Boarding schools can provide your child with an academically rigorous environment where education becomes a part of every aspect of their life. But in choosing the right boarding school that will enable your child to flourish, it is important to consider a variety of factors. Absolutely Education has teamed up with King’s Ely, an independent boarding school in Cambridgeshire, to highlight key points to consider when looking for the best boarding school for your child.

Country vs City boarding

There are many great boarding schools in both city and country settings. Ultimately you’ll need to decide what kind of environment you wish your child to experience and which schools are easily accessible for you. A country setting might offer more opportunity for outdoor pursuits such as horse-riding or hiking, as well as the luxury of large playing fields and sports pitches. On the other hand, city schools are more likely to be close to museums and other cultural institutions. If your child is flexi-boarding rather than full boarding, then location is also paramount as transport to and from school on weekends needs to be facilitated.

King’s Ely is set in the historic cathedral city of Ely in Cambridgeshire meaning that children can be a part of a secure yet beautiful rural setting. Located just 15 minutes north of Cambridge and just over an hour from London by train, transport links allow easy movement for both UK and international students. Close proximity to Cambridge means that students can enjoy the benefits of both country and city life, and transport links make it easy to venture into London.

School Specialism

All boarding schools offer a wide variety of curricular and extracurricular activities to keep boarders busy and happy. But just as traditions and ethos vary from school to school, so do their strengths. Some will specialise in a particular area such as sport, performing arts or STEM subjects. If your child has a special interest or talent, you may want to choose a school that has the best facilities and experience to nurture this. If your child is yet to discover their talent, it is important that they go to a well-rounded school with a wide range of activities, to give them the exposure they need to discover where their strengths lie. 

King’s Ely strongly supports this and a holistic approach to learning comprises activities that span the arts, sport, choir, computing, Judo, dance, geography, archery and yoga among countless others. Extra-curricular activities are a great way to enrich students’ lives, especially for full boarders staying at school on weekends. Participating in multiple extra-curricular activities can also help your child’s application to senior schools or universities.

Sense of community

The structure and community feel of a school will affect your child’s happiness; particularly if you are seeking full boarding for your child, school should feel like a home from home. Some smaller schools retain a family feel, while larger schools take on a more independent approach, encouraging children to be responsible for themselves. It’s important to consider factors such as whether your child is shy or outgoing when seeking the best schools for them. For instance if you think your child may need extra support to make them feel at home, then looking for a school with an accommodating boarding structure may be best.

At King’s Ely, each child is allocated to one of eight day or boarding houses. The House system is central to the life of every student and functions like a smaller family or community, providing a welcoming and inclusive feel for every student. As well as this, they are used as a place to retreat between lessons, plan social events and much more. The house system teaches children to work as a team and engage with their house members from all year groups. This is a great example of the kind of community feel boarding schools can have.

Quality of pastoral care

Without a doubt, pastoral care is probably one of the most important things to look out for when considering a boarding school for your child. When your child is not living with you, you want to ensure that the school provides them with the same level of care that you would yourself. This is a fundamental aspect of education as children will achieve more when they are happy and their wellbeing is protected. 

This is a strong belief at King’s Ely, where children’s welfare is looked after at every stage. Starting with form tutors, who are the children’s everyday point of contact, there are Housemasters and Housemistresses, heads of year and deputy heads who are on hand to nurture and advise pupils. The wider pastoral network includes a full-time Chaplain, a Community Welfare Advisor, a Medical Centre team and independent counsellors. When children feel nurtured, they can develop confidence and resilience – which ultimately becomes the ability to look after themselves.

Boarding demographics

It is also important to investigate the boarding population at prospective schools – whether they offer coeducational or single-sex boarding and whether there are predominantly international or UK students. Some parents may feel that their child will flourish in a single-sex environment whereas others may feel that a co-ed school best prepares children for the real world. It’s important to discuss these elements with your child, so that they are involved in this big decision. 

King’s Ely offers co-educational boarding with rich cultural diversity – around 40 different countries are represented at the school in a well-rounded community that reflects real life. This can be a great environment for students to flourish as they will be exposed to many different nationalities and customs. If you are considering full boarding for your child, there may be a larger international demographic, so researching whether this is the case may be important to see what your child will find most comfortable for them. 

To find out more about boarding at King’s Ely, click here.