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How to Choose a Boarding School

We are lucky in Dubai as there is an extensive choice of schools for our children covering many curriculum’s from English, American, French, German, Indian etc. The schools in general are of a high standard many achieving outstanding results and many offer great sporting and music facilities. However with the current economic downturn more and more expats are considering the boarding school option.

Job stability is now an unknown and moving country every couple of years is acceptable in a child’s early years but when it comes to secondary school a child needs an element of stability especially from the ages of 13-14 when they choose their options and move onto Year 10 (US Grade 9 ). This stability is now not an option to many expats with employers demanding mobility – one day Dubai the next Riyadh or many employees having no guarantee how secure their job is.

Fortunately today boarding schools are not how many parents remember IE with uncomfortable beds covered in itchy grey blankets in cold dormitories upstairs in Hogwart style accommodation. Today, they are much more homely where students can provide their own duvets even curtains! The boarders decorate their walls plastering them with posters and photos. Depending on the age of the boarder some dorms may play home to 6 boys or in some boarding schools the older children may have their own room with wash hand basin or even a full en-suite. In the boarding houses the children are looked after by house parents who live in the house with their family creating a real family environment. You can find kitchens in the boarding houses where children make their hot chocolate and keep their hidden treasure of “tuck”. At weekends the boarding houses have pizza & movie nights, bbq’s, picnics or go on cinema, ice-skating or shopping trips to the nearest towns. Regularly the schools have disco’s or put on plays. Sport features big time in these schools with everyone taking part whether they are in a team or not with afternoons dedicated to sport. As they have more time at school there is the opportunity to take part not just in sport but music and drama. Sometimes it is hard to take part in all of these activities at a day school. Personally the biggest complaint I have heard from parents is their children are having too much fun to contact them.

UK boarding schools do not just attract British expats but many international students with some schools having over 40 countries represented in their student body giving a truly cosmopolitan feel to the schools.

There is a wide choice of school out there whether it is an academic school you are looking for or a school with strict discipline, a sporty school or a smaller school or maybe even a school that specializes in children with dyslexia.

When Choosing a school think about the following:

  • When trying to narrow your search criteria consider schools that are near a guardian who can act on behalf of the parents, providing holiday and weekend accommodation, attend school functions and are available in an emergency. It is a requirement of schools for all parents resident outside the UK to appoint a guardian living in Britain. For international students boarding schools can provide numbers of reputable guardian agencies.
  • Try to find a school that is not too far away from an airport that has flights to Dubai.
  • Check the ratio of boarders to day pupils as it is better for the child to be in a school where there are a lot of boarders because if the majority of them are day pupils then it will be very lonely for them at the weekends.
  • Identify which educational environment will suit your child – single sex or co-educational, a highly selective school or a school for an all rounder.
  • Do you have any Special requirements: EFL, Dyslexia, supported learning, medical conditions.
  • Book time in your busy schedule to visit the schools. When choosing any school whether it be in Dubai or abroad the only way to get a feel for a school is to visit it. The expensive glossy brochure will only show you the aspects of the school they want you to see. You must visit the school with your child as it is they who are going to be staying there. The schools host Open Days and many boarding schools let the children come for a sleepover to really experience the school boarding first hand rather than relying on what they have seen in movies!

So how do expats based in Dubai choose boarding schools?

You could ask friends who have children at boarding schools, or maybe you already know some in the area you come from, or you could search on line but a much easier first step is to contact Sue Anderson Consultants. They offer free impartial help, advice and guidance on finding and choosing UK boarding schools. Recommending schools to meet the individual needs of each family, arranging for prospectuses to be sent to the family and making appointments to visit the schools all this makes the process much easier. Between Sue Anderson and her consultants they have visited over 350 of the boarding schools giving them a wealth of experience and knowledge.

Sue Anderson Consultants will be holding a UK Boarding Schools Exhibition in Dubai on 16th, 17th & 18th February at The Hilton Jumeirah. Visit our What’s On section for more details

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One Response to “How to Choose a Boarding School”

  1. John Peters says:

    Compliments for a good post. Enjoyed it.


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