For each girl and boy, life centres around the activities of their own class (or form) and the world of their dormitory (or dorm). Every child, boarding or not, has their own bed in their dorm.
Each Year group is divided into two or three forms. Each form has its own form teacher, and the numbers are small so we can keep a close eye on the work and development of each child during the course of the year.
In addition, every child is a member of a “house”: Athenians, Spartans or Trojans. The houses compete against each other in sports, house singing competitions, swimming and collecting points for good work or exceptionally good citizenship. The houses bring together children of all ages in a joint effort to support each other, recognise each other’s talents and occasionally help some to improve their approach to aspects of school life so as not to let down their house! Each term, the winning house goes on an expedition together. In an age of increasing individualism, structures reinforcing the benefits of working effectively in teams or in the common interest of a group and the compromises required to achieve this, are ever more valuable.
The day begins for boarders with “breathers”, a walk outside around the school to get some fresh air before the day begins. This is followed by breakfast in the dining room. Everyone meets in their form room at 8.25 before going to Chapel for a brief service or an assembly of the whole school in the Theatre before classes begin. The ethos of the Elms is Christian in the Anglican tradition. For children from Catholic families we make provision with the local Catholic church in Malvern. For children of other faiths or none, we are very happy to discuss how we can meet their particular needs.
Each subject has a “home” among our assortment of buildings: science is in the new science block; French is in the Penthouse and so on. So the children move round the school from one lesson to another gaining fresh air, exercise and a change of scene. Lunch in the dining room is followed by an hour’s rest in the dorms so the children can gather themselves for the afternoon. Everyone plays sports in the afternoon, which may involve training or matches internally or against other schools. Depending on the day, there might be more lessons; then after supper at 6.00 or 6.30 depending on seniority, clubs begin.
The extra curricular clubs are organised by teachers and include an interesting range of opportunities to try something new or improve on an existing interest or talent. They vary from term to term but have involved tai kwondo, model-making, ball games, board games and photography. Children who are not boarding often stay for supper and clubs. During the lighter summer evenings, the children play outside, practise their “rip-sticking” or just enjoy our beautiful surroundings. Bedtimes are staggered by Year group but by 9.30 everyone is tucked up in bed and should be fast asleep.
The school week starts on Monday morning and continues to the end of games on Saturday afternoon, with either away or home fixtures. Parents, both Elms and of visiting teams, enjoy the famed Elms match teas. Sunday is a day of relaxation for everyone. For boarders, it is a time to enjoy events such as expeditions to the circus, hiking in the Malvern Hills or wall climbing. Alternatively, it is an opportunity to sit and read a book, practise their musical instrument, “chill” in front of the PlayStation, listen to music or challenge the staff to a game of chess or football.
The school year is punctuated by traditional events which are much cherished by the children; for example the inter-house swimming tournament, an event at which parents are at least as noisy as the children in support of their teams; the Seniors’ Christmas Feast for which everyone is formally dressed, the dining room is superbly decorated and the kitchen staff excel themselves, or the Leavers’ matches in which mothers play daughters at rounders and fathers play sons at cricket. There is also an annual school ski trip by coach to Austria which we have run for many years with a local travel firm, who provide a team of excellent ski teachers who travel with us. Parents are welcome to join the trip and over the years many have. Indeed it has become an institution which for some is unmissable.
These and other events provide a framework for a truly distinctive life as the children move through the school.