Honesty is the best policy

There are hundreds of boarding schools in the United Kingdom and so selecting the right school for your child is not easy. The choice can be overwhelming, so our advice is always "child first, school second." As we highlighted in our article last week, focusing purely on school ranking is...

Pat Moores

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

There are hundreds of boarding schools in the United Kingdom and so selecting the right school for your child is not easy. The choice can be overwhelming, so our advice is always "child first, school second."

As we highlighted in our article last week, focusing purely on school ranking is rarely likely to produce the best result. You know your child better than anyone else, so really focusing on their personal and academic attributes is the place to start.

What school environment will suit them best? Large or small school? City or rural location?

Consider particular facilities or clubs a school must offer to meet your child's needs. One family we worked with had a child who was in their country's junior debating team, attending international events, so finding a school with a debating team was critical.

Would a school with less strict academic entry criteria actually suit your child best?

The level of English your child has will directly have an impact on the type of school that is best for them. If your child needs support with English, do look for a school that has an excellent English as an additional language department.

These are just some of the aspects to think about at the very start of the process and this is why we strongly suggest an 18-month period - six to consider options, six for applications and school visits (if possible) and six for the visa process. Of course, this timescale can be crunched, but if you can allow yourself time to consider options it is a sensible approach.

And be really honest about your child. Julia Evans, director at Cambridge Guardian Angels, says: "Too many parents are not honest about their child's physical and emotional health and academic ability and so have unhelpful expectations about the type of school that is best suited for their child.

"This can lead to children being placed in unsuitable schools from either an academic or pastoral care perspective. We see this happening quite often and, as guardians, we try our very best to provide the added support a child may need that has been placed in an inappropriate school, but, at the end of the day, more work needs to be done prior to placement."

Gareth Collier, principal of Cardiff Sixth Form College, echoed Evans's words.

"Choosing a school is more about knowing your son/daughter than it is about knowing a school. There is rarely a bad school but there is often a bad choice of school," he said. "Ensuring that the style of education, the process of teaching and learning and the outcomes of the process are suited to your child is essential to avoid disappointment."

"Often parents will have an idealized view of a 'traditional' boarding school," said Kings Colleges recruitment director Anna Trott, "but it is important to understand if this environment will actually suit their child."

So providing clear and honest information about your child is critical to ensuring they are happy when they arrive in the UK, and this information must be clearly presented to anyone representing your child to possible schools.

Two other vital things to consider at the start of the process of school selection are timing and cost.

Entering the UK Education system at the right time can be as important as the decision about which school to select.

There are key points of entry and we will cover them in a later article, but cost is an important consideration to factor into your thinking right at the start.

Typically, a boarding school will cost between 30,000 (HK$323,660) to 40,000 per year. There are some scholarship opportunities at most schools, if applications are made early, but these scholarships are typically between 10 to 25 percent discounts off fees.

Also, factor in the cost of a guardian, who must be resident in the UK and able to offer support to your child during school closures (short holidays as well as weekend closures) as well as be available during emergencies and liaise with the school regarding return visits home during the year.

Typically a high quality, accredited guardian will cost between 1,500 to 2,500 per year and payments to host families who look after your child during short holidays/weekend closures are on top of this fee. These fees are usually charged per night.

Travel costs home after each term also need to be factored into budgeting considerations: three return flights per year, in December, March/April and July.

So, our advice is to do the planning before looking at schools! You won't regret planning ahead to get the best results for your child.

Pat Moores is the director of UK Education Guide, an independent source of advice and information about UK Education providers. Website: www.ukeducationguide.com