By now, I'm sure your child has already been offered admission to the secondary school. And most likely, you're considering sending him or her to the boarding house. But have you really sat down to consider why you're sending the child to the boarding house? And have you made the effort to find out about the school you're considering? It has become very important to check out the school thoroughly before you send your child to the boarding house.
There are many reasons why you might choose to send your child to a boarding school. Perhaps you believe that boarding schools will provide your child with a more rigorous academic environment. Or maybe you believe that boarding schools will help your child develop independence, self-reliance and social skills. And still, maybe you believe that boarding schools will provide your child with a safe and nurturing environment.
Whatever the reason, sending your child to a boarding school is a big decision. It's important to do your research and choose a school that is the right fit for your child, and one that is safe, too. You should also talk to your child about your expectations and his or her expectations for boarding school.
Here are some things to consider before sending your child to boarding school:
Make sure that the boarding school you choose has a strong academic program. Ask about the school's curriculum, teacher qualifications, and graduation rates.
By a strong academic program, I am not talking about just flaunting the results of students in external examinations all over the place. We all know the extent that some schools go to cheat to maintain a ‘great image of an academically sound school.’ No, that’s not what I mean.
I mean, does the school care about the quality of teachers?
Does the school invest in the professional development of its staff?
And is there adequate supervision to ensure that the teachers are actually carrying out their duties and teaching properly?
Does it implement a robust curriculum? Does the curriculum cover the subjects you want your child o learn?
Boarding school can be expensive. Be sure to factor in the cost of tuition, room and board, and other expenses when making your decision. Remember you also need to give the child pocket money and in many cases, other provisions. You need to also buy the items required for checking into the boarding house.
Consider the location of the boarding school. If you live far away, you'll need to factor in the cost of travel and visits. With the increasing cost of road travel and flights, there is a need to count the cost. Especially when you remember that they will also need to come back home on midterms and at the end of the term. And what about visits from you, the parents?
Every boarding school has its own unique culture. Do some research to find a school that has a culture that is a good fit for your child. How do the staff relate with the students? What better way to know than to ask students that are already in the school’s boarding house?
Ask about the school's extracurricular activities and social life. Make sure that the school offers activities that your child will enjoy. Or is the school all about school work and academics without creating any time for recreation?
Make sure that the boarding school you choose is safe. Ask about the school's security measures and policies.
Is there a strong emphasis on child protection and safeguarding policies and processes? How is bullying handled in the school?
What are your perceptions during the admission process for your child?
Do you see the team as organised? Were they truthful and supportive? Were they thorough in the admission process? Do they have policies and procedures? What records do they keep? How was their communication with you?
Does the school have adequate staff in the boarding house? How are they supervised? Are the boarding house staff trained? Or does the school leave things to chance?
Health and Medicals:
This is one aspect of boarding that you must pay close attention to. I have left it here as the last not because it is not important, but because it must be highly emphasised. Does the school have a clinic or a hospital to which they refer the students?
Is there a school nurse? Or doctor? Is there a sick bay? Do the students get enrolled in a health insurance scheme? Does the school pay attention to allergies? Did the school insist on the student's medical history and records during the admission process? Were they ready to just let go of some policies and procedures just to admit your child into the boarding house?
Once you've considered all of these factors and more, you'll be in a better position to decide if boarding school is the right choice for your child. If you decide that boarding school is the right choice, be sure to talk to your child about your expectations and their expectations for boarding school. With careful planning and preparation, your child can have a positive and rewarding experience in boarding school.
I have written a book on boarding house administration and I'm sure both you and your child's new school will find it helpful. Get a copy for your child's school or recommend it to them.