‘Boarding has reinvented itself in the 21st Century and the great boarding prep schools have never been better at welcoming pupils in at a variety of ages to help prepare them for senior school life.’

Sending your child to a new school can present all sorts of anxieties and concerns and, if the school is a boarding school 3,500 miles away, these become more acute. Whether it is the right thing to do is a question that is made all the more difficult by the fact that the young change and mature at varying rates, and what is right one moment may well not be right a few months later,let alone a few years later. When the answer does become clear it may be the case that the school that had been under consideration is full, and it can be a question of returning to the drawing board and either making do with a less satisfactory plan B or abandoning the whole idea.

Boarding is by consent rather than compulsion and schools will sense if your child is willing to make the leap into a boarding environment. They will be very wary of taking a boy or a girl on who does not feel comfortable with the idea of spending term time away from home. Decisions can be made more complicated by a sense of parental guilt about sending a child away to school. Boarding may well be able to give the child an education that home and a day school cannot provide, but a completely understandable parental desire to keep the young in the nest may obscure reality.

In a restless world where jobs change and some children are placed in and removed from schools at a rate of knots, sometimes boarding as young as 8 or 9 becomes an option that parents opt for in order to secure a degree of stability for a child. They may dread doing this and fear the worst, but the pastoral care in the relatively small number of boarding Prep Schools has changed beyond all recognition thanks to improvements in communications and indeed the world of accountability, compliance and inspection.

Boarding has reinvented itself in the 21st Century and the great boarding Prep Schools have never beenbetter at welcoming pupils in at a variety of ages to help prepare them for senior school life.

In the UK many senior girls’ boarding schools start when pupils are aged 11, and this can be a good time to start boarding. Senior Boys’ boarding schools tend to start when pupils are aged 13. Like the Prep Schools, senior schoolsare used to embracing pupils from all around the world. In days gone by when it was a case of putting names down at birth, schools tended to be extensions of dinner parties that had taken place eleven or thirteen years earlier. This is certainly not the case now, as the schools have realised that sensible parents take time to make up their minds, and the schools have also embraced the importance of casting a broad net in order to make them more interesting places. The young will be moving into an international world and it is good for them to grow up with people from a variety of different backgrounds in a school that embraces both tradition and progression.

Some young people are simply not ready to board in their early teens, but many schools will have opportunities to join in the sixth form. Entry at this stage can be particularly beneficial in terms of getting ready for a university education. Important lessons are learnt within the framework of the sixth form which gives the young a bit more freedom, but which also provides a clear framework that will underpin academic success, promote the importance of co-curricular life and underline the importance of the emotional maturity that is developed by the emphasis on pastoral care. Rigour, respect and responsibility are themes that are common to all great schools as they prepare the young for the next stage of life.

UK boarding schools are recognised as world class institutions with the balance they achieve between academic success, the world of play and the importance of helping the young to emerge as decent and caring individuals who see the point of other people. They will all appreciate the worries that parents face when sending their child away to school, and they will all be very happy to discuss any concerns.

Niall Hamilton is the Senior Admissions Tutor at Marlborough College