When chatting to boys and girls from all over the world about their move to a UK boarding school I am often asked whether they are going to be busy. I sometimes think that this is a loaded question, in that some of the boys and girls are worried they might be ’too busy’, or that they might be …
When chatting to boys and girls from all over the world about their move to a UK boarding school I am often asked whether they are going to be busy. I sometimes think that this is a loaded question, in that some of the boys and girls are worried they might be ’too busy’, or that they might be forced to take part in activities that they don’t want to do, either because they don’t think they will enjoy them, or they have tried a particular activity before and think they didn’t enjoy it.
During a recent webinar, I was joined on a panel by the Headmasters of three of our member schools and the issue of extra-curricular, sometimes referred to as co-curricular, provision was discussed. We chatted through what a good UK boarding school might be looking for in its international applicants and certain characteristics were shared – they hope to recruit pupils who will make the most of their time at a boarding school, will be hardworking, curious and will be prepared to ”have a go”. For all those boys and girls who might be worried about what will be expected of them outside of the classroom, they shouldn’t be. They should turn up to their new schools with an open mind, be prepared to try lots of new things, not to master them all, but to persevere and to be challenged, sometimes by failure. The point was beautifully made that you don’t have to be brilliant at something for it still to be really worthwhile.
One of The English Education’s Guaranteed Placement member schools, Millfield School, has earned a reputation as being a very sporty school, where sporting excellence is demanded and expected. True as that might be for the very sportiest of children at the school, the ethos of the school goes much deeper, especially when considering participation. In line with Millfield’s philosophy of providing an excellent all-round education, the purpose of the Millfield Activities Programme (or MAP as it is familiarly known) is for students to experience a range of activities and develop skills beyond those in the core curriculum or core games and sports programmes. With over 100 MAPs on offer, the activities diversify the student learning experience and cater for all standards and abilities. With so many options, there is truly something for everyone. Examples of MAPs include Film Club, International Association, Cooking for Entertainment, Photography, Origami and Mindfulness.
It is not uncommon for students to develop a long-lasting interest and enthusiasm for their activities, continuing on to more advanced levels as they progress through and beyond the school. MAP therefore makes an important contribution to the all-round education and opportunities that Millfield provides. Lily, an Upper Sixth student, comments, “I have really enjoyed our MAP sessions this term, it has allowed me to work with friends and think of new and inventive ways to help the community around us. It has also made me realise how many steps you have to go through to create something worthwhile, it’s not just a quick and simple process.
At Eastbourne College, the co-curricular offering is broad and seemingly limitless, which is why the School has a strapline of ENDLESS HORIZONS ENDLESS OPPORTUNITIES… reflective of the endless horizons looking out to the sea (the School is only about 100m from the beach and a short walk from the South Downs National Park) and the endless opportunities on offer inside and outside the core curriculum. The School describes itself as a ‘Blue Health’ school, referring to a pan-European study, further developed by Exeter University, looking into the benefits of living, working and studying in coastal locations.
Nicole Wallbridge-Bourmistrova, an Eastbourne College pupil originally from Tenerife, comments, ”Outside of class I learned to play the piano and I will continue to play when I leave school. I have tried swimming, tennis and zumba. The opportunities you get to try different sports are incredible. I have also volunteered to work in a hospice and this has made me a more down-to-earth person. It’s an incredible experience, and the friends you make will stay with you forever.”
At The Leys in Cambridge, all boarders will be expected to be busy and to focus upon breadth and participation; common themesat all good UK boarding schools. How fascinating to read about linguist Immy Cheney, a sixth-form pupil who won the prestigious Dresden Trust scholarship 2020, taking her on a four-week cultural and educational visit to this historic German city. The scholarship is open to pupils from schools participating in the British-German Association’s Youthbridge Scheme, a British-German project to promote the teaching of German in British schools.
“Much of my visit was spent tracing the impacts of the war and evidence of reconciliation,” said Immy. “I continue to be deeply moved by the spirit of the people to reclaim the ‘Florenz an der Elbe’ as efforts to rebuild the famous Baroque city go on to this day.”
Immy’s story is evidence of how any pupil at boarding school can delve further into their interests, discover new passions and make the very most of all the opportunities they are given. “Will I be busy?” Yes, but you don’t have to do everything. International boys and girls, many of whom will be joining from schools where activities and opportunities might have been rather limited, don’t need to worry about all activities being compulsory – as one of the Headmasters on the webinar rather nicely stated, ”The only thing that is compulsory at a good boarding school is fun. Fun is compulsory and it stems from being busy and being challenged”. How very right he is.
Be prepared to have fun. Compulsory fun.