Eleven things you’ll remember if you went to a boarding school

I went to boarding school for sixth form and the experience completely changed my life.

I went from a grammar school where people looked at you funny if you only got a B on a test to an alternative universe where your social standing was determined by the type of tie around your neck.

Boarding school taught me to be independent; I was introduced to people who I never thought in a million years I would meet, including actual princesses of other countries.

But, most of all, it taught me about pride, ambition, discipline and camaraderie that has stayed with me until this very day.

Here are 11 things you’ll know or reminisce about if you went to a boarding school.

1. Everyone called each other by their surname

There are some people who for about a year I had no idea what their first name was because of this.

Tough times if you had a surname that was hard to pronounce.

2. God help you if you missed prayers before bedtime

The guilt was almost too much to bear so you rarely did it.

Because you knew, if you got caught, either matron or one of the boarding house masters would give you an earful that you had no energy for.

3. Matron was your best friend and arch-enemy wrapped into one The original love/hate relationship.

She was like your mum away from home, gave you advice, the best hugs and sometimes, if you were good, even sweets.

But if you got on the wrong side of her all of that went out of the window.

Life was not easy if she was not on your side, so you made up with her ASAP.

4. Day students arriving in the morning was one of the highlights of the day

The fresh and boundless energy they brought.

They didn’t look as stale as we boarders, who basically never left the four walls of our prison, sorry, boarding house.

They brought tales of the outside world. OK, you had Google, but they could tell you about what was going on in the local high street.

5. House rivalry was very real

House competitions, no matter the challenge, were the most exciting points of the year.

Battle lines were drawn, cross-house friendships ceased for the duration of the competition.

Most of all for the time you were in competition, if they cut you open you would bleed your house colours.

Loyalty was everything.

6. It’s a miracle nobody died from cross-country running each year.

The treacherous muddy fields and awful weather.

I’m a netballer, but this was honestly the worst time of year for me.

I would see some people storming ahead like they actually enjoyed the rain and subsequent wet hair slapping them in the face.

I could never comprehend how almost catching pneumonia was fun and, unfortunately, compulsory.

7. The fight for the television remote

For two years I didn’t watch my beloved EastEnders because the drama of fighting for control over the television remote was not worth the hassle.

Hundreds of boarders spread across the school, the majority of whom are in the games room which has just one television.

Who could be bothered with that?

8. Who needs EastEnders when you have debating club?

Utter pantomime. Oh the drama of it.

The arguments, the persuasive rhetoric, the nail-biting public vote at the end.

Those debaters were writing Shakespeare and they didn’t even know it.

9. Apart from good grades, everyone’s aim in life was to become a prefect

You weren’t even quite sure what a prefect even did or what special powers were bestowed on them.

You just knew that the teachers treated them differently and with respect.

For that alone you were down for being one.

10. Ties determined your social standing

Forget what your parents did, what was around your neck determined who you were in school.

If you had just your basic house colour tie you were simply unambitious.

You wanted to reach the top of every field. You wanted your full house colour tie, but you also wanted a sports tie or a music tie.

11. You make friends for life.

The friends you make within the four walls of your boarding house are your friends forever. How could you possible not stay mates with someone who understands why you randomly wake up at 7.14 every morning even years later (a hang-up from morning roll-call)? Who else will understand how you can make snap judgements on people’s personalities after asking, ‘What house was he in?’ Who else was with you during all the highs, lows, trials, tribulations, breakups and makeups during one of the best times of your life? Your fellow boarder, that’s who.

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The Metro

Crime statistics: Boarding school sex offences rising, police figures suggest

BBC News reports that sexual offences in England and Wales have have more than doubled in the past three years.

Some of this increase comes from the growing number of sexual abuse investigations of UK boarding schools. This includes physical abuse such as beatings, which almost always have a sexual (power/control) element.

Austria: Tyrol to investigate allegations of ski boarding school sexual abuse

VIENNA (Reuters) – An independent commission will investigate former Austrian skiers’ allegations of sexual assaults by coaches, supervisors and team members from the 1970s until at least 2005, the Austrian province of Tyrol said on Tuesday.

Former Olympic skier Nicola Werdenigg said last month that she was raped when she was 16 by a male team colleague and that what happened to her was not an isolated incident.

More former Austrian ski athletes have since spoken out, though anonymously, since Werdenigg’s interview, reporting similar experiences and suggesting the abuse was systemic.

The issue in Austria has arisen as numerous allegations of sexual harassment in entertainment, business, politics and sport have been made worldwide in recent months.

Werdenigg, the 1975 Austria downhill champion, did not reveal any names in her interview with the daily Der Standard. She alleged assaults and sexual violence by coaches, supervisors, colleagues, service staff at a Tyrolean boarding school for ski racers.


Vatican opens probe into sex abuse at boarding school for young boys

The Vatican has opened a new investigation into possible sexual abuse committed before 2013 at a private school in Rome for children destined for the priesthood.

The probe will be centred on “a former student of the pre-seminary Saint Pius X”, who later became a priest, according to a statement from the Holy See.

