Does immersing your son or daughter in a school boarding environment ensure academic success and foster lifelong learning? What about homesickness, making friendships or even just letting them be free? We all have some idea of what life in a boarding school might be like, but there is more to boarding than meets the eye – as I have discovered in my role as a house parent at Rendcomb College.
Structure, routine and discipline are important. But they are only some of the ingredients needed to cultivate and nurture pupils as they embark on their learning journey.
Our key ingredient in developing a pupil’s thirst for learning is to make them feel safe and valued as individuals. We achieve this by ensuring that all of our pastoral and academic staff – the tutors, heads of key stages and house parents – work together behind the scenes to share ideas, to provide new challenges and to celebrate successes thereby culminating in a bespoke education for each individual pupil. Rendcomb’s pastoral and boarding structure is unique. Day pupils and Boarders are integrated into five boarding houses so the pupils continue to enjoy continuity and stability in their teenage years even if parental work commitments shift and change.
We establish clear, but fair, boundaries for acceptable social behaviour – it’s as important in fostering cooperation and trust at school as it is at home. Activity and routine, such as adhering to specific timings for evening prep to be completed, assist greatly in nurturing the pupil’s sense of place and worth in the boarding house. Evening prep time allows pupils to find personal support from house parents and teachers by clarifying or expanding the scope of the learning which took place during the school day. With wifi and computers available in every boarding house, pupils are encouraged to read around subjects to gain a wider understanding of the whole curriculum. House parents are on hand to guide pupils with Study Skills, helping pupils to find the best way to learn and make information stick. Thus the learning journey begins with pupils free to roam, but always guided to their destination.
In addition to the vast scope of formal activity programme offered at the end of academic lessons, boarders can pursue their own interests and hobbies during the evening. ‘Yarn-bombing’ is a recent addition (surprisingly popular with the boys too), as well as evening mountainbiking, singing, fitness and ‘Late night Lacrosse’ where girls take on boys and no quarter is given! Everyone is different, and we recognise that it is important to nurture our many diverse skills. We take our lead from the pupils, who show developing leadership skills through taking responsibility for new ideas and initiatives.
House parents at Rendcomb are all different and individual too. I am a specialist Learning Support Teacher and assessor with a background in music, having studied at the Royal Welsh College of Music, whilst my husband is a professional pilot having retired from active service in the Royal Air Force. We truly believe in lifelong learning, having both gained Masters degrees post University. Together we espouse the ethos that striving to overcome challenges, that taking responsibility and that understanding oneself are the keys to happiness. A smile and a glad heart go a long way in life!