Q: Why do families choose boarding?
Some believe in the skills and attributes it enhances or recognise what an amazing experience it can be. Some live overseas or work away. We have just started weekly boarding, which provides a lovely mix of boarding and weekends with parents. Here we have a reasonably flexible approach to exeat (one weekend either side of half term in which everyone goes home) as we are happy for our pupils to stay at school, which really helps our full-boarding families.
Q: What will this new school year hold for St Lawrence College?
We are very excited about it. We have a completely new leadership team who will continue to ensure all pupils enjoy the benefits of High Performance Learning. We are also looking forward to our prefects taking on a greater leadership role – they are currently coordinating school activities around the Hello Yellow campaign, which raises awareness of young people’s mental health.