Are your kids looking to study abroad?
Our UK boarding school experts, British Tutors sits down with a school consultant, Olivia Hungerford to give us the low-down on all things boarding school. Olivia has worked with students from all over the world for over 10 years, helping them to choose the right UK school and with their academic preparation. She is a co-founder and Director of British Tutors Ltd and The Summer Academy, a UK based summer school with an emphasis on providing a boarding school experience.
How do I choose the right school for my child?
Choosing the right school for your child is the most important step in the process. It’s vital to look at each school from every angle, not just its exam results and academic strengths. Write a list of schools you think look good and go to the UK (preferably with your child) to visit them and see for yourself whether they’d be a good fit. Look at the pastoral care provided, the strength of the school in arts, sport and music and interact as much as you can with current students to see what they like about the school. Ask questions to the admissions teams such as:
- Are students encouraged to participate in co-curricular activities?
- What happens if my child is having a problem at school (e.g. being bullied or struggling academically)?
- How are students assessed? How often are they tested?
- Can my child study any combination of the subjects on offer?
- What are the school’s greatest strengths?
- How long has the Head been at the school? Is he or she approachable?
- What plans for future development are there for the school?
Remember that your child may be spending seven years at this school and that they will thrive in all areas if it is the right environment for them. Take time to really work this out and ask advice from friends, family and any teachers or UK school experts to help you to put your shortlist together.
When should I start the application process?
This is a very common question and, broadly speaking, we advise parents to begin thinking about schools and putting their list together around four years before they’d like their child to go. This gives plenty of time to make sure that you are choosing the schools carefully, building a relationship with the admissions teams and preparing academically for the exams and the transition to a new national curriculum. If you’d like your child to take the 13+ exams, most schools ask for children to be registered by the age of 10 but some, including Eton, will ask for this to be done a year earlier.
What can I do to help my child prepare for boarding school?
The preparation for boarding school should take various forms and should look at academic preparation alongside preparing your child mentally for the transition and giving them the life skills to thrive when you are not around. Try and increase your child’s independence in the years prior to them leaving; this could be through sending them to a summer school in the UK or by letting them take up a new hobby that they are particularly proactive about e.g. finding the teacher, making time in their schedule etc.
Take them to the UK to look at the schools you are considering and make sure that they have some understanding of British life and culture, perhaps through reading British fiction (especially books set in boarding schools!) or subscribing to a British magazine or newspaper such as The Week. Do also remember that the curriculum followed in British boarding schools differs from that in Hong Kong and they will need some academic preparation, usually in all subjects, to ensure that they not only succeed in the exams but also hit the ground running once they arrive at the school.
Good luck, mamas!