Boarding is at the heart of our school and an area of significant focus for us. To that end, in late 2020, Bedford School undertook an extensive independent research study to understand more of what boarding at Bedford brings to boys (both now and for their futures) as well as to their families. We spoke to boys (boarders and day boys, current and Old Bedfordian), staff, parents (both boarding and day) and prospective parents. Our findings are outlined in the sections below. Expanding each will give you an understanding of what boarding brings to boys here academically, on an extra-curricular level, to their families and for their development, both at school and beyond.
We would encourage all parents to take a look, whether you are already considering boarding for your son or had not considered it as an option before. To request your copy of the findings in full, or for details of upcoming boarding events, please email our Admissions team.
We also invite you to watch our online ‘Inside Boarding at Bedford’ talk below, during which the Head Master, James Hodgson and Independent Researcher Jo Reid help to ‘lift the lid’ on boarding and answer many of the questions regularly asked by families.
Benefits of boarding at Bedford
(Please click to expand each section.)
Enhanced Academic Offer
As boarders, boys have the benefit of their Housemaster, Assistant Housemaster and Tutors on hand in the boarding house to provide a wealth of professional guidance and advice on their prep and studies. They can also access specialist subject tutoring in the house on weekday evenings to discuss and work through specific academic problems or develop areas of study further. In the Upper School, additional mathematics and physics sessions are also available to boarders in the library each week along with talks from external speakers to enhance their subject knowledge.
Each night, Prep time is set aside for boarders, which, with everyone working simultaneously, results in greater focus amongst all boys, something that works particularly well in the run-up to exams.
Boys can also tap into the first-hand knowledge and experience of the older boys in the house, and study with their peers, both of which they recognise as extremely helpful and motivating.
Limitless activities and opportunities
With no daily commute, boarders enjoy more relaxed evenings with plenty of time to do the things that they enjoy, even when a couple of hours are taken over for prep.
“Boarding feels like it adds about six good hours to your day”
With the logistics of getting to and from school removed, they can participate in more activities, both formal and ad hoc. From the school’s many clubs and societies to the plethora of activities laid on just for them, boarders enjoy film nights and friendly house competitions such as the Boarders' Summer Cup, trips out such as go-karting and zorbing, specialist sports coaching, informal music practices and a host of other opportunities. They make full use of all the school’s facilities and specialists to follow their passions, enjoy social activities with their friends or simply unwind. With the opportunity to do as little or as much as they would like, the boys enjoy an unparalleled sense of ownership and control of their lives within the comforting structure of the boarding day.
“There will always be ten other people who want to do what you want to do”
“Having friends to hand seems automatically to make boys engage in activities that are more social and less insular or solitary.”
As boarders, boys not only become a part of their boarding house family but also part of the wider Bedford boarding community. Each day the boys eat together in the dining hall, enjoy time together in the evenings and unrestricted access to each other’s houses. Through year group and house-based activities such as laser tag and water sports, boys form strong bonds and friendships with boys of all ages and cultures, that last far beyond their years at school.
“The depth of friendships fostered by the boarding house experience often equates to a longevity of friendship outside it.”
Development as people
Boarding offers many advantages for boys as they learn to develop as people, and in particular through the challenging teenage years. Living in a house with older boys too, they have many different role models to look up to and learn from. From a young age, they are given responsibilities within their boarding family, practical and meaningful roles to add value to the community in which they live. They are taught kindness and respect for others, quickly learning tolerance and to find common ground where they need to, in order to live comfortably alongside others from many different backgrounds. And with boys from many different cultures and nationalities, they are afforded a global outlook that they wouldn’t otherwise have access to.
“We are absolutely committed to embedding kindness and a culture where every single pupil is valued and can grow into the man he is supposed to be.”
On a more practical front, boarders quickly learn to be organised, to manage their time effectively and to plan ahead – something which their parents often remark upon when they return home for the holidays. They learn to think for themselves and develop their independence from an early age – lasting skills which serve them well as they grow throughout the school.
“I’d tell anyone - it’s not just something you do from 13-18...boarding stays with you and goes with you everywhere afterwards, even more so than day school.”
Skills for the next stage
Boys who have gone on from boarding to university often talk about the smooth nature of the transition and how they feel their experience of living away from home whilst at school prepared them with plenty of useful skills.
They feel they have had a ‘practice run', a soft start where they have been fully supported as they gain the necessary skills for independent living.
Boarding has provided them with a strong work ethic and the ability to plan their time – a skill that goes a long way in the relatively unstructured world of university.
Importantly, they are also accustomed to living in shared accommodation, often with people they don’t know well and they have the skills to cooperate and manage differences in close quarters.
“You can spot the guys who went to boarding school - they’re not fazed by the whole experience, they just hit the ground running”
Family life and boarding
Parents sometimes worry that the boarding house will become a boy’s ‘new family’, somehow taking the place of the close relationships he has at home. The reality is that rather than losing anything, a boy’s family simply becomes larger. The boarding house works in partnership with a boy’s parents to deliver the best experience and outcomes for him as a whole. Contact is informal and frequent and opportunities to visit are many – parents are always welcome at the boarding house, be it for a specific event, or simply just to visit and take their son out for a pizza in the town.
From the family’s perspective, there are also benefits to consider. Not only does boarding help to provide continuity for boys whose parents work long hours or regularly change location, but it also ensures that the time spent together as a family at home is quality time. By removing some of the challenges of everyday family life, families have the luxury of simply enjoying time spent together.
“By the time I pick him up on a Saturday he’s usually done all his work, and I don’t even have to worry about doing his washing - it’s all been taken care of, so I can just enjoy him”