Preparing Your Child for Their First Year at Boarding School

Discover essential tips for preparing your child for their first year at boarding school. Set them up for success with guidance from Gordonstoun.

Boarding school can be a fantastic experience for your child, providing them with a high-quality education and a wealth of opportunities for personal growth and development. However, as with any major transition, it's essential to prepare your child thoroughly for their first year at boarding school.

As a leading UK boarding school, Gordonstoun provides students with a stimulating, challenging, and exciting range of lessons and activities seven days a week. The school puts the student’s personal development and well-being at the heart of everything we do. That’s why we understand that a move to boarding school can be daunting for some families. In this article, we'll explore some tips and strategies to help your child make the most of their experience.

Introduce the Idea of Boarding School Early

It is recommended that the idea of boarding school is introduced to children as early as possible. Boarding school is a big decision, and your child will likely need time to adjust to the idea of being away from home for an extended period. Start by talking to your child about the benefits of boarding school, such as the academic and social opportunities, and emphasise the exciting new experiences they will have. Encourage them to ask questions and share their concerns, so you can address any fears or anxieties they may have.

At Gordonstoun, boarding options are available for both senior and junior students. For younger children in particular, they may be worried about being away from home for the first time. It is therefore permitted, and encouraged, that they decorate their rooms in their own way so that their private space is their own. This is something parents can discuss with children when introducing the idea of boarding school as it helps build excitement, encouraging creativity and their own independence.

Visit the Boarding School Before Enrolment

Before your child is enrolled at a UK boarding school, consider visiting the campus and taking a tour of the facilities. Not only will this provide families with peace of mind regarding the education and living conditions provided by the school, but it can also help children feel more confident about attending.

According to a survey by the Boarding Schools Association, 78% of parents said that they visited more than one school before choosing where to send their child. Visiting the school can help your child see the campus, meet with teachers and staff, and get a sense of the school's culture and community. It's also an excellent opportunity to ask questions and address any concerns you or your child may have.

At Gordonstoun, we understand that sending your child to boarding school is an incredibly important decision. We, therefore, provide various options for families and children to get a taste of life here.

From taster weekends for prospective junior school and Year 9 students to private tours of the campus — we want to ensure families have the best insight into life at Gordonstoun. For international students considering boarding school in the UK, or those who may not be able to travel to Moray, we also offer Virtual Taste of Gordonstoun events online.

Our International Summer School also offers children a sense of the range of activities offered at Gordonstoun.

Pack Thoughtfully for Boarding School

Packing for boarding school can be a challenging task, but it's important to ensure your child has everything they need for a successful year. Start by reviewing the school's packing list and making a checklist of items to bring. Encourage your child to pack thoughtfully, choosing clothes and personal items that will help them feel comfortable and at home. All belongings should be clearly labelled to avoid any mix-ups or lost items.

Encourage Independence at Boarding School

While introducing independence to children can be daunting as you may not want them to grow up too quickly, encouraging independence at an early age emboldens children to believe in themselves. Boarding school provides a great opportunity for your child to develop independence and self-reliance.

At boarding school, your child will be responsible for their belongings, perhaps for the first time. This might be completely alien to them, so before sending them to school it is important to gently introduce your child to looking after themselves a bit more. Encourage your child to take responsibility for their learning and daily routine.

For junior school students preparing to board, this may be by encouraging them to regularly tidy their bedroom, or by allowing them to pack their own bag when going on holiday or to a sleepover.

To prepare older students enrolling to senior boarding school, encourage them to set a routine by introducing a study schedule alongside regular extracurricular activities and chores. It's also essential to allow your child to make their own decisions and learn from their mistakes, as this will help them develop valuable life skills.

Gordonstoun’s broad curriculum, both inside and outside of the classroom, helps students develop independence, determination, and self-awareness. Whether they are scaling a Munro, conducting a science experiment, or leading a sports team, students are provided with opportunities to gain independence, learn important life skills, and enhance academic studies.

Help Children Make Connections & Stay in Touch

One of the biggest challenges of boarding school can be feeling disconnected from family and friends back home. Help your child make connections with other students and staff at the school by encouraging them to join clubs and extracurricular activities, attend social events, and get involved in the school community. You can also help your child stay in touch with friends and family back home with regular communication.

Regular communication with your child is critical during their first year at boarding school. According to the London School of Economics, positive parental involvement in school can improve academic performance, emotional well-being, and social adjustment. Children need to remain connected with their families via regular check-ins. Parents can stay in touch with children with phone calls or video chats, as well as texting although boarding schools often ensure children are not distracted during daily lessons by not permitting mobile phones in class.

Boarding schools will often provide students and parents the opportunity to visit each other outside of holidays. For example, Leave Out weekends at Gordonstoun are a chance for boarding students to leave campus for an extended weekend to travel with, or stay with, their loved ones.

Preparing Your Child for Success at Gordonstoun

At Gordonstoun, we understand the importance of preparing your child for a successful boarding school experience. Our sector leading pastoral staff are dedicated to helping your child transition to boarding school with confidence and support.

We encourage families to visit our beautiful campus in the heart of Scotland, where they can meet with staff, tour our facilities, and get a sense of our unique culture, community and education described as ‘Outstanding’ in the last inspection report. We also provide comprehensive guidance and support for students and families during the enrollment process, ensuring a smooth transition to boarding school life.

Our focus on outdoor education, leadership development, and community service provides students with a unique and transformative educational experience, preparing them for future success, whether that be at university or their chosen career path. We also prioritise student well-being and mental health, offering a range of resources and support to ensure students feel safe, supported, and valued.

If you have any questions about our award-winning boarding school or would like to find out more about the admissions process, contact us for more information.