I was recently interviewed for a piece in the Independent on Sunday about whether single sex schools were still needed in the 21st century. As a Headmistress of an all girls boarding school, clearly my answer was affirmative, and I enjoyed sharing my thoughts as to why this was so, but it did clarify my thinking on what the benefits of full boarding were.
As I travel overseas to wax lyrical about the benefits that all children gain in such an establishment, I read an article in the newspapers about the dilemma faced by many parents surrounding homework.
The government has recommended that an 11 year old should be completing 90 mins homework a day and this should increase to 150 mins a day when a student reaches 15 / 16 years old.
Professor Sue Hallam from the Institute of Education has completed much research surrounding the topic of homework and feels that there is an undue amount of pressure placed on the relationship between parent and student at homework time. She talks about the gulf between teaching and learning of pupils and their parents, which can often confuse the learner, despite all good intentions from their parent teacher.
Many a parent would acknowledge the difficulties at this time and I suspect would do anything to overcome these problems.
In a full boarding school however, my staff and I see none of these problems. We are in the privileged position to be able to support our pupils learning both inside and outside of the classroom. My professional teaching staff have, as part of their duties, to take prep ( homework) duties several times a term, so that we may provide the help and extra learning that each individual pupil may need. The girls have prep after supper, where they are expected to go to their classrooms and complete their set work, be it consolidation, extension, learning or research for their next lesson. It is the role of my boarding staff to continue to support the girls in their learning as they are preparing for bed, be that a simple discussion about their lessons or a full blown debate about ethical issues that we discussed during an RS lesson during the day.
Living on site enables us to make the most out of the precious time that we all have, and importantly, travel time is kept to a minimum, which means that the extra time that is gained can be put to good use. The clubs and extra-curricular activities dovetail perfectly into our busy day, allowing our girls to make the most out of the challenges that face them each day.
So, at the end of every day, we have achieved an air of calm in the boarding areas, with fulfilled girls both academically and extra-curricularly, but also relaxed parents who trust and believe in what a full boarding school can offer. In my opinion, a win win for all concerned and surely one of the key strengths of a boarding school.