Boarding school

Boarding school

A boarding school is a school where some or all pupils not only study, but also live during term time, with their fellow students and possibly teachers. The word 'boarding' in this sense means to provide food and lodging.

Many public schools in the Commonwealth of Nations (called private schools or independent schools in the US) are boarding schools. The amount of time one spends in boarding school varies considerably from one year to twelve or more years. Boarding school pupils may spend the majority of their childhood and adolescent life away from their parents, although pupils return home during the holidays and, often, the summer break. In the United States, boarding schools generally comprise grades seven through twelve, with most covering the High School years. Many New England boarding schools traditionally offer a post-graduate year, which is unknown in many parts of the US. Most boarding schools also have day students who are residents of the community or children of faculty. Some boarding schools in the United States feature military training.

Boarding school description

Typical boarding school characteristics

The term boarding school often refers to classic British boarding school and many boarding schools are modeled on these.

A typical modern fee-charging boarding school has several separate residential houses, and in various streets in the neighborhood of the school. Pupils generally need permission to go outside defined school bounds; they may be allowed to venture further at certain times.

A number of senior teaching staff are appointed as housemasters, housemistresses or residential advisors each of whom takes quasi-parental responsibility for some 50 pupils resident in their house, at all times but particularly outside school hours. Each may be assisted in the domestic management of the house by a housekeeper often known as matron, and by a house tutor for academic matters, often providing staff of each gender. Nevertheless, older pupils are often unsupervised by staff, and a system of monitors or prefects gives limited authority to senior pupils. Houses readily develop distinctive characters, and a healthy rivalry between houses is often encouraged in sport. See also House system.

Houses include study-bedrooms or dormitories, a dining-room or refectory where pupils take meals at fixed times, a library, hall or cubicles where pupils can do their homework. Houses may also have common-rooms for television and relaxation, kitchens for snacks, and some facilities may be shared between several houses.

Each pupil has an individual timetable, which in the early years allows little discretion. Pupils of all houses and non-boarders are taught together in school hours, but boarding pupils' activities extend well outside school hours and a period for homework. Sports, clubs and societies (e.g. amateur dramatics, or political & literary speakers or debates), or excursions (to performances, shopping or perhaps a school dance) may run until lights-out. As well as the usual academic facilities such as classrooms and laboratories, boarding schools often provide a wide variety of other facilities for extracurricular activities such as music-rooms, boats, squash courts, swimming pools, cinemas and theatres. A school chapel is often found on-site at boarding schools. Day-pupils often stay on after school to use these facilities.

British boarding schools have three terms a year, approximately twelve weeks each, with a few days' half-term holiday during which pupils are expected to go home. There may be several exeats or weekends in each half of the term when pupils may go home or away. Boarding pupils nowadays often go to school within easy traveling distance of their homes, and so may see their families frequently.

Most boarding schools have what is known as a "lights out" time for boarding students. A lights-out is a scheduled bedtime for students living in a dormitory. It can also occur in other places where there are strict disciplinary regulations, such as a hospital.

Some boarding schools have only boarding students, while others have both boarding students and day students who go home at the end of the school day. Day students are often known as day-boys or day-girls. Some schools also have a class of day students who stay throughout the day including breakfast and dinner which they call semi- boarders. Schools that have both boarding and day students sometimes describe themselves as semi boarding schools or day boarding schools. Many schools also have students who board during the week but go home on weekends these are known as weekly boarders, quasi-boarders, or five-day-boarders.

Day students and weekly boarders may have a distinct view of day school system, as compared to most other children who attend day schools without any boarding facilities. These students relate to a boarding school life, even though they do not totally reside in school; however, they may not completely become part of the boarding school experience. On the other hand, these students have a different view of boarding schools as compared to full term boarders who go home less frequently often only at the end of a term or even the end of an academic year.

Other forms of residential schools

Boarding schools are a form of residential school; however, not all residential schools are "classic" boarding schools. Other forms of residential schools include:

Applicable regulations

The Department for Children, Schools and Families, in conjunction with the Department of Health, United Kingdom of the United Kingdom has prescribed guidelines for boarding schools, called the National Boarding Standards

One example of regulations covered within the National Boarding Standards are those for the minimum floor area or living space required for each student and other aspects of basic facilities.

