There’s an unresolved mathematical problem that today’s parents are desperately trying to solve. If there are 24 hours in a day, how can we fit in the time it takes to do the school run, an eight hour school day, an hour or two of clubs, tutoring, or ‘cv-boosting’ activities (plus their travel time), a family dinner to discuss the day and encourage good manners, along with some ‘downtime’ to relax, and, of course, the recommended 10 hours children need to sleep? That’s without adding parents’ own busy working lives into the equation!

While mathematicians might struggle to make these numbers add up, I’m more interested in the consequences of juggling these commitments. To my mind, it all adds up to one thing: the erosion of childhood – spending more time in cars or with tutors than playing outside. Over the last year at Sandroyd, prospective parents have told me how they are seeking more than just an outstanding education that will ensure their child accesses the senior school of their choice, they also want to give their children a wonderful childhood. Our current parents too, regularly tell us how much they value the childhood that we, as a boarding school, are able to provide. One mother’s recent feedback sums it up best, “In a world of video games and social media, Sandroyd is an oasis – creating the childhood we always dreamed of giving our children.”

The reason why childhood is increasingly becoming part of the educational equation is, quite simply, because of Aristotle’s assertion that ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’. Choosing a good school is just one part. Choosing how your child spends their time before and after school, in the evenings and at weekends – is another. Another part is choosing how you will ensure your child develops essential character skills, traits, and manners.


Good boarding prep schools are able to successfully combine all of these vitally important ‘parts’ of the educational equation, to produce an outcome that is so much greater than if each are considered in isolation. Good boarding schools are all-encompassing, where the ‘parts’ seamlessly work together to combine education, childhood and character. The fact that Sandroyd has, since 1888, been successfully combining these ‘parts’, has been acknowledged – as we are the only Prep School to have been shortlisted for Best Boarding School at the 2018 TES Independent School Awards.

“Sandroyd is the only prep to be shortlisted by TES for Best Boarding School 2018”

So, if parents want to ‘add up’ their time and consider a boarding prep school for their children, what should they look for? The lynchpin is, of course, exceptional pastoral care. Happy children who feel supported, thrive in the classroom, are able to fulfil their academic potential and win their senior school place. Happy children also thrive outside of the classroom – confidently able to develop their interests and talents.

Therefore, you need to ask boarding prep schools how they really know and understand every pupil, how they ensure each child feels safe to develop, explore and make mistakes. At Sandroyd we hold a pastoral meeting every morning where staff discuss our pupils’ needs. Be it friendship rifts, academic concerns, or resilience issues – we ensure each child is supported.

Finally, and most importantly, happy children are able to really enjoy their childhood. They just need the right setting, and the time, to be able to do so. To enjoy downtime and hobbies (from riding horses to bikes, or making things from movies to models) away from the pressures and expectations of modern society.

Alastair Speers, Headmaster at Sandroyd School