What makes a good boarding school? Visiting a school certainly gives you a sense of the atmosphere, grounds and local area and you should try to visit if possible. I always think choosing a school is like buying a new house – you may not immediately know you want it but you usually know if you don’t want it within the first few minutes of walking in!
All English accredited independent boarding schools are inspected on a three-year cycle. The current cycle started in April 2016. If the boarding school is in membership of one of the five independent school associations (GSA, HMC, IAPS, ISA, Society of Heads) and thus accredited by its association, the inspection of boarding is carried out by a specialist team of boarding inspectors from the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI). If it is an independent school, but not a member of one of those associations or is a state boarding school, the inspection of boarding is carried out by a specialist team of Ofsted boarding inspectors. A small number of independent schools are classified as special schools; these have an annual social care inspection of their boarding provision.
Much of the material in the previous article Inspections of accredited independent boarding schools is relevant to Ofsted’s inspection of boarding schools and I would recommend reading this article as well. The material has not been repeated here as it is available on the previous pages.
Many parents do not research closely the composition of the governing board when they are considering a school for their child, but the role of the governors is critical to the success – or otherwise – of a school.
The Boarding Schools’ Association (BSA) is committed to supporting everyone involved in boarding – adults and children – offering high quality guidance and training that benefits schools, their staff and, perhaps most importantly, the children and young people who board. Our primary objective is to raise professional standards and we have an extensive and diverse continuing professional development (CPD) and training programme for all staff working in boarding environments throughout the UK and beyond.
School visits can take many forms. They can involve meeting the Head or perhaps attending an open day. Whatever the format, the first meeting is crucial so if possible always try to visit a school on a normal day. If it goes well, follow it up with an open day visit. Further visits can then be arranged; for example, potential boarders should have the opportunity to stay overnight.
Faith schools have often been – and continue to be – controversial. People opposing faith schools express concerns about the possible indoctrination of developing minds whereas supporters point to the strong moral compass they provide in a world which provides so many temptations and distractions for young people.
The specialist schools programme is a UK government initiative that encourages secondary schools in England to specialise in certain areas of the curriculum in order to boost achievement. The Specialist Schools and Academies Trust is responsible for the delivery of the programme. Currently there are nearly 3,000 specialist schools, or 88 per cent of the state-funded secondary schools in England. In the independent sector the term ‘specialist’ tends to focus more on developing outstanding talents mainly in a range of extra-curricular activities such as drama, music and the arts. The principal independent boarding schools in music, dance and drama are covered below.