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  • What should I ask when visiting British boarding schools? | Dickinson School Consulting

What should I ask when visiting British boarding schools?

During the pandemic, when there were so many barriers to travel, virtual tours were a great substitute for a personal visit and they can still provide a valuable initial insight, but visiting a school in person is vital, if possible, to get that all-important “gut feel” and establish whether there is a true fit. Putting together itineraries for our clients to see a shortlist of schools is all part of the service, as is advice ahead of those visits. Something families often ask me before travelling is, “What should I ask when visiting British boarding schools?” Here we look at the different kinds of visit and list some questions to consider.

Visit options

There are three types of personal visit. Open Days are comprehensive, with the chance to meet multiple members of staff and pupils, and are usually held on a Saturday. An individual tour is more personal and bespoke, and can include a formal admissions interview, but is quite often only available Monday to Friday during term time. Then, some but not all schools offer an overnight taster stay, which is particularly helpful if the child is a little nervous about the concept of boarding.

Questions you might like to ask during a visit

What are the entry requirements of the school and what curriculum is on offer (if this is not already clear)?

How can students best prepare for any necessary entrance tests?

Other academic issues such as any learning support requirements, support for exam preparation, and university and careers guidance. Typical leavers’ destinations?

What is included in the termly boarding fees and what would typical extra costs be?

How is transport arranged between local airports and the school, and what is the approximate cost for this?

Are there any exeat weekends and, if so, are these enforced, or can overseas boarders stay in school if they so wish (if so, is there a charge for this)?  

Are there any lessons on Saturday mornings? If not, what would a typical Saturday look like?

How many boarding students would typically stay in school on any given weekend?

What is a typical weekend programme for boarders / which activities are normally offered?

What are the rules for the boarders and is there a boarding handbook?

What are the rules around mobile phone and internet usage?

What are the catering arrangements?

If there is a problem within the boarding house to whom can / should the child turn? And the parents?

What medical provision is in place should a child become ill?

Is there a chapel in school and is attendance mandatory?

What are the school’s policies on prohibited substances and bullying?

In summary

Not everyone will need to ask all these questions, neither is it an exhaustive list because each individual child’s circumstances and interests may raise additional queries. However, hopefully it provides some guidance as to what to ask when visiting British boarding schools.

I would be happy to discuss your impressions after your visit, to help you process your thoughts in order to make that final choice. One of the most important things at this stage is to listen to the child’s own views – after all, the chosen school will become their home from home.