Boarding opportunities at independent sixth-form colleges
– Rachel Borland, Principal of DLD College, London
Boarding has featured strongly throughout my educational career over the past 35 years. Having been involved in further education, higher education, sixth-form colleges, and secondary school boarding both within the UK and various overseas postings has given me a unique insight into what boarding can add to a student’s success, both personally and academically.
As a parent myself, when faced with making school choices for my children, I looked at the obvious factors when narrowing down my search: examination results, welfare systems, extra curriculum activities and inspection reports are all important, but to me, the sign of a successful school is in the happiness of the pupil.
Supportive and nurturing
For many, the choice of boarding during the sixth form is a challenging one: by this stage a young person knows his or her mind and feels the need for independence. Independent boarding schools have a long history of creating well-rounded pupils with excellent results. However, independent sixth-form boarding colleges are sometimes overlooked as direct competitors in the field. This is partly due to the fact that quite often the actual accommodation is not on site, and as a consequence the pupils have to travel, sometimes fairly extensively, from one site to another.
The very essence of boarding brings about lifelong friendships, friendships which have been cemented through tolerance, co-operation and empathy. These are the building blocks of relationships throughout life, and to acquire and develop these skills pre-university is indeed a huge advantage to young people. Any sixth-form boarding provision throughout the UK today contains a strong element of international diversity. Students from around the globe are found in every corner of independent schools in the UK, and within sixth-form boarding schools this mix tends to increase even further.
Those of us fortunate enough to be able to invest in the future will be making informed decisions in terms of placing boarding at the cornerstone of the educational experience. For DLD College London, which I am privileged to lead, this has meant a move in 2015 to purpose-built premises in the heart of London’s Westminster. The premises are unique in being the first college in London to house teaching and learning, student accommodation and extra curricular facilities within a single building. The 32,000m2 steel and glass structure standing adjacent to Waterloo Station and directly overlooking Westminster across the River Thames, has stunning views of The Shard, The Gherkin and St. Paul’s Cathedral on the skyline to the East. The new college features purpose-built educational facilities in the basement and on the ground, mezzanine, first and second floors, standing below 15 floors of secure student accommodation. Positive outcomes in time management and overall student efficiency will surely be celebrated.
Independent and responsible learners
Greater efficiency can only lead to better academic results and thereafter better university destinations. However, by the very nature of boarding in a highly supportive environment, young people are encouraged to push themselves out of their comfort zone more and more; that is when real learning takes place. Sixth-form boarding colleges allow young people to make mistakes and move on in life well equipped to deal with the demands of higher education. UK university drop-out statistics are a fairly frightening read. Who would not want their son or their daughter not to struggle through university in the first year but to have that peace of mind that their offspring has the maturity to meet the various challenges they will be faced with.
Within my current role as Principal of DLD College London, I spend a lot of time advising students of the need for attendance, punctuality and in meeting deadlines. I would hope that a percentage of this advice sinks in, to make the desired impact in becoming an independent, responsible learner.
Walk into any common room of an independent sixth-form boarding college and see the multitude of international students alongside home students clearly displaying confidence, strong friendships, happiness and contentment. This boarding experience stands them in excellent stead for future successes. For one, I am part of privileged few that can boast of the merits of boarding education as a child, mother and leader. To be part of the destiny of young people, while facilitating co-operation, understanding and respect, is not only a privilege but also a joy
Rachel Borland read Education at Leicester University and then gained a Diploma in Applied Linguistics and later an MA in Language and Communication Skills from Cardiff University. Rachel joined DLD as Principal in May 2013 bringing with her a portfolio of international teaching and educational leadership experience. She has also worked extensively within the university sector in the UK. Most recently, Rachel completed five years in Nigeria as Principal of Capital Science Academy in Abuja, one of the leading international boarding schools in West Africa. Rachel writes EAL, EFL and other advisory publications, to support the international English language community.