Educating the new generation – British Boarding Schools

By Shereen Shabnam

Education is one of the key foundations that ground our youth and influence how they grow up as future professionals and leaders. As school fees in International schools grow year on year, as an alternative, The British Boarding Schools Show provides information to parents, enabling them to make increasingly informed decisions about schools in the UK.

David Wellesley, Founder of the British Boarding Schools Show Dubai gives us insights into what British boarding schools have to offer regional students.

1. Why did you set up the British Boarding Schools Show and is this the first one?

The British Boarding Schools Show is designed to provide parents with the opportunity to meet Heads and admissions teams from leading boarding schools. There is also a seminar programme that discusses some of the topics that are particularly important for parents. Speakers are world-class education experts, and as well as giving parents insight into general topics, are ideally placed to answer specific questions.

Having run the Independent Schools Show in London for many years, we thought that a similar format, focused on boarding would benefit overseas parents. This was the fifth show that we have held in Dubai, and we have confirmed the dates for 2018 as 16th and 17th March.

2. What do you think the benefits boarding school can bring to a UAE based family?

The show is designed to provide parents with access to education experts and information so that each family can decide which option is the best for them.

However, there are a number of elements about boarding school that UAE-based families may find beneficial.

The schools that exhibit at the show all have fantastic onsite facilities for curricular and extra-curricular activities, and the easy access to these means that pupils have the opportunity to practise, play or study without having to travel.

The close knit-community that develops in a boarding environment mean that friendships are forged that last a lifetime, and provide a nurturing and supportive setting for children to grow up in.

The dual academic and pastoral role that teachers fulfil also means that they have the opportunity to get to know each pupil holistically, and can tailor their approach to each individual.

3. Can you tell us about this year’s highlights and successes?

Dubai 2017 was the biggest show to date, with 36 schools. It was also the best attended yet with a 14% increase in visitors.

We reached an audience of over 2 million with a targeted PR and marketing campaign, and our research shows that the show is really valued by visitors who recommend it to their friends.

4. Financially, is the boarding school option better?

Fees for full boarding in the UK can range from £30,000-£35,000 per year. How this compares to the UAE depends on the schools as the fees can vary considerably. It really depends what is going to best for your child as to which option is better – it’s a very personal and emotional decision that requires a lot of thought and research, not just a comparison of the costs.

5. Which schools are represented?

  1. Ashford School Co-ed, 3 months-18
  2. Badminton School, Girls, 3-18
  3. Bedales, Co-ed, 3-18
  4. Bryanston, Co-ed, 13-18
  5. Cheltenham College, Co-ed, 13-18
  6. Cheltenham Ladies’ College, Girls, 3-18
  7. Dollar Academy, Co-ed, 5-18
  8. Gordonstoun, Co-ed, 13-18
  9. Harrogate Ladies’ College, Girls, 2-18
  10. Junior King’s Canterbury, Co-ed, 3-18
  11. Kilgraston School, Co-ed 13-18
  12. Lomond School, Co-ed, 3-18
  13. Loretto School, Co-ed, 3-18
  14. Malvern College, Co-ed, 13-18
  15. Marlborough College, Co-ed, 13-18
  16. Marymount International School, Girls, 11-18
  17. Merchiston Castle, Boys, 7-18
  18. Millfield School, Co-ed, 13-18
  19. Mount Kelly, Co-ed, 13-18
  20. Oundle School, Co-ed, 11-18
  21. Radley College , Boys, 13-18
  22. Repton School, Co-ed, 13-18
  23. Rossall School, Co-ed, 2-18
  24. Shrewsbury School, Co-ed, 13-19
  25. St Edwards, Co-ed, 13-18
  26. Leonards, Co-ed, 12-18
  27. St Mary’s Calne, Girls, 11-18
  28. Strathallan School, Co-ed, 9-18
  29. Swiss International Scientific School Dubai, Co-ed, 3 – 18
  30. The Downs Malvern, 3-13
  31. The English School of Kyrenia, Co-ed, 3-18
  32. The King’s School, Canterbury, Co-ed, 13-18
  33. The Royal School, Co-ed, 1-18
  34. Wells Cathedral School, Co-ed 3-18
  35. Westonbirt, Co-ed, 11-18
  36. Windlesham House School, Co-ed, 4-18

6. We see you’ve also welcomed a Dubai school to attend, what was the reasoning for this?

Our aim is to present parents with a range of options so that they can make informed decisions about what might best suit their child.

One of our seminars explores whether British education might be the best option, so including boarding schools from Dubai was a logical step in ensuring that visitors to the show are as well-informed as possible about the options open to them. We hope to grow this section of the show in future years.

7. You attended boarding school yourself, what school did you attend, what would you list as the top five reasons you’d recommend it to others and why?

I attended Ashdown House from the age of 7 followed by Kings Canterbury. I think there are lots of reasons that I’d recommend boarding to others, but the top five would have to be:

The friendships that are forged at boarding school are like no others. I made lifelong friends at boarding school, made closer by the fact that we spent so much time together, supporting, helping and encouraging each other during our formative years.

Linked to this are the skills you learn growing up in a tight-knit community, having to work together from a young age means that you develop skills that will help you negotiate effectively in later life! The ability to tolerate others and an appreciation that everyone has something different to contribute which adds value to the whole team.

You develop an independence living away from home that manifests itself as quiet confidence and self-assuredness as you grow up. You don’t really notice at the time, because everyone is in the same boat, but over time this grounding really helps you to assess and understand situations, make decisions, and most importantly, know yourself.

The amount of time you get to spend on extra-curricular activities, sport, music, research, whatever you choose. All the facilities are there for you to take advantage of, it’s right there at your fingertips. This means that as a child you’re able to really excel at the things you enjoy because the infrastructure is there with no barriers.

You also benefit from spending lots of time with your teachers – both during and outside of lessons. This means that you really get to know them, and they in turn get to know you, to understand your individual strengths and to help you grow and develop in a way that is completely tailored to you.

8. What was your boarding school experience like?

I went to boarding school at 7, even though my parents only lived 3 miles from the school. Initially it was tough, but my parents were close by, and my 3 siblings joined me so it really was great fun.

I enjoyed the fact that there was music and sport daily, it was a really important part of the mix for me, and as I mentioned earlier, the fact that it was so accessible meant that I could spend even more time doing what I enjoyed.

Staying at school provided a solid and stable foundation for my education, and it also meant that time at home was really for enjoying. My weekends and holidays with my family were fun-filled and I have such great memories of them.

9. What are you future plans for the BBSS?

We only organise events that are going to be useful both for the parents who visit and the schools who make the journey to see them. We constantly canvass opinion from schools and visitors to make sure that we’re providing the right mix of schools, and answering the questions that matter through our seminar programme.

This year we will be holding the show in Milan for the second time, and we will also be launching a new show in Mumbai. We are always open to new markets and new opportunities if the local community will benefit from the information and expertise that we can provide.

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