Tuesday, May 21, 2024

School for living

Melanie Burke, Director of Admissions at St Edmund’s College, takes us inside the world of British Boarding schools

St Edmund’s College was founded in Douay, France in 1568 for the sons of English Catholics so, in a way, it has always been an international school. In the EFL world, of course, you are famous for your international summer school, but you also have international students in your boarding school. What percentage of your pupils are international students?

Around 20 per cent of our College students are boarders, the vast majority of these being full boarders from overseas. Children enjoy and thrive in a residential education staying throughout the whole term, of which there are three.

Our parents are choosing to send their children to a British boarding school to gain internationally recognised qualifications which will gain them access to the top universities, to become fully bilingual and to develop independence.

Arriving at a new school in a new country must be a culture shock – how do you help them settle in?

Our Boarding staff have many years of experience in boarding schools and understand that each child is an individual and adapts to a new life differently. They are met at the airport by our own transport team and staff are on hand waiting for their arrival at the College. Induction weekends are planned at the start of term so the children can make friends and importantly get to know the staff that live in the boarding house to support them.

Throughout their first days at the College, there are many activities, both on our campus and off-site, to ensure they are fully occupied as they settle into their new home and begin to make friends.

Some students will stay at boarding schools for the whole of their education, others just come for a summer school. But at St Edmund’s, you have some other options?

We are very lucky to be able to offer various options to families looking for a British education. Some students like to come for a one term boarding experience. Some enjoy it so much they go on to stay with us for the longer term!

Students join us for one year, often at age 11 or 12, and we offer a Pre A-Level course for 15-16-year-olds, where they have the opportunity to work towards a limited number of exams or simply join the lessons to improve their academic levels and their English skills, working with our EAL teachers to prepare for IELTS examinations.

Of course, options are available to study GCSE and A-Levels – there really is a length of stay option for everyone.

“We create an atmosphere of positivity and cheerfulness but also of quiet purposeful energy as they work.

For many people, a boarding school is something they read about in Harry Potter. What are the advantages of living in a school?

There are so many benefits to be gained from a boarding education at St Edmund’s College, but one of the most important is access to a first-class education. High calibre teaching professionals, many of whom are available to the children outside of the school day, means they are fully supported to achieve their very best.

Boarders in our supportive and nurturing school develop independence and confidence and very importantly, excellent social skills. They live and work in a diverse, close-knit

community and the benefits that this brings for the next stages of their lives are immeasurable.

British people talk about the ethos of a school, its philosophy. What would you say was St Edmund’s ethos and how is that reflected in the way you treat international students, whether they come for ten years or just for a couple of weeks in the summer?

We create an atmosphere of positivity and cheerfulness, but also of quiet, purposeful energy as they work. We have a wonderfully vibrant history, but that does not mean we are living in the past; this is a school where teaching and learning is innovative, imaginative and effective.

We want children that leave us to go out into the world who will change the world, make it a better place through the lives that they go on to lead, but also how they treat others around them.

Finally, our children are happy children and happy, smiling, confident children are enthusiastic young learners ready to embrace all the opportunities available to them by boarding at St Edmund’s College.

Melanie Burke is Director of Admissions at St Edmund’s College
Images courtesy of ST EDMUND'S COLLEGE and Library
Melanie Butler
Melanie Butler
Melanie started teaching EFL in Iran in 1975. She worked for the BBC World Service, Pearson/Longman and MET magazine before taking over at the Gazette in 1987 and also launching Study Travel magazine. Educated in ten schools in seven countries, she speaks fluent French and Spanish and rather rusty Italian.
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