Starting a new boarding school: Tips for parents
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Ahead of the School’s virtual D Parents’ Afternoon tomorrow, D Coordinator Louise Boothman provides a glimpse into what the D year group have been doing this term and what they can expect from the next two terms…
In trying to link together such intriguing texts as Small Island by Andrea Levy and The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid, my A3 class have spent a good deal of time considering a motif common to both: tea. My class maintains that a cup of tea is so much more than a cup of tea. It is about hospitality, sharing. It is a little bit of kindness in liquid form. Putting your hands around a warm mug is inherently soothing. Tea is for all occasions; it can be celebratory or reviving, it can bridge old friendships and forge new ones. So, you see, tea is really quite important. My sincere apologies that, this year, our usual tea for D parents is to be a virtual one, not least because we all miss out on one of Mike Thorne’s superlative afternoon teas. With neat little sandwiches, dainty little cakes to make Prue and Paul swoon, and the delicate balancing act of how to shake hands and hold your cup and saucer, it really is a pleasing way to catch up with your child’s tutor and to meet some other parents at the same time.
This year sees us moving the tutor chat online, which is efficient, if not quite so festive. Nonetheless, our D pupils have been extremely busy this term and there is much to catch up on. Our term began with spectacular weather and a welcome in the Greek Theatre from our Headmaster. This year’s cohort are the first group to have such a thorough induction and, happily, many were already well versed in Microsoft Teams and all set with laptops. The D year group have been quick to adapt to their new school and, while this is a different sort of Bryanston to the one they might see unfurling as social distancing rules relax, they have marked themselves out as a good-natured and sparky bunch.
On the academic front, our D pupils have got stuck into a fulsome curriculum, flexing those academic muscles and getting back into the routine of lessons and evening prep. To this end, Will Ings (Head of Teaching and Learning) and I put together a study skills day earlier in the term, which looked at organisation, revision and memory with The Life Skills Company. We also looked at how to work with the Dalton system, as well as exploring attitudes to learning and a growth mindset. The topics covered in the ‘Learning to Learn’ morning will be something that we circle back to in the GCSE years, but has proved a thought-provoking refresher as we set off in this first term.
Outside of the classroom, we have core and development sports on offer, so there have been ample opportunities to train and get fit, while we eagerly await the return of matches. The sports centre is well populated by house groups in the evenings and ECAs and afternoon activities abound. While your child may not have mentioned it, there has been a rota of activities on Tuesday afternoons, featuring (to name but a few) craft, fencing, bouldering, cooking, cricket, DJ skills, swimming and yoga. On Fridays we have D Activities; all D pupils have done some drama this term, as well as enjoying a weekly Current Affairs slot (with Mr Vincent’s look at ‘American Politics’ being especially timely). Next term there are more choices for D on Fridays; they may choose drama, music practice, debating or to pursue the ‘Enquiry Project’ on a topic of their choice.
We take how our pupils gel together as a year group very seriously, so the pastoral focused day with ‘Human Utopia’ was so valuable; it was a challenging day, which really asked everyone to think and walk in someone else’s shoes, but the year group responded exactly as you hoped they would; with maturity and kindness towards each other. There will be plenty more opportunities for the year group to click; it is still early days; friendships take time to establish and house teams are working hard to make weekends fun and enjoyable.
As we head towards the Spring term, LAMDA is on offer to any pupil who would like to get involved and the preparations for the D Show begin. The D Show is all about creativity – showcasing music, drama, science and the arts – everyone will get to make a contribution in some way. It is a real highlight, so fingers crossed this can go ahead in a live venue.
We finish the academic year with the D graduation, where we celebrate the year group’s efforts and achievements, across all subjects and extra-curricular activities. It’s a delightful way to draw the year together and reflect on how far our pupils have come and where we go next. There will be speeches – short ones I promise - prize giving and lunch hosted by Mrs Miller, our Deputy Head of Boarding and Pastoral, on the penultimate Saturday of the Summer term, intended, in part, to mark the boys’ move up to the senior boys’ houses. More details of this rather lovely event will follow nearer the time.
As a finale to our year, our pupils head off to the D wilderness camp, where their newly acquired survival skills (honed on Monday afternoons with Mr Curry and his team in the Summer term) will be put to the test. So, we will be returning them to you at the end of the year, smelling of campfire smoke and possibly rather grubby, but hopefully satisfied with a year of growth and adventure, tired but happy.
We are just one fifteenth of the way into your child’s time at Bryanston. There are still lots of challenges, frustrations and celebrations ahead. Our wish is for your children to get stuck in, to try hard, be resilient and adventurous, and to say yes to all of the good things that are on offer. I am afraid we have spent this term wearing your children out; they have done a lot of academic work, they have done a lot of sport, they have expended lots of emotional energy getting to know each other, so I wish you all a restful holiday together when it comes. We are all perhaps a little weary, but once the Christmas tree goes up in main hall (and it is enormous) we all find a little bit of extra festive energy for the last few weeks.
Thursday’s meeting with the tutor provides the chance for a quick catch-up, hopefully to reinforce how well your child is doing this term, but also to get to know each other. We start to discuss subject choices for GCSE in earnest next term, but there is no harm in starting early. So, bring your own liquid refreshment and do book a time to speak to your child’s tutor. I’ll pop the kettle on.