What are the benefits of boarding at a relatively young age?
Our experience is that in general children adapt better to boarding earlier rather than later. Starting together in Year 4, in small houses specially designed to suit younger children, boarders quickly feel at home. There is also the advantage that at the Dragon the Year 4 teaching block is entirely self-contained - rather like a school within a school for only 110 children. This gentle start can often be easier than joining later on when school life is busier and other boarders are already settled.
Why should I consider a boarding education at the Dragon?
The boarding life is more and more attractive to children, indeed we often find that it is they who ask to board. There are many reasons: it can be an excellent alternative to highly competitive day schools or city schools which may lack space and opportunities for sport and play. A significant proportion of boarders at the Dragon here in Oxford are from London families attracted by its green surroundings and less intense atmosphere. Boarders get their work done but also have time to enjoy a wide range of activities and childhood freedoms. Being together fosters great friendships and the children have the attention of dedicated adults in a warm community. For many families there are great practical benefits - less time on school runs or organising child care, more relaxed time together - and for the children it is great fun.
Will Dragon boarding suit my child?
You may be surprised how well it could suit your son or daughter and we do encourage parents to be as open minded as possible. However, we also know that boarding is not the right thing for every eight-year-old; we will not suggest boarding unless we feel it will work well. Happy boarders thrive and get a lot out of the experience. It is in the interests of the child, the family and the school that we all agree it is the right decision!
Who makes a good Dragon boarder?
All kinds of children enjoy boarding and benefit from it. There are some factors that particularly suggest that a boy or girl will do well as a boarder. These include:
- a supportive family background - where parents and child are all positive about the boarding life-style
- experience of "sleep-overs" and enthusiasm for spending more time with friends
- readiness to get involved and to make the most of a varied life-style and a wide choice of activities
Above all it is very important that a child is mature enough to understand the reasons for boarding and wants to do it. We can of course help you find out if this the case for your son or daughter.
What do boarders do at weekends?
There is always a lot for boarders to do at weekends. After lessons on Saturday morning there are activities and sport in the afternoon. Some boarders go out on Sundays with parents and friends. For those staying in there are special expeditions and activities. Two weekends in the Christmas term are "in school" which means all the boarders stay and are entertained with a full programme of Sunday events. There is one such weekend at the start of the Easter term and at the beginning and end of the Sumer terms.
Will the Dragon be too big a school for my child?
The Dragon is a sizeable school - but this is what allows it to grow with your child. Size brings major advantages for all our pupils, as you will see when you look at both the facilities and the range of activities we offer. What it means for boarders in particular is that we can offer a large range of accommodation to suit children of different ages. The important aspect for the junior boarders is that they are in small units (a maximum of 20 children in the junior houses). As they get older they greatly enjoy the more 'grown up' senior boarding houses and the scope of opportunities of the whole school.
Prospective boarding parents sometimes think a smaller school will make it easier for their children to settle into a new school routine. While this may be true, it can mean that a child might go to a school that has less to offer over the five years and the child grows out of it. The Dragon is a very difficult school to grow out of: it is a small school for the youngest children and at the top end the size and scope of the place gives an ideal preparation for life at a senior school.
What effect does boarding have on a child?
Boarding children invariably grow in confidence, as they take greater responsibility for their day-to-day lives. They become more independent as they go up the school and more organised. They learn to get to the right place at the right time with the right equipment and kit. Living in a community also encourages them to understand that their actions impinge on others, and therefore they learn to be considerate of others more and respect their different opinions.
Children comment that they have a good social life as boarders. Without daily travel and with supervised homework built in to the day, they have more free time. This means time to spend with friends, better access to a wide range of activities and an ability to use the facilities available on the school site.
Boarding life is busy and generally very cheerful. But there are of course moments for every boarder when things may not be going so well and they miss home. The boarding and teaching staff have great experience of this and will help children to feel better quickly. The boarders themselves are also quick to spot any unhappiness and will help their friends. All the children are supported by the Dragon's pastoral care programme; an important element of our programme is helping children to understand that life has its "ups and downs" and that that this is quite normal and something with which they can cope.
