Overseas Education & Boarding Schools
Although Cayman has excellent schools, many parents will look to broaden their children’s horizons by sending them to overseas boarding schools.
Although Cayman has excellent schools, many parents will look to broaden their children’s horizons by sending them to overseas boarding schools. Over the years the image of boarding schools has changed immeasurably; the transformation from the hardship and coldness of Dickens’ Dotheboys Hall to the spellbinding excitement of Hogwarts has been both evolutionary and revolutionary. However, the changes in perception and the reality are not works of fiction; boarding schools in Britain and North America are flourishing and should be a real consideration for families thinking about the future schooling of their children.
What makes a boarding school education special?
- First Rate Education
The reputation of leading schools in the UK, USA and Canada is not just a label of prestige from the past; the academic, sporting and social success of these schools is in the present and the future. Academic excellence, their successes in international exams and their students winning places at Ivy League and Russell Group universities speak for themselves. The structured independence helps teenagers to thrive.
- All-Round Education
Boarding schools are concerned with much more than academic prowess; pupils exceeding their potential in the classroom is paramount, of course, but the ability to be involved in whichever sporting, creative or intellectual pursuit that stimulates a child, is of huge importance too. All these things are on the student’s doorstep; schools are extremely busy places where children are seldom bored or lonely and, rather charmingly, it is still seen to be cool to do something rather than nothing.
Success is achieved through sound teaching and individual care and attention. Staff at boarding schools are with their students twenty-four hours a day and are there to ensure that every child is happy and performing well at all times, addressing problems swiftly. Boarding schools are well-equipped and qualified to support most learning requirements and a wide range of schools offer specialist Additional Support for learning and emotional needs.
Boarding schools have some outstanding facilities and offer beautiful spaces in which youngsters can grow and develop. Academic and sporting facilities can be state-of-the-art, and boarding houses are often not far shy of a reasonable hotel.
Whilst boarding school pupils can no longer rely on the ‘old school tie’ to garner success in later life, a boarding education exposes youngsters to a huge array of people – some they will become life-long friends with, others they will get to know well, but they will probably know these people better than they know anyone else in their lives. The ability to live and work with such a huge number of people is what gives boarding school students the confidence and maturity to excel in their future worlds. Exposure to the wider world and internationalism also helps prepare students for the world of business.
Boarding school fees can seem eye-wateringly expensive – fees can be as high as £32,000 or US$59,000 a year. However, boarding schools are working increasingly hard to ensure that they are not ‘elitist’ and seek to attract the students who will most benefit from all the school has to offer. It is always worth asking about Bursary and Scholarship assistance.
We asked Nicky Adams, who is a writer for the UK’s The Good Schools Guide to explain why British boarding schools, for example, are more popular than ever. Here is what she write for us:
British boarding school: an education worth travelling the world for
Forget freezing dormitories and soggy puddings, British boarding schools are more popular than ever before, as students of all nationalities make the most of a broad education in a modern, cosmopolitan environment, and leave ready to take on the world.
British boarding schools have been preparing young people for greatness for at least five centuries. But over the last few decades there has been a real shift in the way they educate modern youngsters to meet the challenges the future will throw at them. Opening their doors to international students has transformed these traditional places of learning into contemporary, multi-cultural environments where young people are taught not just how to pass examinations, but to develop strength of character and personal qualities, alongside an understanding of the world and their place in it. There can be no better preparation for a 21st century global citizen.
Indeed, this is the key to an education that is 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and – for many of the quarter of a million students from around the world who currently attend boarding schools in the UK – ten months of the year. However, leaving their home countries to go to school in Britain can be a daunting prospect for youngsters who are not UK resident. Although a high proportion of overseas students at British schools are from ex-pat families, many others may know barely any English and nothing of the way of life or culture; some may never have stayed away from home for any length of time before. Rest assured – students from outside the UK are made very welcome and careful consideration goes into making sure that every new student, whether from half-way round the world or just up the road, settles quickly and gets the best out of his or her British boarding school education.
Academic success: Many parents choose British boarding schools for their children as a stepping stone to the top universities in the UK, US, Europe, or their home countries, so an excellent academic education is essential. Teaching jobs at UK boarding schools are much sought-after, so teachers are usually of the highest calibre, and lessons are usually timetabled six days a week, 8am to 6pm, so there is the time and individual attention for students to really realise their academic potential. In the evenings, supper is followed by a session for homework or private study – ‘prep’ – with expert help on hand as teachers often live on-site during term-time, and in most schools each student has his or her own academic tutor. Academic progress stays on track and students achieve the best possible results. The academic curriculum covers mathematics, science, English, modern foreign languages (German, French and Spanish, also increasingly Japanese and Mandarin), Latin and classics, humanities (geography, history and religious studies).
