Visitors often notice something special about boarding at
the Dragon. Arrive at breaktime and the informal family
atmosphere in the boarding houses is striking: children
are at home chatting to each other and checking emails,
games abound and the industrious kitchen is buzzing
with activity. Beyond the busy rooms are the calm,
inviting gardens - ideal for ball games, barbecues and, in
one case, keeping chickens. It is clear that children feel at
home here, surrounded by friends and fully involved in a
variety of stimulating activities.
Parents of experienced boarding Dragons are
reassured to see that children flourish academically
but also that they develop vital personal skills. Dragon
boarders grow into sociable, self-assured individuals who
are confident and independent. Houseparents are central
to this development and provide the structure which
supports children’s play and learning. The Houseparents
of three of the Dragon’s ten boarding houses spoke
to Dragons Today about what makes boarding at
the Dragon unique. They agreed that the boarding
experience is grounded in an ethos of warm and
personalised attention and a relaxed, stable environment
but that each House has its own distinct flavour.
have fun with
Roman Day
dress-up at
An Integrated Approach to Boarding
James and Emma Piper are
Houseparents to boys aged
10 to 11 at Stradlings and have
three children of their own.
They view their primary role
as providing the boys with a
home from home. They see the
children regularly throughout
the day and know them well
as individuals. The Pipers’ dog
Tarka is a member of the family
and always happy to step in and
give the boys extra attention
when needed.
For the Pipers, the
rewarding part of their role as
Houseparents has been to get
a more in-depth understanding
of the children: to see them
interact socially and appreciate
their sense of humour, kindness
and compassion; to get a
fuller picture of the child in the
context of the other things that
may be happening in their lives.
Communication is a priority.
James makes sure he spends
time with each child: “It’s easy
seeing the boys daily, but we
also want to give them the
individual attention they need.
Sometimes sharing a joke or a
little one-on-one time makes the
world of difference, and these
interactions foster trust between
Houseparents and child which
is vital. It is extremely important
to talk to each boy individually,
to find out about the coming
week and listen to any worries”.
The Pipers are very aware
of the range of nationalities
the children represent. “We
understand that it can be hard
for pupils who are particularly
far from home. There is a large
map of the world on the wall in
the House with photographs,
phrases and flags from the
homes of international children.
We have fun evenings when
children make tasty food from
their home countries and
attempt to teach each other a bit
of their home language”.
A Boys’ Year 6 House
Gunga Din
Boarding Dragons
D R A G O N s T O D A Y . s P R I N G 2 0 1 1
Did you know there are:
• 10 boarding houses –
4 junior (Years 4 & 5),
3 middle (Year 6), and
3 senior (Years 7 & 8)
• 250 boarders – from
Oxfordshire, London, the
rest of the UK and overseas
• Furthest boarder: Bunbury,
• Closest boarder: Park
Town, Oxford
• Boarding pets include
2 boarding house chickens
and 1 gekko
“Sharing a joke or a little
one-on-one time makes the
world of difference”
1,2,3 5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12