“Following several reports, anonymous or not, investigations were conducted from 2013 on several occasions, both by the superiors of the pre-seminary and the Bishop of Como (north)”, the diocese where the teachers are attached, the statement said.

The allegations concern pupils, “some of whom were no longer at the institution at the time of the investigations”.

The opening of a new investigation follows the “recent appearance of new elements”.

In a book published a few days ago The Original Sin, Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi discusses the allegations.

The book alleges that in a Vatican palace, a seminarist sexually abused at least one high school student aged 17 or 18 in 2011-2012.

A witness, Kamil Tadeusz Jarzembowksi from Poland, was living in an institution in the Vatican City, where children and adolescents from around the world plan to become priests.

According to him, a former pupil who was allowed to stay in the palace came very often at night – up to 140 times – to have sex with his roommate.

The boarders attend a private school in the centre of Rome and participate as choir boys at Masses celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica.

South China Morning Post

Jon Snow: C4 News presenter abused at Ardingly College aged 6

The Channel 4 News presenter, Jon Snow, was abused by a domestic servant at his boarding school when he was around six years old, in 1953.

It took him years to talk to anyone about his experience: ‘It is very, very difficult to do. But it’s an essential thing to do’.

BBC News

How do the parents of boarders treat their child’s teachers?

‘Workload issues may differ between state and private schools, but its effect is equally malign’

We need to create a more realistic working environment for teacherstheir mental health and general wellbeing will improve as a result, and that will trickle down to their pupils, writes one celebrated head

Well, the honeymoon’s over.  The start-of-term energy and optimism are wearing thin. Books are piling up, older pupils’ first major pieces of work awaiting marking.

No one goes into teaching assuming it’ll be easy. But now it’s getting darker earlier, the light’s shorter while days become longer: and half-term’s too far off yet to be counting down the hours.

Teacher workload is a problem, and teachers’ representatives are rightly more exercised about it than ever, while politicians largely ignore their concerns.

Having spent nearly all my career in private schools, I’m often asked how the independent sector tackles workload issues. My customary answer is that it’s much like the maintained sector: some schools manage them well, others work their staff into the ground, and all should look at the (frequently excessive) demands made of teachers.


Parents sometimes assume a right to contact their child’s teachers at any time they choose. Boarding-school staff, in particular, live in dread of the late-night (too frequently alcohol-fuelled, alas) email or phone-call expressing anger, accusation – even abuse. Many schools nowadays publish protocols in an attempt to protect their teachers from such exchanges.

TES News

Bullying: our daughter was hounded out of a top boarding school

When her teenager was badly bullied, one mother found that all that mattered to the school was its reputation

With the glorious benefit of hindsight I have no idea what we thought we were doing eight years ago when we decided to send our very urban youngest daughter to an all-girls boarding school in the middle of the countryside, miles from any form of civilisation. What misguided belief made us think that she would be happy and settled when she could visit us only every three weeks, and even then for less than 24 hours?

The Times (subscription)

Chair of the Education Select Committee calls for the end of across-the-board charitable status for private boarding schools.

Robert Halfon, the Conservative chair of the Education Select Committee, has called for the end of across-the-board charitable status for private [boarding] schools.

Writing for the Conservative Home website, Halfon, who is MP for Harlow and was skills minister between July 2016 and June 2017, says it is unclear why private schools should be regarded as charities and questions the purpose of granting them charitable status.

Halfon, who went to a private school, says that although many private schools offer bursaries, he is not sure whether they are actually reaching really low-income students and those from truly deprived areas.

Through their charitable status, private schools get significant tax breaks, including concessions with VAT and business rates – and, of course, no corporation tax if they make a surplus,” he says.

“Is it fair that these tax advantages are available to public schools, though further education colleges and public sixth-form colleges have to pay VAT on their purchases? Yet these latter institutions really do provide a ladder of opportunity to those students from socially disadvantaged backgrounds.”

Third Sector (registration required)

Watchdog will examine role of boarding school teachers who also set exam questions

England’s exams watchdog has announced a review of rules allowing teachers to set question papers, in the wake of allegations of exam leaks at boarding schools first revealed in the Guardian.

The development, which follows the revelation of cheating allegations involving Eton and Winchester, could put the future of the Pre-U exam under threat.

The investigation by Ofqual was given the backing of the schools minister, Nick Gibb, who said it was necessary to maintain public confidence in the integrity of the exam system.

The Guardian

BBC News

No criminal charges for former head teacher of Taunton boarding school

Chris Alcock, 58, resigned from Queen’s College last year

A former head teacher who was at the centre of the a police probe will not be prosecuted, it has been confirmed.

Chris Alcock, a former head teacher of Queen’s College in Taunton, quit his position last year amid claims he downloaded porn on school computers and conducted inappropriate adult relationships.

Until his dismissal, he had been head teacher of the £30,000-a-year Queen’s College since 2001.

He handed in his resignation after he was confronted with the the accusations he had breached the code of conduct at the school, founded 173 years ago on strict Methodist principles.

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