How does boarding affect family life?
Boarding can enhance family life in several ways. Many boarding families comment that time together at exeats, half terms and holidays is more "special." One boy a few years ago insisted on being a boarder, despite his father's protestations, clinching the argument with the remark, "But, Daddy, you are never home in time." Boarding parents can work hard in the knowledge that their children are cared for, happy and busy at school. When families are together they often find relationships are enhanced by appreciation of "quality time" and the lack of some parental stresses such as the school run or managing homework.
Boarding parents are an important part of the Dragon community and enjoy many opportunities to socialise with each other and meet with the staff. Their involvement is also vital to the success of their child's boarding experience: boarding at the Dragon is a partnership of school and parents.
What sort of boarding does the Dragon offer?
Dragon boarders are a mixture of local, national and international children, so we offer "full boarding" plus some “Day Boarding” for boys and girls in Year 4, 5 and 6. The system allows families to be together regularly where this is possible, and where it is not, for the children to be well catered for here at school.
At the quarter and three-quarter term mark there are regular breaks or 'exeats'. These usually run from Friday lunchtime through to Sunday night. The half-term holidays are sufficiently long (e.g. two weeks in the Christmas Term) to allow overseas boarders the option of returning home. For London families there is a coach service to and from Kensington. Boarders whose families live overseas are escorted to/from the airport.
In the Christmas and Summer term boarders can also have also two optional extra Saturday nights at home before half term and two after half term. In the Easter term it is one either side of the half term. They can leave after their last commitment on the Saturday and return on Sunday evening.
How much contact do children have with their parents in term time?
The boarders have easy and frequent contact with their parents. Each boarder has an email address and can send/receive emails at any of the school's computers. They also have personal pin numbers for the telephones in the boarding houses. In addition the school upholds the important boarding tradition of a weekly letter home.
We are always delighted to welcome parents to the school to see their children take part in musical and dramatic productions, to watch sporting matches and to enjoy individual house events.
How much contact do parents have with the staff?
Parents have direct contact with the boarders' houseparents and can easily telephone or email. The Dragon sees boarding as a partnership in parenting and, particularly in the case of younger boarders, will contact you often to let you know how your son or daughter is doing.
Who can my child go to with a problem?
If the children do have a worry, they know that they have a range of people available to whom they can talk. These include houseparents, tutors and boarding assistants.
We know that when children feel secure and happy they will make the best of their time with us. We make every effort to uphold the Dragon's Golden Rule "Treat others as you would like to be treated yourself", and teach the children to have respect for themselves and others.
Relationships between boarders and between boarders and staff are extremely strong so that they view their environment as a home from home. They speak very warmly of the support they are given by their house parents and other staff and are very confident that their worries and concerns will always be sympathetically and professionally handled. They display strong support strategies for their peers, particularly in activities where helping each other is a key to success.
As boarding parents, how do we meet the parents of other Dragons or staff?
You will get to know other parents when you pick up and drop off your children at the boarding house. The School holds a number of academic and social events over the course of the year for parents of boarders. You will be able to meet each other and talk to parents of day children and to members of staff. We want you to feel a part of the Dragon too!
How do I know if boarding is the right thing for my child?
The decision to board is not always an easy one, particularly as you have to anticipate a year or so ahead how a child is going to develop. We will certainly advise you, and rest assured, if we do not feel a child is ready or right for boarding, we will say so.
It is essential to come and see one of our junior houses for yourself and to experience the atmosphere in them. Boarding is not the right answer for all families, but once you have seen round and had the chance to talk through your concerns, you should be much clearer in your minds whether this is right for your family or not.
When should we bring our son/daughter to look round?
Boarding at the Dragon is very popular so it is advisable to register your interest as early as possible. The best time to come to look around with your child is about eighteen months before the intended start of boarding. It is always a revealing exercise to go round the school with your child, so we can all see his/her reactions to it. After this, all being well, there will be a number of further opportunities to visit the school before s/he starts to board. We make sure children feel they do know the place, have seen where they will be living and have met a number of people before they actually join us.