A minimum floor area for each pupil with regarding to his/her dormitories, cubicles and bedrooms, is prescribed. This is attained by multiplying the number of students sleeping in the dormitory by 4.2 m², and then adding 1.6 m² to the result. A minimum distance of 0.9 m should also be maintained between any two beds in a dormitory, bedrooms and cubicles. In case students are provided with a cubicle, then each student must be provided with a window and a floor area of 5.0 m² at the least. A bedroom for a single student should be at least of floor area of 6.0 m². Boarding schools must provide a total floor area of at least 2.3 m² living accommodation for every boarder. This should also be incorporated with at least one bathtub or shower for every ten students. These are some of the few guidelines set by the department amongst many others. It could probably be observed that not all boarding schools around the world meet these minimum basic standards, despite their apparent appeal.


The question, when was the first boarding school founded, is a difficult one to answer. The practice of fostering children with other families so they could learn is of very long standing, with records going back thousands of years. In Europe the practice of sending boys to monasteries for their education developed. The school often considered the worlds oldest boarding school, King’s School Canterbury, counts the development of the monastery school in around 597 AD to be the date of the schools founding. However all of the monastic schools were dissolved with the monasteries themselves under Henry VIII. The school that can probably claim to be the oldest boarding school in continual operation is Winchester College founded by Bishop William of Wykeham in 1382

Boarding schools across societies

Boarding Schools manifest themselves in different ways in different societies. For example, in some societies children start boarding school at an earlier age than in others. In some societies, a tradition has developed in which families send their children to the same boarding school for generations.

One observation that appears to apply globally is that a significantly large number of boys than girls attend boarding school and for a longer span of time.

Boarding schools in England started before medieval times, when boys were sent to be educated at a monastery or noble household, where a lone literate cleric could be found. In the twelfth century, the Pope ordered all Benedictine monasteries such as Westminster to provide charity schools, and public schools started when such schools attracted paying pupils. These public schools reflected the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, as in many ways they still do, and were accordingly staffed by clergymen until the nineteenth century. Private tuition at home remained the norm for aristocratic families, but after the sixteenth century it was increasingly accepted that adolescents of any rank might best be educated collectively. The institution has thus adapted itself to changing social circumstances over a thousand years.

Boarding preparatory schools tend to reflect the public schools which they feed (they often have a more or less official tie to particular schools). Although still useful in modern times in many cases such as globetrotting parents, difficult family circumstances, or broken homes, they have been going out of fashion.

The classic British boarding school became highly popular during the colonial expansion of the British Empire. British colonial administrators abroad could ensure that their children were brought up in British culture at public schools at home in the UK, and local rulers were offered the same education for their sons. More junior expatriates would send their children to local British-run schools, which would also admit selected local children who might travel from considerable distances. The boarding schools inculcating their own values became an effective system by which to deculturize the natives from their local culture and develop natives that would share British ideals and so help the British achieve their imperial goals.

One of the reasons stated for sending children to boarding schools is to develop wider horizons than their family can provide. A boarding school which a family has attended for generations may define the culture to which parents aspire for their children; equally, by choosing a fashionable boarding school, parents may aspire to better their children by mixing on equal terms with children of the upper classes. However many a times polite reasons are stated or given while hiding implicit underlying reasons for sending a child away from home. (Duffel N, 2000; Schaverien, J. 2004;). These include children who are considered too disobedient, underachieving, children from families that have divorced spouses, and children with whom the mother or parents do not relate much. (Duffel N, 2000; Schaverien, J. 2004;) However these reasons are never explicitly stated, though the child himself might be aware of it. (Duffel N, 2000; Schaverien, J. 2004;)

In 1998 there were 772 private-sector boarding schools in England, and 100,000 children attending boarding schools all over the United Kingdom. Most societies decline to make boarding schools the preferred option for the upbringing of their children, except in former British colonies; in India, Nigeria, and other former African colonies of Great Britain, for example, boarding schools are one of the preferred modes of education. In England they are an important factor in the class system.

