When considering an overseas boarding school education, there are so many factors for parents to consider, to make a successful boarding school placement, writes Pat Moores of UK Education Guide. Meanwhile, schools and agents bombard families with information that may or may not be relevant to them.

We asked guardians and schools if they were only allowed to provide just one piece of advice to parents to help them make the best decision for their children, what would it be? Interestingly, the answers received almost all followed a similar theme and we highlight three responses below:

Julia Evans, Director at Cambridge Guardian Angels, argues that the most important thing is to ask parents and agents to be honest about the information they provide schools & guardians.

“Too many parents are not honest about their child’s health (physical and emotional) and academic ability and therefore have unhelpful expectations about the type of school that is best suited for their child,” she says.

“This can lead to children being placed in unsuitable schools from either an academic or pastoral care perspective. We see this happening quite often and, as guardians, we try our very best to provide the added support a child may need that has been placed in an inappropriate school, but, at the end of the day, more work needs to be done prior to placement.”

Gareth Collier, Principal of Cardiff 6th Form College echoes Julia’s words;

“Choosing a school is more about knowing your son/daughter than it is about knowing a school. There is rarely a bad school but there is often a bad choice of school. Ensuring that the style of education, the process of teaching and learning and the outcomes of the process are suited to your child is essential to avoid disappointment.”

Finally, Anna Trott from Kings Colleges adds, “Often parents will have an idealised view of a ‘traditional’ boarding school but it is important to understand if this environment will actually suit their child?”

All three contributors are essentially focusing on the same issue- parents need to be honest and think long and hard about the type of school environment that will really suit their child – so, a ‘child first, school second’ approach.

Trying to shoehorn a child into an unsuitable environment can be disastrous for both the child, family and the school itself.

For many families who work long hours, it is sometimes hard to keep track of their growing children’s needs and where they might need additional support.

Therefore, it is important that parents and agents look closely at existing school reports before approaching schools that may well not be suitable for the child concerned.

Agents have a crucial role to play here and can add huge value. If they have gained the trust of the parents they can ask difficult questions about why a child appears to be struggling with a particular subject or behavioural issue, as highlighted in a school report.

“For many families who work long hours, it is sometimes hard to keep track of their growing children’s needs and where they might need additional support”

By not investigating these issues, there is a huge risk a child will be placed in an inappropriate school which will ultimately mean they will, at best, underperform academically, but more importantly potentially develop troubling behavioural issues.

Guardians are then left to help try to pick up the pieces…

Julia Evans provided a recent example to highlight what happens when a ‘child first, school second’ approach is not taken.  The child in question was placed in a highly academic 6th form college-relevant information about the child’s existing worrying behaviour in particular circumstances was not flagged to the new school by the agent or existing school.

The parents too shared the same sense of denial and therefore the screening and interview process was based on fragmented and incomplete information.

Over the next twelve months the parents’ unwillingness to communicate and their rejection of any suggestions of underlying medical conditions especially psychological issues, resulted in the student’s erratic behaviour becoming uncontrollable and emotionally volatile.

The school tried to cope without parental support but simply did not have the pastoral care provision necessary to deal with the young person’s needs and so the pupil had to be removed from the school before completing her A-Levels.

This damaging failure in communication is all too familiar to many schools and guardians and reinforces the point that only if agents, families and schools work together honestly, can placements be made that will truly meet the needs of each young person; allowing them to reach their potential with the appropriate academic and pastoral support in place.

About the author:  Pat Moores is director and co-founder of UK Education Guide.