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We’re moving abroad – should we take the children or leave them at boarding school?

Updated 22 Oct 2015

Moving overseas with children is a major challenge. Considering the best options for a child's education is a huge concern for expat parents. Is it always best to take your child with you? Or sometimes could leaving them behind at boarding school be a viable option?

Expat Arrivals talks to Mr Harvey Trump, the Head of Secondary for Regent International School and Fortes Education in Dubai for some insights into these questions. 

Prior to becoming a Head, my experience as a boarding housemaster and as a manager of boarding houses has given me a first-hand understanding of the trials and tribulations of this conundrum. Leaving your child at a boarding school is never easy and not a decision that should be made lightly.

Taking them with you retains the beauty of family life, love, encouragement and safety, as well as offering potential exposure to a new culture. However, for some, such massive changes, where children leave familiar surroundings and potentially long-established friendship groups, can cause huge disruption to their world. Key to any change is a ‘buy-in’ or understanding from all parties rather than aggressive responses and general animosity towards new surroundings: it really can be a fight or flight reaction.

Some young people will profess to not wanting to be part of a new experience or, from another perspective our adult interpretation may assume they will not cope with such upheaval. However, never underestimate their resilience and ability to adapt.  There are many questions a family should explore and discuss before finally making their decision.

In years gone by, leaving them at boarding school seemed a rather draconian method. Utilising my experience, from working and leading within these environments, may go some way to start to manage or even influence your opinion. Today, boarding schools have spent vast sums upgrading facilities; in many cases, in modern boarding environments the Sixth Form will have en-suite facilities, dorms will cater for a maximum of 4 and in some cases, individual study rooms are available for pupils from Year 10. Facilities too are now a vital factor in avoiding a culture gap on arrival and integration through activities and house events are prerequisite of any good boarding school. 

The right choice is vital, as the needs of your son or daughter must be catered for both in and out of the classroom; there exists a diverse range to suit all needs. I feel that boarding at the right school, will prepare every student for university more comprehensively and let them begin to discover themselves, develop greater maturity in social situations, as well as start to have a really positive effect on an individual’s confidence and self-esteem.

Most good schools will boast a caring community and a familial atmosphere (and I add it is true in so many cases) but I would insist you visit schools where possible and speak to present students and see the school in action. Equally, I would highly recommend the Boarding Schools’ Association websites as great sources for online information. These sites help parents explore and understand what options they have and what to expect, through a clear outline of the plethora of opportunities that exist in boarding environments.

Good luck with your search and making the right decision with your son/daughter!

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