In some countries, such as New Zealand and Sri Lanka, a number of state schools have boarding facilities. However these state boarding schools are frequently the traditional single-sex state schools, whose ethos' are much like their independent counterparts. Furthermore the number of boarders at these schools are much lower than at independent boarding schools, normally around 10%.

The Swiss government developed a strategy to foster private boarding schools for foreign students as a business integral to the country's economy. Their boarding schools offer instruction in several major languages and have a large number of quality facilities organized through the Swiss Federation of Private Schools.

In the United States of America, boarding schools for students below the age of 13 are called junior boarding schools, and are not as common and not as encouraged as in the United Kingdom or India. The oldest junior boarding school in the United States is the Fay School in Southborough, Massachusetts.

India has a number of residential schools all across the country which follow National & International curricula. Most of these are single units except perhaps the Delhi Public School, Society which has 125 branches across the world. They have opened a number of residential schools at locations.

In the late 1800s, the United States government undertook a policy of educating Native American youth in the ways of Western dominant culture so that Native Americans might be able to then assimilate into Western society. At these boarding schools, managed and regulated by the government, Native American students were exposed to a number of tactics to prepare them for life outside of their reservation homes.

In accordance with the assimilation methods used at the boarding schools, the education that the Native American children received at these institutions centered on dominant society’s construction of gender norms and ideals. Thus boys and girls were separated in almost every activity and their interactions were strictly regulated along the lines of Victorian ideals. In addition the instruction that the children received reflected the roles and duties that they were to assume once outside of the reservation. Thus girls were taught skills that could be used in the home such as “sewing, cooking, canning, ironing, child care, and cleaning” (Adams 150). Native American boys in the boarding schools were taught the importance of an agricultural lifestyle with an emphasis on raising livestock and agricultural skills like “plowing and planting, field irrigation, the care of stock, and the maintenance of fruit orchards” (Adams 149). These ideas of domesticity were in stark contrast to those existing in native communities and on reservations as many indigenous societies were based on a matrilineal system where the women’s lineage was honored and the women’s place in society respected. For example women in indigenous communities held powerful roles in their own communities undertaking tasks that Western society deemed only appropriate for men as indigenous women could be leaders, healers, and agricultural farmers.

While the Native American children were exposed and likely adopted some of the ideals set forth by the whites operating these boarding schools, many resisted and rejected the gender norms that were being imposed upon them and continued in traditional systems of being, thwarting the process of assimilation. Women were at the center of this resistance. One such school for Native Americans, which was famous for its size, was the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

Emerging perspectives

It is claimed that children may be sent to boarding schools to give more opportunities than their family can provide. However, that involves spending significant parts of one's early life in what may be seen as a Total institution and possibly experiencing social detachment, as suggested by social-psychologist Erving Goffman (Goffman, Erving 1961). This may involve long-term separation from one's parents and culture, leading to the experience of homesickness (Thurber A. Christopher 1999; Fisher, S., Frazer, N. & Murray, K 1986); and may give rise to a phenomenon known as the 'TCK' or third culture kid (Pollock DC and Van Reken R 2001).

Some modern philosophies of education, such as constructivism and new methods of music training for kids including Orff Schulwerk and the Suzuki method, make the everyday interaction of the child and parent an integral part of training and education. The European Union-Canada project "Child Welfare Across Borders", an important international venture on child development, considers boarding schools as one form of permanent displacement of the child. This view reflects a new outlook towards education and child growth in the wake of more scientific understanding of the human brain and cognitive development.

Concrete numbers have yet to be tabulated regarding the statistical data for the ratio of the boys that are sent to boarding schools, the total number of girls, the total number of children in a given population in boarding schools by country, the average age across populations when children are sent to boarding schools, and the average length of education (in years) for boarding school students.

Although boarding schools are, possibly correctly, perceived as instilling social and personal survival skills and keeping children occupied, they also exclude children from normal home-based, domestic daily life, and are liable to engender a sense of exclusiveness and superiority in students. People who have been to such schools often speak with different, learned accents than local children, play different sports and miss out on local activities.

Boarding schools in fiction

Boarding schools and their surrounding settings and situations have become almost a genre in (mostly) British literature with its own identifiable conventions.(Typically, protagonists find themselves occasionally having to break school rules for honourable reasons which the reader can identify with, and might get severely punished when caught - but usually they do not embark on a total rebellion against the school as a system.)

