A boarding education can uniquely equip our students in developing the independence, zest and emotional intelligence to succeed and flourish.
02 March 2020
In this article, Nick Wergan, European Education Director for Inspired Education Group, discusses the many benefits, social and academic, of a boarding education.
Two speakers at the recent TABS (The Association of Boarding Schools) Conference in Boston exemplified this for me. Richard Weissbound, Senior Lecturer on Education at Harvard, highlighted the need for schools to actively develop caring, justice-minded and high achieving students by promoting interested, curious and constructive citizenship; a boarding environment provides students with exactly that opportunity to develop students’ capacity for gratitude and empathy for those who are different from them in background and character. Dr Daniel Keating, Professor of Psychology, Psychiatry and Pediatrics at the University of Michigan and author of ‘Born Anxious’, highlighted the need to increase teen resilience through effortful practice in social connection, mindfulness and social care; the social connections in our boarding environments provide some of the most powerful and positive connection pathways, especially given the research that suggests teenage brains are especially psychologically boosted from peer connections.
At the heart of all our schools lies the determination to support our students in developing the character to be successful – to achieve academically, to succeed in their chosen pathways and to flourish happily as adults. The curriculum, co-curriculum and super-curriculum provide our students with the hooks to develop the grit that will enable them to achieve their loftiest dreams – and our boarding pupils are uniquely advantaged by the opportunities to develop character that successful modern boarding proffers. Building character ensures our boarders are able to flourish both in school and also, perhaps especially, in their later lives; I have the privilege of seeing this in action on a daily basis across the Inspired Education Group boarding houses (nine across Europe alone).
Boarding life develops independence
The first aspect of character boarding undoubtedly builds is independence. This comes from the daily routines of boarding. Modern boarding supports our students in developing the growth mindset to believe in themselves and their aspirations, alongside the grit and self-control of taking responsibility for their own lives and actions. It is a sheer privilege to see our boarders develop this independence and courage; that boarder grit serves them equally well in the exam hall, equipping them to be unbowed by the unexpected challenges of a particular paper or question. And it enables boarders to flourish as adults, resilient and determined in their future learning, work and relationships.
Andrew Towse, Director of Boarding at Inspired’s Reddam House in Berkshire, describes this as ‘an opportunity to mature and develop like no other for young people, with unrivalled opportunities academically, preparing them fully for the independence of University’. Lia, a boarder at Inspired’s Kings College Soto de Vinuelas in Madrid described this as giving her ‘the freedom to explore my independence while in a safe environment; it prepares me for University in a way that no other experience has’. As her Head of Boarding Hanan Nazha explains, ‘boarding provides structure and life skills for the challenges they will face as adults’.
Boarding enrichment develops curiosity and zest
The enrichment programmes that our dedicated boarding teams provide develop students’ curiosity and zest for life. The activities, the trips, the clubs, the leadership opportunities and the competitions our teams put on throughout the term develop boarder zest – and this in turn ensures boarders retain their curiosity and vitality as adults, taking advantage of every opportunity in front of them. Nadia, a boarding student at Inspired’s International School of Europe Milan says that ‘living in boarding provides me with access to state of the art facilities that have helped me to live an active life and to explore more extracurricular activities. Y13 boarders at Inspired’s St George’s International School in Montreux Switzerland have just returned from their winter IB preparation retreat, skiing and sledging alongside intensive academic study. The Elite Sports Programme at Inspired’s Sotogrande International School maximises boarders’ golf or tennis tuition to access the best University sporting scholarships across the world.
Our Boarding families develop empathetic, caring communities and lifelong relationships
Boarders in all of our schools will talk about their boarding family. This is no coincidence – our teams work hard day in and day out to create an ethos of community and family – and our boarders learn from this an empathy and an understanding of others that can be life changing. We watch their journey from tolerance, to acceptance, to celebration of the diversity in their boarding families. In a world of increasing mental health concerns, where social media can isolate and undermine student self-esteem, the boarding family develops gratitude for what is good and going well in our lives. When we are grateful, we are optimistic – and an optimistic young person will develop into a happy and flourishing adult.
Charles Debenham, Head of Boarding at Sotogrande sums this up: ‘boarding matters because it moves the individual from thinking about the ‘me’ to the ‘we’; boarders become respectful citizens of the world with unrivalled opportunities for lifelong friendships and international values’. Max, a boarder at Sotogrande, says ‘we live with our whole family under one ceiling’; Ilia at Sotogrande calls this ‘a really big opportunity for people to know new people and learn new values’. A boarder at Reddam House Berkshire explains ‘I love boarding because of the friendships I have made and the fact that we all live together as an extended family’.
Boarding has a life-changing role to play in shaping, honing and building the character of young people – equipping them to succeed and flourish in a complex global community. I am deeply optimistic about a future in our boarding students’ hands. Their leadership will be powerful and ethical, nurtured by the combination of these three characteristics – independence developed from the daily routines of boarding, zest from the depth of boarding enrichment opportunities, and gratitude and empathy learnt from our boarding families; this gives our boarding students a unique passport to success and happiness.
European Education Director, Inspired Education Group.
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