An education that remains once school is completed
Irfan Latif, Head Master of Sexey’s School, Bruton
To coin a much-used phrase in classrooms, it is a truth universally acknowledged that state boarding schools have traditionally been the educational choice of many Service families. When searching for a stable, caring environment that provides high-quality education for children, both in and out of the academic arena, state boarding schools have habitually been seen as offering Service families the Holy Grail – and all at reasonable cost.
State boarding schools can take any pupil with a UK or EU passport and charge only for the boarding element – with pupils’ education received for free. State-funded school boarding fees are therefore typically around a third of the cost of the independent sector, where fees frequently hit the £30,000 a year mark.
With this in mind, state boarding schools are a vital component in the spectrum of education provision in the UK. Pupils at Sexey’s (and no doubt at many other state boarding schools up and down the country) know and are involved in their local community, have an understanding of how the breadth of society works, and most importantly, can converse easily with people from all walks of life. Simultaneously, they also benefit from many of the elements often valued in an independent education: excellent facilities, outstanding pastoral care and a rich and diverse range of extra-curricular activities (club, societies, sport, music, art and drama) that promise a tailored, unique experience for each child.
I hope you are proud of the state boarding heritage that Service parents like you have helped to build. Over the years, the word has certainly caught on, to the extent that boarding figures in the UK are rising today, according to recent census figures by the Independent Schools’ Council (ISC).
Caring and nurturing environment
And it is hardly surprising that the figures are flourishing – long gone are the days when children were ‘sent away’ to boarding schools in fear. Boarding schools feature frequently in the list of the country’s most successful schools, bred not only from the very best teaching, but also from what is learnt outside of the curriculum. As Einstein said, ‘education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learnt at school’. And boarding can teach students the value of stability in a caring and nurturing environment. This is evident not only in the respect and affection our pupils have for teachers and staff, but also in the focus placed on providing for each individual – right down to the detail of arranging transport during exeats (weekend leave from boarding) for pupils to visit family or guardians. Our recent Sixth Form boarding leavers likened their boarding experience to ‘living with family’ – so much so that we are still trying to get rid of some of them, who return after university to visit.
It is difficult to convey in a short article all that state boarding can offer you and your family. For that reason, I would encourage you to come and visit Sexey’s – or state boarding schools like ours – to form your own impressions. I recently showed one Service family – then based in Ramstein, Germany – around Sexey’s. The daughter, a girl who was naturally reserved, lit up by the end of her visit, exclaiming, ‘I really want to come here!’.
Value for money fees
Although no doubt her parents were encouraged to book the trip based on our strong academic qualifications, idyllic Somerset setting and value for money fees, none of this was the primary influence on the child. Rather, it was the knowledge that she could continue horse riding, play hockey, swim, would be dissecting frogs in science, and be playing with the owners of those happy faces in the grounds that made her mind up for her. And judging by the parents’ expressions as they left, and the application form received the next day, that promise of happiness is worth a thousand statistics.
The State Boarding Schools’ Association (SBSA; www.sbsa.org.uk) offers more information for Service families exploring their options, or we always welcome a phone call or visit www.sexeys.somerset.sch.uk.
Irfan Latif is the Head Master of Sexey’s School, Bruton. Established in 1891, Sexey’s is an award-winning Church of England, co-educational school for ages 11–18. Prior to Sexey’s, Mr Latif – a former Head of Chemistry and Director of Science at St Benedict’s School in Ealing, London – was Deputy Head at Bedford School. He regularly lectures at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and of Chemistry and is also a magistrate. He is a keen traveller and adventurer and recently led expeditions to Everest Base Camp, Venezuela and the Red Sea. He is married to Jocelyn, a Science teacher, and they have two young daughters, Zara and Emma and their Jack Russell, Rodney.