Co-curricular: The Prep School experience
In an article for Boarding School magazine, Colin Baty, Head of Bedales Prep, Dunhurst, makes the case for boarding, and the opportunities it affords in the development of young people into rounded, engaged and socially adept individuals.
Staff at Dunhurst encourage pupils to develop a facility for understanding their subjects, and indeed their worlds, from as many different perspectives and experiences as possible, with the aim of developing inquisitive thinkers who cherish independent thought and enjoy school.
Important to this end are the activities that take place outside the formal school day. After hours activities draw heavily on the tutoring skills of house staff. Colin explains: “There is a healthy slice of serendipity in all of this – for example, if you have a drama teacher as your housemaster or housemistress, you can expect some theatrical activity along the way. Pupils get to feed off teachers’ interests and passions, and in a way that is ever so slightly different to when their teachers are involved in the normal teaching day.”
In addition, Dunhurst staff are keen on the idea of boarders ‘playing up’ – that is to say, enjoying the company of teachers and talented peers, and getting a taste of others’ passions, and of fresh personal horizons. Colin continues: “Recently, one of our pupils was incredibly moved by an exhibition they had seen as part of such a gallery trip, involving art history and sketching. A penny dropped for her, and this unexpected awakening has seen her world make a fresh and welcome sense.”
Being away from home for the first time can be hard at times for some younger boarders, and Colin observes that a school life packed with variety, stimulation and fun can ease the transition. He says: “We are always delighted when our pupils enter senior school keen to learn, ready to experience new things and with a sense of self in the community, and no less so when they go home for weekends and holidays bursting to tell their families of the many things they have done.”
He concludes: “Prep boarders who go on to board at the senior school do particularly well. This is what we aim to achieve, and we are always mindful of the need to leave room for happy instances and opportunities along the way, of which there are many.”
The full article can be read here (scroll to page 22).