The choice is yours

The choice is yours

When it comes to UK boarding education, parents have an array of fantastic schools to choose from.

Chris Davis

A UK boarding school education is a popular choice for Hong Kong students. Such schools offer a learning experience that is valued internationally, and the qualifications obtained can lead to a wide range of options in higher education and future careers.

UK boarding schools undoubtedly provide a first-class education. But Ann Johnson, head of Abbots Bromley International College and admissions at Abbots Bromley School, believes they do much more than that. One overlooked advantage of a boarding school is that it gives students the time to explore their personal interests. This can make an important contribution to their overall development.

“Students from Hong Kong, and other Asian countries, feel less pressured in a boarding school environment,” says Johnson, a panelist at the UK Boarding Schools Festival. “A boarding school allows them to try new things, and gives them the opportunity to do the things they are passionate about.” Abbots Bromley School has 225 students, including 22 from Hong Kong.

The panelists note that another overlooked benefit of boarding is the time students save from travelling, which can instead be spent productively. And, Johnson says there’s plenty to keep students busy when they are not studying; with horse riding and dance being just two of the many activities available at Abbots Bromley’s 52-acre site.

Hong Kong students who embark on the UK boarding school journey are seldom alone. According to data from the UK Independent Schools Council, collected from over 1,200 British private schools, says that 20.9 per cent of all non-British pupils whose parents live outside of the UK now come from the mainland, while 17.6 per cent come from Hong Kong.

However, with so many great schools to choose from, making a final decision can prove to be a hefty challenge.

“To make the final choice, parents and students should select a school that fits a student’s abilities, aptitudes and interests,” says Nick Leiper, director of marketing and admissions at Westbourne School located in Penarth, Wales.

He adds that the selection should not be based solely on a school’s ranking in the league tables. “There is no ‘best’ boarding school,” says Leiper. “But there is a boarding school that is ‘best’ for your child.”

Moreover, parents should seek the environment in which their child will be most comfortable. For instance, is the school located in a city or a rural area, and which would the child prefer? It also pays to find out how the academic subjects are taught, and what extra-curricular activities are offered.

“Parents should do some research, and talk to school advisors in the UK. After all, their children will be spending a lot of time there,” Leiper notes. “They should also discuss their findings with their children before making the final decision.”

Dedicated pastoral care is a highlight of a UK boarding school education.

Students receive individual attention from tutors and housemasters, which ensures that students excel academically, and are put in a position to pursue their passions.

“At Westbourne, about 90 per cent of our students are accepted into Russell Group universities,” says Leiper. The Russell Group represents 24 of the UK’s top universities, including Oxford and Cambridge.

Sarah Hicklin, director of admissions and marketing at the 600-year-old Oswestry School in Shropshire, England, says the school helps children navigate the challenges of obtaining a first-class education. It also helps students to cope with the uncertainty of the teenage years. “It’s our duty to welcome our students as caterpillars and help them emerge as butterflies,” says Hicklin.

She believes a boarding school education should be regarded as a great privilege, and that every effort must be made to ensure that students fulfill their potential. In terms of university admissions, she thinks that UK boarding schools position students to reach the upper echolons of British universities more effectively than schools from outside of the country.

“This aspect has become more relevant since UK universities restructured their admission processes,” Hicklin says. Under the new system, universities give additional weight to GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) grades and A-level predictions, as well as the all-important Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) personal statement.

“They have to be aware aware that when they are competing with applicants with the same grades, the personal statement can make their application stand out,” explains Hicklin.

UK boarding schools help students put forth applications that get noticed by University admissions officers; not just with the prestige carried by the schools' names, but also through bolstering personal statements with great life experiences and furnishing them with the academic capabilities needed to succeed.