Notable examples of the school story include:

The setting has also been featured in notable North American fiction:

There is also a huge boarding-school genre literature, mostly uncollected, in British comics and serials from the 1900s to the 1980s.

On the animated series Code Lyoko, Kadic Junior High School is a boarding school where the main characters live and study. In addition, most of the characters in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX (Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters GX) live in a boarding school called "Duel Academy" ("Duel Academia").

Fictional boarding schools have also been depicted on live-action television shows. Some notable names include:

Boarding schools have also appeared on documentary television:

Also, in the video game Bully the story revolves around the adventures of the denizens of the fictional town of Bullworth and the boarding school Bullworth Academy.

In the beginning of the Playstation 2 game, Clock Tower 3, it is revealed that protagonist Alyssa Hamilton was sent to a boarding school by her mother.

The sub-genre of books and films set in a military or naval academy has many similarities with the above.

Boarding schools in films

Boarding schools in video games

Harry Potter video games

See also


Selected bibliography

  • Adams, David Wallace. Education for Extinction: American Indians and the Boarding School Experience, 1875-1928. University of Kansas Press, Lawrence: 1995.
  • Bamford T.W. (1967) Rise of the public schools: a study of boys public boarding schools in England and wales from 1837 to the present day. London : Nelson, 1967.
  • Brewin, C.R., Furnham, A. & Howes, M. (1989). Demographic and psychological determinants of homesickness and confiding among students. British Journal of Psychology, 80, 467-477.
  • Cookson, Peter W., Jr., and Caroline Hodges Persell. Preparing for Power: America's Elite Boarding Schools. (New York: Basic Books, 1985).
  • Duffell, N. "The Making of Them. The British Attitude to Children and the Boarding School System". (London: Lone Arrow Press, 2000).
  • Fisher, S., Frazer, N. & Murray, K (1986). Homesickness and health in boarding school children. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 6, 35-47.
  • Fisher, S. & Hood, B. (1987). The stress of the transition to university: a longitudinal study of psychological disturbance, absent-mindedness and vulnerability to homesickness. British Journal of Psychology, 78, 425-441
  • Goffman, Erving (1961) Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates. (New York: Doubleday Anchor, 1961); (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1968) ISBN 0-385-00016-2
  • Hein, David (1986). The founding of the Boys' School of St. Paul's Parish, Baltimore. Maryland Historical Magazine, 81, 149-59.
  • Hein, David (1991). The High Church origins of the American boarding school. Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 42, 577-95.
  • Hein, David, ed. (1988). A Student's View of the College of St. James on the Eve of the Civil War: The Letters of W. Wilkins Davis (1842-1866). Studies in American Religion. Lewiston, N.Y.: Mellen, 1988.
  • Hein, David (4 January 2004). What has happened to Episcopal schools? The Living Church, 228, no. 1, 21-22.
  • Hickson, A. "The Poisoned Bowl: Sex Repression and the Public School System". (London: Constable, 1995).
  • Johann, Klaus: Grenze und Halt: Der Einzelne im "Haus der Regeln". Zur deutschsprachigen Internatsliteratur. (Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter 2003, Beiträge zur neueren Literaturgeschichte, 201.), ISBN 3-8253-1599-1. Review
  • Ladenthin, Volker; Fitzek, Herbert; Ley, Michael: Das Internat. Aufgaben, Erwartungen und Evaluationskriterien. Bonn 2006 (7. Aufl.).
  • Pollock DC and Van Reken R (2001). Third Culture Kids. Nicholas Brealey Publishing/Intercultural Press. Yarmouth, Maine. ISBN 1-85788-295-4.
  • Thurber A. Christopher (1999) The phenomenology of homesickness in boys, Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology.
  • Department of Education and Skills of the United Kingdom, Boarding School guidelines
  • Duffel N. (2000) The making of them. London: Lone Arrow Press
  • Schaverien, J. (2004) Boarding School: The Trauma of the Privileged Child, in Journal of Analytical Psychology, vol 49, 683-705 ( )

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