Mention boarding to many people and they have visions of the mystical magical world of Harry Potter and Hogwarts; boarding today is now a world away from that image. Boarding houses are warm and inviting, a real home away from home, with comfortable bedrooms and well-equipped social areas. The house master or mistress lives in the boarding house with their own family; their partner, children and often several pets. They think of the boarding house as an extension of their own family home; that they just happen to share with quite a few other children. With the support of the house staff, students discover their independence and self-reliance, not being able to shout “Mum, where is my……” teaches even the most disorganised child how to look after their own possessions and make sure they have everything for the day ahead.
Boarding life is very structured with the day filled from the moment students jump out of bed in the morning, to the time they get back in again at night. Lessons are obviously a priority, but there is plenty of time for study, sport, trips and activities as well as socialising with friends. An extensive range of extra-curricular activities provide children with the opportunity to try new activities and experiences with everything from Robotics to Jewellery Design available. Weekends can mean a take-away treat, a movie night or a trip out of school. Schools often offer Sunday brunch, with a spread that would put many hotels to shame; allowing their students to decompress after a busy week. Boarding schools offer a very diverse international mix of students and being with friends 24-7 encourages lifelong friendships to develop; later in life when your son or daughter is travelling for work or leisure they are very likely to be able to meet up with old school friends on the other side of the world.
With well-being, safety and happiness as the watchwords for boarding today; please think about whether boarding could be a good fit for your family. Families living overseas often consider the option of a UK boarding education to ensure stability of education, as a steppingstone to university, to fulfil talent and a passion in a sport, music or art or for learning support. With just a 7-hour flight from Saudi Arabia the UK is an increasingly popular country of choice.
Ethan, an Aramco student until the age of 13, joined Gordonstoun in the UK in September 2021, his parents said:
We have been very impressed with the school. Ethan is quite a shy boy so we were nervous if boarding school would work for him, but it has been a success from day 1! A priority for us was to find a school with excellent pastoral care, and I feel Gordonstoun has provided that for him and helped him settle quickly. They have also been excellent at communicating with us about Ethan's progress.
Academically Ethan is thriving. The students have a positive environment and 'credit slip' system which helps reinforce good working practices and a clear understanding of the expectations. He has been really enjoying the curriculum, particularly the sciences and languages and music. He arrived with Grade 5 saxophone and has joined the Concert and Jazz bands and a saxophone quartet which has given him a comfortable place to belong and where he has made good friends.
Ethan is not a sporty boy, but loves the outdoors, camping, hiking, etc. so the expeditions in the first term were great for him. He was expected to play rugby last term, but was put in a group of Year 9 and 10 boys who didn't like rugby and were in a non-contact rugby group, so they were still on the pitch training, but at a different level which I thought was great, plus again has allowed Ethan to make connections with other students from different houses and years.
We have not regretted the decision for Ethan to join a UK boarding school and look forward to our daughter joining him next academic year.
Finding the right school for your child is a daunting process, particularly when living thousands of miles away; using the help of an Education Consultant to guide you through the process is often beneficial. They have up to date knowledge and experience of the process and the schools and can arrange for information to be sent to you, school visits and entrance tests. A visit to the Aramco Boarding School Fair on 4 – 6 November is a good place to start your search and an opportunity to find out more about the many benefits of a boarding education.
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