Headmaster’s Blog: Our quiet revolution in modern boarding
Pocklington School BoardingWhen you think about boarding schools, what images spring to mind? St Trinian’s, perhaps; Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers; Harry Potter’s Hogwarts, or your own memories of boarding?
It’s fair to say too many parents and grandparents’ boarding experiences were not entirely positive. Speak to today’s students, though, and a very different picture emerges. A pleasant rhythm of close friendships, ordered days, supervised study and exciting activities.
There’s been a quiet revolution in attitudes to boarding, and it’s been led by the pupils themselves. An increasing number of our pupils are taking advantage of our flexi boarding and extended day options, and enjoy it so much, they ask to increase their stays.
The big advantage, they tell us, is the continuity. There’s no long commute, and no adjustment to and from the stresses of modern family life. They can walk across to their boarding house after school, enjoy a drink and a snack while chatting about their day, then spend some time on homework before relaxing for the evening.
The buzz of our boarding houses after school reflect the warm community within. I’m proud to say that we really do have the most dedicated and caring staff onboard. Our Housemasters, Housemistresses and their teams not only provide a warm and homely nest, but they delight in sharing the ups and downs of the day, and make themselves available to share this valuable time.
They’re not boarders’ parents and would never try to be, but they do offer the daily individual attention and guidance that is even more important in what can be a demanding and sometimes hectic world for families. After-school activities are on the doorstep, so there’s none of the late-afternoon shuttles that can cause endless stress.
The necessary routine, consistent boundaries and positive atmosphere promoted in all our boarding houses provide an ideal setting for growing minds to thrive. They can concentrate on being young; studying, playing, and building relationships with their peers.
Because we have supervised prep, pupils don’t fall prey to the home distractions which might tempt them, especially if they go home to an empty house, or return tired after a long journey. Switching off simply isn’t an option with tutors – they have to knuckle down. Having teachers on hand can also be useful if they’re faced with a difficult assignment.
Each one of the houses (two for boys and two for girls) have their own identities. They are all large enough for genuine friendship groups to form, yet sufficiently small for everyone to feel valued.
Full-time junior boarders enjoy a packed schedule of weekend activities, all conceived and planned with enjoyment in mind. Whether it’s baking, a trip to the seaside or a football match, a barbecue in the grounds, a shopping trip or hosting a social event, there’s always something going on.
Older pupils don’t have to join in, as we understand they increasingly value their personal space and independence – but in practice they come up with their own ideas! Mr Dare, Housemaster of Fenwick-Smith House, has developed an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of the current music scene, for example, after supervising trips to big-name concerts.
We are tremendously fortunate in the school’s beautiful setting, backing on to fields but on the edge of a compact and friendly market town. This means pupils can experience independence by walking with friends to the shops or a café as soon as we (and their parents) see that they’re ready.
Long before they leave for university or the workplace, boarders’ self-confidence, resilience, emotional maturity and leadership skills, along with a respectful attitude to others are nurtured as a result of living alongside each other harmoniously and learning how to deal maturely with any conflicts of personality or opinion.
Our priority as a school is on promoting individual wellbeing, on prizing each child for their particular strengths and nurturing their confidence, and that ethos is evident in our boarding houses. The staff’s focus is on helping each child achieve their potential, outside the classroom as well as in it.
Any upsets are handled sensitively and effectively. Pupils know staff are always on hand if they need to chat in confidence, and medical needs are met by three school nurses (who work in our onsite medical centre) and two locally based doctors.
One of the advantages of modern boarding is the ease of communication with home. Younger boarders, especially, are encouraged to ring their families, and everyone can Skype, Facetime and use age appropriate social media to keep in touch. The boarding community also tweets regularly about events.
Overseas boarders quickly settle in and thrive in the home-from-home atmosphere of the boarding houses. All boarders benefit from mixing with people from different countries and cultures, which will serve them well in the modern workplace.
A photograph on one of our boarding house walls shows a picture of Dorm 1 of Pocklington School House in around 1950: rows of single metal beds in stark, impersonal surroundings. That room is now a comfortable Sixth Form common room.
Modern boarding has come a long, long way in recent years and I think Pocklington School is a beacon, illuminating boarding as an attractive and flexible option for today’s busy families. Don’t take my word for it, come and see for yourselves how our School values of individuality and respect are extended into our very special ‘homes from home’.
– Mark Ronan, HeadmasterPublished: May 8 2017