Dragons Today - Summer 2013 - page 6

Hong Kong based Katie Heyring and fellow Dragon parents John
Ford, Chris Fossick and Belinda Burgess based in Singapore told
us about becoming expat boarding families – and some of the
boarders told us what it means to them.
Did you envisage a boarding education for your
children before you left the UK?
Katie:
We left 13 years ago - although the International schools
are good, we feel they lack the variety of UK prep schools.
Compared to our children’s schools in Singapore, Korea and Hong
Kong, there is much more sport at the Dragon.
John:
Yes, because I’d thoroughly enjoyed my own boarding
experience. However I left the UK at 25 in 1989 and later married
a Singaporean Chinese girl who had not been educated overseas
at all, and had never boarded.
Chris:
My wife Marianna is Singaporean and I left in my 20s -
long before marriage and children. However with parenthood
we started thinking about boarding. We have 5 children and the
eldest two are at the Dragon.
Belinda:
Yes, but it was more possible that probable.
How did you go about short listing schools?
Katie:
We looked at four other schools before the Dragon. Two
of them were ‘flexi’ boarding which was no good for us, so as a
co-ed full boarding school the Dragon went straight to the top.
John:
A combination of word of mouth, paternal experience (very
dated!), and convenience (elder sister at Cheltenham Ladies
College). Most importantly we visited schools; it was clear that
top prep schools are in business because they are very good at
what they do. As overseas parents, logistics and ‘gut feel’ proved
most important.
Chris:
My godson is at the Dragon and we had friends with
children at the school so it was an easy choice and we didn’t really
consider other prep schools.
Belinda:
It was easy – girls’ or mixed boarding prep schools with
sufficient numbers of girls in school at weekends, within a couple
of hours of Heathrow. There aren’t many!
What factors influenced the stage your
children started to board?
Katie:
We decided that Year 4, when boarding starts, was
best. Expats often move around, so to know your children will
be at the same school for five years – and make friends and
keep them - was important.
John:
All of us (including Edward) are glad he
went young; he got the full benefit of the Dragon
academically, socially, sports-wise, and personally.
I’d boarded in the UK from age seven back in the
1970s but it really is very different today. I didn’t see
my parents for months, occasionally had to deal
with a bullying, had limited activities available, and no
telephone access. Nowadays we can speak to or Skype
There are always British boarders at the Dragon whose families are based overseas. Amongst these is a long-
established stream from Hong Kong and Singapore. Why do parents choose a school that is a long-haul
flight away? How do children cope with life in two countries?
Dragons Today
spoke to some families who
know from experience.
The Expat Pack
Edward when we want (in theory – he doesn’t always oblige!),
there are Exeats and Floaters, zero tolerance of bullying and
unkindness, and a fabulous extensive extra-curricular programme.
And the Dragon Health Centre has been a godsend when,
inevitably, health issues have surfaced.
Chris:
As we live far from the UK we didn’t want our children to
board too young and wanted them to go together. To give Claire
more than one year, we decided Jack should enter in Year 6
and Claire Year 7. Other factors were preparation for Common
Entrance and future schools - because of this we wanted them
to benefit from the excellent education we knew the Dragon would
offer them.
Belinda:
A public school Registrar advised us that if our children
went to prep school for at least two years they would find the
transition more seamless; he also felt that children coming directly
from overseas were likely to find the contrast very great, both
socially and academically. So our middle two girls started at the
Dragon aged 10 and 11. Our youngest, who is eight, did not
really want to be by herself (with Mum and Dad) in Singapore. We
concluded that her request to board, too, was fair enough and that
she would likely relish it.
What did your children think about the prospect
of boarding?
Katie:
Both my husband and I boarded at a young age because
our parents were expats. We talked about this frequently, so the
children were very excited from hearing our experiences.
John:
When it came to it, Edward actually took to it perfectly
(which is more than you can say for his parents!).
Chris:
We discussed it from a very early age so it didn’t come
as a surprise. They also learned about boarding life from friends’
children. They were apprehensive as the date approached and it
took them a couple of terms to settle fully, but now they are really
enjoying themselves.
Belinda:
Two were very keen and confident - the other two keen
but less confident.
6
D R A G O N S T O D A Y . S U M M E R 2 0 1 3
Boarding Dragons
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