Tips for finding boarding schools
More and more expats are looking for boarding schools for the children. This may be because the parents move around a lot, or perhaps the schools in your host country don’t fit the needs of your child.
Regardless of the reason, choosing a boarding school for your expat child is a long process. It’s recommended that you start looking for the right school at least 18 months in advance of them starting there. There may be cut-off dates for registration and selection exams to sit, so plan ahead.
Start by researching what is on offer. Location is vital, especially for parents living out of the country. Will your child travel back to your host country for holidays? If so, proximity to an airport could be a component of your requirements. If you have family and trusted friends in a particular area, you may prefer to select a school near them to provide holiday care.
What is the ‘right’ boarding school?
Each child has different strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes. Seek to find a school that will enable your child to flourish. This doesn’t necessarily mean that will be the same school your friends children go to, or your old school. Some schools are sporty or academic; others may focus more on the arts.
The key point to look for when researching boarding schools is to ensure they provide full boarding as this is most suitable for children of overseas families. True full boarding schools are becoming quite rare now (in the UK), but can still be found by careful research.
Full boarding school
A full boarding school is a seven-day-a-week school – weekends are spent at the school. Full boarding schools are ideal for overseas parents, military families and those who move frequently. Finding a true full boarding school is tricky though.
Although many schools offer full boarding, in reality, there may not be that many kids who stay in the school over the weekend. If your child has nowhere to go each weekend, those days spent alone in the school may have a detrimental effect on them.
Published boarding figures may not tell the true story about how many children actually stay in the school over the weekend. You need to ask this question directly when you visit and keep asking everyone you meet at that school. Make sure those children who do full board are within your child’s year group, and preferably the same gender, so they are able to make viable, strong friendships.
As an overseas parent you must have a UK based guardian. This is a legal requirement. (Other countries may have different rules, so do check for yourself if you’re considering boarding schools elsewhere).
You also need to make your own arrangements for where your child goes for holidays and exeats. Most schools have at least one mandatory exeat each half term.
Weekly or fortnightly boarding
Children leave the school at the weekend or every other weekend. While this isn’t perfect for most overseas parents, it may work well if you have a reliable carer or guardian in the boarding school country.
What next? School open days.
Once you’ve researched the schools thoroughly, you then need to visit them.
Open days are usually the first stop and schools often hold open days at various points throughout the year. If you’re lucky then the open days will be all around the same date.
Alternatively, you could visit a show. The UK’s Independent Schools Show is one such option, and, although not all the schools attending will be full boarding schools, there are many and it will mean you get to see as many representatives as possible in one place. This show is also holding a date in Dubai on the 27th-28th April 2013. See the link for further details.
Further information on boarding school open days.