Boarding is at the heart of The Elms. Maintaining a full-boarding ethos is very important to us; it is fundamental to the distinctive family feel of the school, and school life is very much organised around it.
A significant part of every child’s life centres on the “dorm”. Each child, whether full boarder or not, has a bed. Everyone has a rest after lunch on their bed; the children keep their private things in their tuck box at the end of their bed; they keep their spare clothes in the cupboards in the dorm. At Christmas, competition is fierce for the best decorated dorm.
The boys’ dorms ramble through the upper floor of the main school building. Each dorm is the preserve of a particular Year group and the boys enjoy progressing through the dorms as they rise through the school. The girls’ dorms are in the more modern part of the main building. They, too, are in Year groups. The girls take a wholly different approach to the look of their dorms! Each term we mix the children up so they all get to know and live with each other in their Year group.
Even if initially children are not full boarders or do not board at all, as each child has a bed, they can try it on a flexible basis. We arrange special nights to give those who want to try it a taste. We find that children are very keen to board.
Largely free from the pressure of personal devices and social media, their life at the school helps provide the kind of carefree childhood which is fast vanishing. Parents tell us that their children love everything about the boarding life at The Elms. For those living in the surrounding area, instead of spending time travelling to and fro every day, they take in the life of the school to the full. Parents have the all too rare pleasure of receiving a letter from their children every week. And, even if parents are not able to come into school for music, drama or sporting events, with an exeat (a weekend at home) mid-way through each half term, children and parents know they are only a couple of weeks or so from seeing each other and catching up on all the news.
Boarding at The Elms is absolutely not a replacement for home. It does, however, encourage a community of all ages, and is a genuinely friendly and safe environment for children to learn to get on with and tolerate others, a capacity of which the world has so much need. They develop particularly strong, life-long friendships. It is, in addition, excellent preparation for life at senior school, where many children will be full boarders. We find that Elms children make the transition easily and confidently, with reserves of energy and enthusiasm to make a very positive impact in their new environment.
Both the girls’ and boys’ boarding are led by a housemother and housemaster respectively, ably supported by assistant house staff and matrons. The whole is overseen by the Head of Boarding and, ultimately, the Headmaster who also lives at the school with his family.
Brian Levings, Head of Boarding