Recent news that the Prime Minister and his wife have been looking for a state secondary school in London for their daughter has drawn attention once again to the challenges facing London dwellers in arranging the right education for their children.
The school landscape is now populated with various educational models, each with its own admission criteria, whilst the pressure to perform has seen concerns around schools seeking to ‘improve’ their intakes: both the Sutton Trust and the Fair Admission Campaign suggest that many schools’ populations are socially very different from their local communities.
It is rare that the right London state school is to be found just down the road, is not significantly over-subscribed, and does not demand at least some parental manoeuvring in order to meet admissions criteria. Albeit for different reasons, the process of finding and servicing places in the independent sector can be equally fraught: Bedales School’s own research suggests that most parents with prep school age children would allow them to commute long distances in order to attend the best schools - time that could be spent on far more worthwhile activities.
Boarding is a potential solution to this dilemma; however, the independent sector in London is not strong in this regard, covering a mere 2.6% of independent students. With boarding being what it is, there is no reason why London-based families need limit their horizons to the capital, when there is so much high quality provision to be found within easy reach.
Jane Grubb, Head of Bedales Prep School, Dunhurst – just a one hour train ride from London – says that children love boarding once they have been helped to settle in. She explains: “For many families, boarding and flexi-boarding open up new worlds and create a wonderfully supportive and nurturing ‘double home’ life style. Home becomes a treasured place where children have special time with their families, and they look forward to being there. Regular phone calls, midweek parental visits, and pupils having the choice to go home at weekends make the home a special place to down tools and enjoy being part of the family. School becomes a second home – built for children, play areas, games, fun-filled evenings of activities and surrounded by adults devoted to their well-being and nurture. Boarders become very adept socially and look after each other; they are a proactive bunch of individuals who thrive both socially and academically. This is boarding 2014 – a million miles from the austere experience of legend, and a godsend for busy London parents.”
Bedales will be attending the Independent Schools Show of over 200 schools at the Battersea Evolution Centre on 8 & 9 November 2014 where there will be an opportunity to hear from leading educationalists and head teachers on various aspects such as boarding in prep school, single-sex education, international curriculums, and how to choose the right school.
 Independent Schools Council. 2014. ISC Census 2014. P. 15.
Bedales comprises three
schools situated in Steep, Hampshire (UK): Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). The
vision of Bedales' founder, John Badley, was to create a school which would be
profoundly different from the public schools of his day. From 1893, when
Bedales began, there was a determination to shape the school around what was
considered best for the individual child's educational welfare and happiness.
Two strands predominated: breadth ("Head, Hand and Heart") and the
cultivation of the individual's intellectual and personal qualities
("Intelligence, Initiative and Individuality"). Many of Badley's
early innovations are now mainstream: co-educational boarding (at Bedales since
1898); the emphasis put on the Arts, Sciences and voluntary service; the
importance of pastoral care; and listening to students' views (the Bedales
School Council was established in 1916). Even so, the contrast between Bedales
and other schools remains strong. We believe that our informality engenders a
genuine sense of partnership between teacher and student - a shared excitement
about ideas and educational discovery. Educational innovation continues today
with our Bedales Assessed courses as an alternative to GCSE. www.bedales.org.uk