Sport and the arts: Boarding school education is broad, so alongside academic lessons, time is set aside every day for non-academic – or co-curricular – activities. Team sports are big in boarding schools – rugby, hockey, netball and lacrosse are traditional, but also on offer is a wide range of sports including swimming, gymnastics, tennis, badminton and even golf, sailing and bowls – something for everyone. Joining in is the key to learning the skills of team working, leadership and personal resilience. Music, drama and art lessons are also on the curriculum with concerts, dramatic productions and exhibitions throughout the school year and many excursions to artistic and cultural events for inspiration. There is usually too a huge range of clubs and societies, some focused on careers (such as MedSoc) but others relating to interests such as dancing, music, photography or games. Some students discover their career ambitions, but many more find an enjoyable pastime for life and an extra dimension to their characters.
International understanding: It is the day-to-day integration of students that makes boarding school such a unique experience. In class as well as in the boarding houses, youngsters are encouraged to work together and make friends beyond cultural differences. Most schools make sure that their intake is not dominated by any particular nationality and students in one school can come from at least 30 countries. Customs and cultures are respected and students take pride in their origins and tell others all about them. Much is done to help students to feel at home – national and cultural events, such as Chinese New Year and Thanksgiving, are celebrated by all, and even school meals have an international flavour. Discussing and debating global issues is encouraged – many schools stage their own Modern United Nations conferences or belong to worldwide networks of schools, such as Round Square, for even greater international understanding.
Building character: British boarding schools are famous for their ‘holistic’ approach to education – developing the whole person. Students find their own interests and talents by trying out activities, from Arabic to Zumba. Personal strengths – particularly leadership, loyalty, reliability and integrity – are encouraged and rewarded. There is a real ‘have-a-go’ culture – mistakes are seen as an essential part of learning and help to develop personal resilience. Older students act as role models as Head Boys or Girls, Heads of House and Prefects. Team successes are celebrated even more loudly than individual triumphs – most schools play inter-school matches and run inter-house sporting and academic competitions – and there is a great loyalty among students to their house and their school. As well as medical facilities, many schools now have on-site wellbeing services to care for young people’s emotional needs and to help them to develop the inner strength to tackle life’s challenges.
Developing independence: With help and guidance in a safe environment, youngsters learn to find their feet. Non-UK resident boarders usually join at the age of 11 or 13, although some start as young as eight, but whatever the size of school – from just a few hundred students to a few thousand – each child has a secure network of support. Most schools have several boarding houses, and while in some a student will stay in the same house throughout their time at the school, others have houses for different age groups. Either way, boarding houses are homes from home – usually cosy, with quiet studies, ‘common room’ living areas and a kitchen with a refrigerator well-stocked with snacks. The austere, chilly ‘dorms’ of the black-and-white movies have been replaced by rooms with an average half a dozen beds, some with individual rooms for older students, uni-style. The housemaster or housemistress, usually a teaching member of staff, looks after every aspect of boarders’ lives, from dealing with friendship issues to making sure there is a chance to phone home, while matron cares for day-to-day needs, including laundry and producing toast and birthday cakes, and a tutor keeps an eye on academic progress. Depending on the school, meals are either taken in the house, or in a dining hall or refectory. Students generally wear their own clothes, rather than school uniform, in the house and the atmosphere is relaxed and homely. Youngsters choose their own friends, pursue their own interests and take responsibility for their own learning, in readiness for independent adulthood.
English language: Being able to express oneself in English is invaluable in international business and British boarding schools are a lesson in English immersion. While it is quite acceptable for students to speak their mother tongue to their compatriots, all lessons are in English – as are the jokes – so there is a great incentive to pick it up quickly. Many schools offer English as an Additional Language support and usually find an older student as a language buddy to help day-to-day.
While British boarding schools offer an academic education designed to open doors to the top universities and careers, the lessons learnt outside of the classroom develop the strength of character, the skills and the international understanding to ensure that their students make a success of life in today’s adult world.
The process of selecting the right school for your children can be something of a minefield. Niall Browne, of BvS Education, and a seasoned former independent school teacher, offers some pointers, such as how to find the right school for your child and ways to avoid being a slave to League Tables.