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Bullying, burgers and the blues

Three of the most common things local families ask me about (when considering UK schools for their children) are bullying, school food and homesickness.


Youngsters can be terribly unkind creatures, preying on one another's insecurities and idiosyncrasies - and there is no doubt that when they live together in large groups, this has the potential to be much more potent a force than when children disperse to their own homes at the end of the school day.

That is why boarding schools had a reputation for being bastions of bullying - and one only has to look through pages of literature or the memories of boarding school of various high-profile celebrities to see the seemingly institutionalized system of bullying that existed. However, just as the attitudes of society as a whole have changed in the past few decades - and we have become more accepting and kind in so many areas - so too have boarding schools and the children in them.

The exceptional level of pastoral care given to boarding school pupils in 2018 means that bullying is not tolerated. An enlightened mix of firm punishment for offenders and educating pupils of the wrongs of bullying has paid huge dividends.

Similarly, there are now so many people to whom pupils can turn when they feel that they are being bullied; children no longer suffer in silence. Boarding schools are much gentler places as a result.


Homesickness is natural and crops up at different times - but it seldom lasts. Boarding schools are busy places (lessons, sport, extracurricular activities) and when students are busy, they don't have time to think of the things that they are missing from home.

When homesickness does occur - and it often does in the dark winter months when new and exciting things are no longer new and exciting - the very strong systems of pastoral care mean that your son or daughter is well supported.

Communication between school and parent is vital - and do bear in mind that speaking to parents or family on the phone actually exacerbates a child's homesickness and their houseparent will probably tell you that for the rest of the time, they are doing very well indeed.

Homesickness seldom lasts and, in my teaching career, only one child ever left school because of it.


Children have been complaining about the quality of school food since schools first started providing food - and, in the eighteenth century, they even rioted at many schools because of it.

However, any leading chef would be amazed at the quality and choice of food offered to children at 21st-century independent schools. Most schools have a self-service system, meaning that there are countless culinary options from which to choose.

In most cases it is not the actual food being served that is the rub - for international pupils in particular, it is simply that the type of food is different than at home - but this is one of the great cultural benefits of being at school overseas.

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