Schools like Headfort that include the boarding element tend to evoke powerful feelings in the minds of their young people (and their past pupils). Most boarding schools used to exude a somewhat Spartan flavour, though that certainly didn’t stop generations of boarders thoroughly enjoying their time at school. Now, however, perhaps with the advent of day pupils and the move to weekly as opposed to full boarding, Headfort is a kinder, gentler place than the typical boarding school of old. It is more in tune with its surrounding environment, partly by virtue of the fact that the boarders mingle on a daily basis with their day-pupil classmates. Headfort’s boarders can enjoy the best of both school and family life – children can go home on Friday evenings, exactly when their busy parents will have the greatest amount of ‘quality time’ to spend with them.
Why boarding? It’s a complex question and the answer contains several strands. First of all, boarding is fun. Second, companionship is an essential part of boarding. Third, boarding helps children with the difficult transition from dependence on parents to assuming full control of their lives as adults.
Being away from home, living somewhat institutional lives and it’s fun? Well, it is. Leaving aside traditional boarding school delights such as pillow-fighting and late night catering, children have a great deal of fun, whether trying the patience of adults or simply being together. This may be the kernel of the issue. They enjoy the company of other children and the degree of control over their own lives that boarding gives them.
But what about homesickness? Children vary. Boarding will not suit every child. However, the vast majority of children take to Headfort very quickly. They get their feet under the table and then start to explore what is here for them.
A number of important discoveries await our boarders.
First of all, they discover that there are other children, much like themselves, and that these children too have an agenda. Some degree of compromise is needed; their wants must sometimes give way to others’. They discover that adults are sometimes wrong, make mistakes and do not know everything. In the wider world, adults’ mistakes can lead to war, pollution, famine and widespread unhappiness. Finally, they discover that all the certainties that populated the world of the young child disappear with the clearer vision of the twelve-year-old. Boarding throws this all into sharp relief and they can make these discoveries in sheltered surroundings, surrounded by adults dedicated to their welfare.