As Westonbirt launches boys boarding, Headmistress Natasha Dangerfield considers why boarding helps teenagers feel connected, understand their self-worth and improve learning outcomes.
A boarding environment presents a unique opportunity to live as a child, but with the developing independence of a young adult, which is not always possible at home. In the right community, pupils can develop skills which support their everyday routines, develop their self-worth and contribute to the people who live around them.
The teenage years are notoriously difficult to navigate but boarding staff benefit from years of experience and can steer students towards forming relationships founded in trust and mutual respect. The sense of ‘second home’ we work hard to create at Westonbirt offers boarders an extra sense of belonging. This is an important concept for young people which helps them feel connected and rooted; protecting their mental health and developing an adaptability many aspire to.
Consistency is key for teenage development and creating routines helps children find calm in knowing what is expected of them. The frenetic pace of today’s society can place huge stress on family life and boarding offers breathing space for parents and students alike. Routines are established in the boarding environment that enable teenagers to form successful habits and learn to manage their time, and ultimately their studies, more effectively.
Less travel time means boarding students can spend more time developing other skills, playing sports and participating in extra-curricular activities. This holistic approach to education promotes confidence and fosters self-esteem while improving physical health and teaching essential life skills such as teamwork and collaboration. When students can call school their home for the week, it means they have access to the amazing facilities in the evenings as well, with art and drama studios at their disposal, an entire library full of books, a fitness suite for the early morning run and rugby posts to practise the perfect kick.
At Westonbirt it is also the sense of community and the warmth and beauty of the house we occupy that makes boarding such a magical experience. It is an incredible place to call home and a privilege and responsibility that we all share, each of us cognisant that we are part of something a little bigger than ourselves. The words of a past pupil, written for a book about Westonbirt House, go some way to capturing the intangible sense of what makes boarding at Westonbirt so special:
“Over the years, very many from school look back on Westonbirt with great affection; with gratitude for mental stimulus and growth, the first stirrings of laughter shared; for the deep healing peace of the surrounding park and the strong shelter of the house, which somehow, however illogically, they feel is particularly theirs.”
Watch a film about boarding at Westonbirt here.