Friday, 6 February 2015

Getting to know me - Mythbusting boarding schools

In my previous post I was forever mentioning the fact that I went to boarding school and gave a weeny taster of what life was like there. SO I thought I would expand on this today for my next article in the 'Getting to know me' blog series.

Now, I really wanted to go into my own specific boarding school experiences. But when I started to write this, I realised there were loads of myths surrounding the idea of boarding school itself. I began to dispel this in an article I wrote almost two years ago on boarding schools in general (which you can read here And this is a continuation of that. Then later today, I will conclude this article with a few of the memories I have that made boarding school so special for me, therefore giving you an insight into this unique childhood.

So let us bust some myths.

Myth 1: boarding schools are cruel.
This is just not the case. I was not sent there by my evil parents who wanted to get rid of me. Nor was it a punishment. And I definitely was not forced to stay by either the school or my parents. I wanted to attend. In fact, I was desperate to go. We first went to an open day when I was about 7 or 8 and I remember crying when I got home because I wanted to go there so badly.

So off I went aged 11, which is very young, I get that. But if I hadn't enjoyed it, of course my parents would have allowed me to come back. I hate that complete strangers judge my parents for something that would have been a HUGE personal wrench for them. I can only imagine the kind of strength that it took to part with their little 11 year old for weeks at a time. But they put me and my education first, allowing me to have all kinds of opportunities that I wouldn't have been able to have, had I stayed with them. And for that they should be praised.

Myth 2: I am posh and rich
This annoys me a lot. Everyone assumes because I went to a boarding school (which is in the private sector) I must be very wealthy and therefore very posh, surrounded by other similarly posh brats. And this just isn't the case.

The particular boarding school I went to, Christ's Hospital was a charity boarding school, which meant families were means tested to find out how many fees they could afford to pay (a similar process as applying for a student loan/grant). Many families paid nothing at all. Therefore, I was surrounded by all sorts of children from all different backgrounds. There were some who were rich, who wore designer clothes and went home to beautiful mansions in the countryside. But there were many others who grew up on council estates in London. And everyone was just normal. We were not any 'posher' than your average state school.

Myth 3: It is just like Harry Potter/St Clare's/Malory Towers
I am sorry to break it to you...Harry Potter isn't real. It's a story. Made up and completely plucked out of JK Rowling's imagination. So no, it was not like fricking Harry Potter. We did not have roaring fires, or four poster beds. We did have bed times and rules. And we didn't learn magic.

Ditto with the Enid Blyton series. Besides, even if that was a realistic version of boarding schools - you do realise that was written in the 1950s, don't you? You'd think that everything would have moved on a bit by now.

Myth 4: It damages relationships with parents
I am often asked this question and it always surprises me, but I guess it stems from the idea that they have 'sent me away.' Which they haven't as I have already addressed.

We were able to contact our parents frequently and we took full advantage of it. They often came up to take us out for tea in the neighbouring town of Horsham, and to watch us in matches and concerts. And they were very much involved in my education, supporting me every step of the way. In fact, I think my separation from my parents has strengthened our bond. I have moved out now, but I ring them almost daily to update them continuously with my life. A habit I got into when I was at boarding school.

Myth 5: It causes children to be anti social with the opposite sex
I can maybe understand this if I went to a single sex school. But mine was co-educational...why on earth would I be any more awkward around boys than you are? No, we did not have a three inch rule (again, we are not in the 1950s) and yes we may not have been allowed upstairs into their bedrooms but still, we were allowed to hang out with them. While we had a very structured day, (thank goodness or we would have been bored and that led to homesickness); we were still given breaktimes and lunchtimes and after-tea times where we could hang out with our friends. And as we progressed through the boarding school, we were given a little more freedom. There was more than enough time to chill with your friends, whichever gender they may be.

(photos courtesy of Christ's Hospital and Matt Coster)

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