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Bryanston Head Sarah Thomas describes how a boarding school provides both time and place for pupils to develop.
If you ask Old Bryanstonians about what they remember of their school days the reply is always pretty much the same: the people and the place. The people you might think speak for themselves, and to some extent they do, given that you really would hope that the people who have had a profound effect upon your educational and emotional progress as a teenager and the friendships made would rate highly on any school leaver's list of strongest memories. But the place at Bryanston ranks almost equally highly; the two, people and place, are to my mind inseparable.
The thing about a boarding school education that no day school, however exceptional, can emulate is the provision of time and space. The boarding school day seems barmily long to a child of 13 who wants to be home at 3.30pm or even 6pm eating peanut butter on toast and watching CBBC. The day at boarding school, where boarding is done properly, finishes at 9pm or later. The week finishes on Saturday afternoon after sport and starts the following morning on Sunday when, during whole school weekends, there is a choice between Sunday service in church, with our incomparable Chaplain, or a non-religious but hopefully entertaining Sunday Assembly. On those weekends when a good deal of the boarders may go home, there is the option of a long lie-in on Sunday and cracking food when you get up, thanks to the award-winning Mike Thorne and his team of caterers. Busy weekends are full of activity, from balloon debates to battle of the bands; quiet weekends might take the form of time with friends in the house, trips to the cinema, or even, mirabile dictu, work.
This activity, high octane or low key, is what allows people to forge friendships with each other. It is far easier in my experience to make real and lasting friendships if you are working alongside someone in house drama or playing alongside them in house football, than if you sit together, passively, at a 'social event'. And at boarding school you really do find friends who stay friends forever.
And then there is the place. The place at Bryanston is 400 acres of Dorset countryside, which allows for all kinds of sporting activity. The obvious ones take place on pitches and courts and change according to season. But there is also a range of other activities allowed by the place such as beekeeping, bell ringing, kayaking, climbing, horse riding, rowing, playing in the grounds, climbing trees and camping.
If you are going to make the most of all of these opportunities, you need the time in which to do it. And we come back to the beginning: 'time and space'. The place itself and being happy and active in the place are inextricably linked. Bertie Wooster puts it succinctly in his flawless schoolboy Latin when he talks of 'the jolly old genius loci'. The campus at Bryanston adds to the opportunities on offer and provides the space in which these opportunities can be enjoyed to the full. Few people leave Bryanston without favourite memories of the countryside in which the school is set, be it the river, the playing fields, or Beechwood Lawn. And even fewer leave without memories of the Coade Hall, where we all meet at least twice a week, or of the Main School, the glorious original house, once a grand home to the Portman family and their household and now a comfortable home and school for 670 pupils. Generations to come will continue to remember Basement Corridor, the Cafe, and the social area of this warm and friendly house because it is here that they made their friends for life.