“Great oaks from little acorns grow.”
14th century proverb

  • Ask Gina! | Dickinson School Consulting

Ask Gina!

In case they can put your mind at rest or pre-empt your own questions, here’s a short selection of queries client families often ask Gina.

How would you explain the demand for boarding schools in the UK?

Boarding can offer children stability and continuity of education, both invaluable for happiness and success at school. British boarding schools are well known for their individual and personal approach, enabling every single child to achieve their potential and find their own way in life. The teachers are enthusiastic, experienced and inspiring, and class sizes at UK boarding schools are normally very small, enabling each child to receive maximum individual attention and feel they can make a real contribution in their own way, and truly belong.

Since the pandemic we have seen even more demand for UK boarding from overseas, perhaps because parents feel their children have eighteen months of disruption to make up for, not only academically but also socially.

With hundreds of different boarding schools to choose from, it can be a daunting task for overseas-based parents to know where to start when it comes to identifying the right school for their children. With over 25 years of professional experience in Educational Consulting and British Education, and with our base in the heart of England, that’s where we come in!

What are the main considerations when matching children with particular schools?

It’s important to carefully consider the academic and personal needs of each child, as well as their individual strengths, weaknesses, interests, aspirations and concerns, not to mention personality.

Some parents may be keen to focus on schools which are academically highly selective, whilst other families may place more value on finding schools with an excellent level of pastoral support, or might require the search to help them identify the schools with the right level of support for a child with a learning difference. Some schools have a particularly strong reputation for Sport, whereas others place more emphasis on Drama, Music, or Art, and will be well suited to a creative child.

Some families focus on a certain region of the UK, particularly if they have relatives or friends living there who can act as a guardian for their children, whilst others may be open to the whole of Britain in terms of the location of the future school. Some parents only wish to consider single-sex schools, whilst others prefer a co-educational setting for their children, for instance. The type of school qualification a family is seeking also needs to be addressed, of course; some focus purely on schools which offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma in the Sixth Form, particularly if the young person in question wishes to keep options open for university study back in their home country after school, whereas others may be more interested in the A Level route.

It’s also important to consider the level of fluency in English when children first start at boarding school. The more fluent a child’s English, the easier the transition will be, but the majority of UK boarding schools offer excellent English Language support alongside the regular timetable for their international boarders whose native tongue isn’t English, should it be required.

Finally, the nature of the extra-curricular / weekend programme also needs to be taken into account, as busy and full weekends generally tend to be the happiest – with some chill-out time factored in, of course!

What if my child is homesick?

Understandably, this can be a big worry. Luckily, I can reassure most families because I know the pastoral care at UK boarding schools is second to none. The new joiners are quickly made to feel at home through welcome events, induction programmes, mentoring, and the tutor system. My advice to all new starters is to throw themselves into the extra-curricular side of their new school, join as many clubs as possible and simply “have a go”! That way, they will meet a whole variety of different children across the school and will soon sort out in time which clubs to stick with and which to perhaps let slide. To take part is to truly belong!

What impact has Brexit had on European families looking for boarding in the UK?

European children can still come to a UK boarding school without a visa if the stay is less than 6 months. To accommodate this, some schools now offer stays of 1.5 terms.

For stays of longer than 6 months, a child study visa is now required but the application process is relatively straightforward. EU nationals can use the free UK immigration ID check to upload and scan their child’s passport, biometrics and photo – there is an app for this which can be downloaded onto an IOS or Android device. The cost of the visa application if applying from overseas is currently GBP 363, and there is an additional fee for the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS), which gives students access to the National Health Service during their stay. The IHS surcharge currently costs around GBP 470 for each 12 month stretch of visa. It normally takes around 2 to 3 weeks for the visa application to go through once the application has been submitted.

Have your own questions? Click here to book a personal consultation and start the search for your child’s boarding school in England, Scotland or Wales.