Expat education: pupils never bored at boarding schools

In an article in the Telegraph, 24/01/13, three HMC schools, St Peter's,  Bryanston and Millfield are used to illustrate how much UK boarding schools have to offer beyond the classroom.

Whether you are a first-time or experienced expat, choosing your child's school is an important, yet stressful, part of the experience. While international schools are always popular, opting to send your child to a boarding school in the UK is also an option and can provide stability throughout the nomadic nature of expat assignments.

Choosing a UK boarding school can be as tough as finding a suitable school abroad. Beyond results and location (close to UK-based family is advantageous, or a guardian can be appointed), extracurricular activities are an essential part of the boarding experience. Confidence is key to academic success and an ambitious career path – so it stands to reason that helping children find an activity they enjoy, and are good at, is the best way to breed confidence and self-esteem. Many pupils also make friends for life in these activities beyond the pressures of the classroom.

Bryanston School, Dorset

Bryanston School near Blandford, in Dorset, has more than 100 activities on offer and last year introduced breadmaking to the mix. The school has a long tradition of encouraging students to excel and enterprising plans are also afoot to do a "bake to order" for the 300 people who live on the campus. As Thorold Coade, headmaster of Bryanston between 1932 and 1959, once said: "This school is filled with creative and social activities over and above the academic and athletic pursuits … in order that the pupils may learn the discipline, and experience the joy, of the abundant life."Such is the benefit of the boarding experience, ideal for expat families.

Millfield School, Somerset

Millfield School has produced some notable Olympic athletes, but its head says this is not merely the result of excellent facilities.Jack 'Boss' Meyer, the man who founded Millfield in 1935, considered sport and other activities critical for the development of young people. He would approve of the fact that several Team GB competitors in the 2012 Olympics attended Millfield – notably Helen Glover and Peter Wilson, who won gold at rowing and shooting respectively. Other former pupils include swimmer Duncan Goodhew, the 1980 Olympics gold medallist, and England rugby captain Chris Robshaw. However, headmaster Craig Considine points out that success is not simply down to pupils being able to enjoy extensive co-curricular activities and impressive facilities, which include an Olympic-sized swimming pool and an equestrian centre. "We believe that many Millfieldians take with them an excellent mindset that will allow them to achieve in whatever field they consider worthy of their efforts," he says. "Neither Helen Glover nor Peter Wilson were committed to those sports [rowing and shooting] at Millfield. They know how to prepare themselves and how to win... let's face it winning is a habit."Mr Considine says ensuring the rounded development of young people is as important now as it was when the Somerset school was founded."Our ethos remains to discover and develop the potential of each pupil through the delivery of a balanced and challenging academic, sporting and co-curriculum," he says."From the onset, Millfield's belief has been that it needed to facilitate as many opportunities as possible for pupils, to enhance the transferability of skills between the various domains of learning."

St Peter's School, York

For pupils at St Peter's School, York, co-curricular activities often provide an opportunity to engage with the local community. Saturday afternoon is a favourite time of the week for Leo Winkley, headmaster of St Peter's. "Some pupils will be playing sport, others will be volunteering at charity shops, or helping local 'silver surfers' to learn to navigate the internet ," he says. "Peterites don't stand still for long, which is good practice for later life. We don't mind what they throw themselves into as long as it allows them to develop as individuals, as well as gaining a sense of leadership and responsibility to others."The importance of co-curricular activities at St Peter's, which is set on the banks of the River Ouse, was underlined recently with the appointment of a head of co-curricular activities. Both day and boarding pupils are expected to take part in a minimum range of activities, which include community service, Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, Combined Cadet Force, choral society, orchestras, and a wide range of sports. Mr Winkley says: "One of the great benefits our location in York is that we have strong links with the local community. We're very much involved with local organisations, such as charities connected to care homes for the elderly."We aim to provide the best opportunities academically, but some of the most important skills in life are acquired beyond the curriculum. Getting pupils out of their comfort zones and involving them in something different is an excellent way of developing confidence."

By Suzi Dixon, Telegraph. Click here to read the article © The Telegraph