British boarding schools’ question time (3)
Continuing this little series, the next question is, “What makes resilience so important today and how can boarding help to build it?”
First to answer this one is Richard Hannigan, Director of Wellbeing at Uppingham, a full boarding school in England. He writes:
“For a young person to navigate the hurdles of life in modern day society, being able to bounce back is an essential skill for their personal development, and survival toolkit. Boarding school environments can play an important part in the building and practice of resilience. Pupils foster their resilience in a fully immersive and safe way, living away from home in a protected, close-knit community of peers and staff who act as the absent parent on behalf of the pupils.
“The experience of boarding naturally requires pupils to be self-motivated and organised regarding time management and possessions. Moreover, pupils are actively encouraged to manage their academic studies and homework alongside sporting and other extra-curricular commitments. Resilience is key to ensuring they stay motivated and prioritise their time accordingly. Boarders get early exposure to failure and are encouraged to keep going and not give up, to persevere so that they learn how to respond to loss and failure in a positive way. Pupils can try out new things, to step out from their comfort zone with the safety net of experienced staff on hand to guide them along the way. Part of being resilient is developing a growth mindset, reframing thinking and seeing mistakes as an opportunity to learn rather than just a negative experience.
“It is well documented that a lack of resilience can lead to physical and emotional health concerns, and negative coping mechanisms, so there is no doubt that helping young people to become resilient is critical for their growth. The immersive experience of boarding in which pupils manage themselves away from home, their relationships in the boarding house, their academic studies and extra-curricular commitments is the perfect way to build and practise resilience at a young age.”
Next, the view from Peter Middleton, Headmaster of Oswestry School, another English boarding school, close to the border with Wales:
“The writer CS Lewis once mused that, ‘Failures are the fingerposts on the road to achievement’. All too often, failure is seen negatively and, whether young or old, we tend to actively avoid the possibility of failure, sticking in our comfort zones and avoiding at all costs the embarrassment and humiliation of failure. Yet failure – or at least the willingness to risk the possibility of failure – is often the key to success. Ask any top sports star. Ask any innovator, author, designer, musician and they’ll tell you the same thing... that their willingness to face failure fearlessly was the key to their success.
“Stepping out of your comfort zone takes guts. Doing difficult things takes courage. Risking the possibility of failure requires resilience. Yet a life lived fully and richly is one that doesn’t simply play it safe. Overcoming obstacles, dealing with challenges, picking yourself up when you fall down... all require resilience. The ability to persevere and move on is a key character strength and, aside from being an important attribute to take into the workplace beyond school, resilience is likewise key to dealing with life’s trials and tribulations, its highs and its lows, its undulations, meanderings and unexpected twists and turns.
“There can be no better learning space for developing resilience than boarding. In a nurturing and supportive environment, boarders gain hugely in independence. Boarders learn about living with – and learning from – those from other cultures and backgrounds. Boarders step out of their comfort zone. Boarders grow immeasurably in self-confidence. Boarders make deep and lasting lifelong relationships.
“Boarding is an exciting and invigorating experience. It’s fun. It’s rewarding. It’s enriching. It’s the perfect platform for developing resilience. And that, above all, is what makes the experience priceless.”
If you could see your child flourishing at either of these British boarding schools or would appreciate guidance as to which other school might suit them better, please do get in touch.