Helena Frith Powell, lives in between Abu Dhabi and the UK, and is a published author of several books including her latest book, The Ex-Factor, and a best-selling author of Love In a Warm Climate. Helena has almost 20 years experience in journalism and still writes for the Daily Mail UK and is the Editor of Five Magazine in Abu Dhabi. Helena and her husband have 3 children currently at boarding school, and she shares her personal feelings about a much debated system.
The children have now been at boarding school for a year and a half and I am still not really sure what I think of it all. Having never been to boarding school, it was never one of those things I was adamant I wanted to do, although I could see the benefits and was jealous of all my friends who went.
It all started with a bike ride. Bertrand Russell, the philosopher, returned from a bicycle ride with the realisation that he no longer loved his wife and told her that they must separate. My husband returned from cycling in the Languedoc hills two summers ago with a similar epiphany, although his concerned the children, not me. “We must send the children to boarding school,” he said, before going upstairs for a shower.
When a man comes back from a bike ride with something to say, one is forced to listen and, sometimes, even to act. In fact, our children’s education had been worrying me too.
We had been based in Abu Dhabi for six years by then and I felt there was something missing from their lives. One of our friends from France summed it up when he came to stay by saying that Olivia was “running on empty”. There just wasn’t enough to stimulate them in Abu Dhabi, at least not in terms of education. I still don’t believe that a school that finishes at 2.30 pm can possibly be teaching them enough. Added to which, it was expensive. And as we were spending our own money we decided we would rather spend it on something more worthwhile.
As I said they have now been there for a year and a half. There is no doubting the benefits. All of them have flourished. Leo has developed into a gorgeous little gentleman and already knows more than I do about just about everything. He has captained his school football and cricket teams. Bea has turned out to be a school superstar, with great grades and masses of extra-curricular activities such as the school play, musical theatre and netball to mention a few. Olivia has become a lovely, confident and capable young lady, who is on track to do really well in her GCSEs this year and has made friends I think she will know forever.
There are so many upsides; the education (obviously), the people they meet, the things they do (Leo’s school just raised money for Afghanistan by reading poetry for 24 hours in a tree-house, nuts I know, but what a lovely romantic idea), the sport they play, the values they learn, the bonds they make. But what are the downsides?
I suppose the biggest one is that I miss them. OK I won’t pretend to miss the everyday drudgery of the school run, the homework, and the endless bickering. But I do miss not seeing them every day and not kissing them goodnight. The girls are much better at keeping in touch with me than Leo, so we skype or talk every day, but sometimes I won’t hear from him for ten days, which is tough. I rely on texts from another mother to know how he got on in his football matches. And of course I wake up in the middle of the night wondering how he is.
The truth is of course, he’s fine. He’s more than fine. If he weren’t fine I would hear about it. We have had some bouts of homesickness from all three and I can confirm the saying about boarding school that ‘you’re only as happy as your most miserable child’. A year and a half in though they are all pretty settled and I think would be horrified at the thought of going back to school in Abu Dhabi.
I suppose the reason I say I’m not sure what I think about it is that although I know it’s the best thing for them, I still can’t help wondering if we are all missing out on family life. Having said that I worked out the other day that they have five months at home so we have plenty of that as well.
I don’t think there always is a right or a wrong when it comes to children. Maybe there is just a middle ground that works and for the moment at least, this is it.
As the oppressive summer heat engulfs the region once more, a cool stroll in the verdant parks of London with the children or that much needed shopping spree to catch the summer sales at one of the many designer stores that adorn the classy streets of Knightsbridge and Sloane Street beckon families and leisure travellers alike. Now here comes for some sense and sensibility!
The British luxury hotel operator Maybourne Hotel Group has gathered a promising selection of educational courses and day camps offered at leading Quintessentially English Independent Schools to offer your children a brighter alternative this summer whilst indulging in the Summer Daze* offers at one of Maybourne’s three iconic hotels Claridge’s, the Connaught and the Berkeley.
Whether it be Eton, Winchester or Wellington College, Maybourne Hotel Group presents parents with the opportunity to gift your children with fun and education at one of the day camps for age group 3-15 or the residential courses aimed at teenagers between 12-17 years old held at England’s top-end schools that have educated and molded scholars and statesmen for generations. All of the courses and camps are easily accessible by car or train from your London base and offer a wide range of dates, subject choices and skills on offer.
Make the most of your visit to London by staying at one of the world’s three most renowned luxury London hotels whilst your child experiences a true British education. By George, Maybourne’s got it!
*Summer school prices are not included. Other terms may apply.
Base yourself at one of Maybourne Hotel Group’s three iconic hotels this summer and be tempted by everything London has to offer from the designer shopping to the green open space of Hyde Park. Rates at The Berkeley and Claridge’s start from £390 (inclusive of all taxes) for a Superior King-bedded room, double occupancy. Rates at The Connaught start from £450 (inclusive of all taxes) for a Superior King-bedded room, double occupancy. Check availability and book your Summer Daze special offer online, or alternatively call their Reservations team at +44 (0)20 7107 8841.
Terms and Conditions: Valid from 18th July – 7th September 2014, subject to availability. Bookings must be made by the 30th June 2014. Rate is inclusive of 20% VAT. A 5% discretionary service charge will be added to your bill at check-out. Cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer or negotiated rate. Applies to new bookings only, and a minimum length of stay may apply.
For further information on the residential courses and day camps please visit the website: http://www.claridges.co.uk/Summer_Camps/
SUMMER SCHOOL PACKAGES
The British Association of Boarding School Short Courses offers teenagers intensive residential courses with excellent English tuition, a range of sporting activities including football and golf, cultural days out and performing arts at some of England’s most prestige boarding schools, including Harrow School, Dulwich College and Mill Hill School. There are courses of varying lengths from 13 -28 days, as well as a range of English Language Plus courses. Most courses are aimed at the 13-17 age group while some are offered to children from age 8.
Best Study Abroad – Eton College Summer Courses
Gives your children a chance to board at the most famous of England’s Independent Schools where David Cameron, Boris Johnson and Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, were educated. For students aged 13-17, the three-week residential course in July and August offers English tuition, cultural appreciation, drama and public speaking and trips where students experience a 25% increase in their English level.
There are equivalent two-week courses aimed at a younger age group 8-12, hosted at Tonbridge School and Charterhouse School, as well as an exclusive English and football course hosted in Manchester with a much desired visit to Manchester United and Manchester city football grounds.
Bell English Courses at Wellington College
Three courses hosted from 2nd July at Wellington College, one of England’s largest and most exclusive private schools situated in picturesque Berkshire nearby to Windsor. Choose between the intensive English study, a Business Leaders course to develop business skills or a Young Performers course for budding actors, singers and dancers. The courses are aimed at the 12-17 age group whilst also offering options for younger learners aged 7-12.
Winchester College Pre-College Enrichment
This intensive four week course is aimed at confident English speakers between the ages of 15-17 and offers 22.5 hours tuition per week, with cultural and sporting activities, and day trips to London, Bath and other historic locations. Each week students choose a different Major and Minor subject to focus on, including preparing for exams, business plan writing and storyboarding, interpersonal, and communication and life skills.
Non-residential day multi-activity and specialist camps for children aged 3-14 offering a wide range of cultural, cooking, arts and crafts, and sporting choices. Parents can book as many or as few as their child’s heart desires at the plethora of locations in and around London, including St Nicholas’ Preparatory School which is opposite Hyde Park.
Activity day camps offering endless fun with swimming, trampolining and arts and crafts for 4-14 year olds in London, including the nearby Queen Elizabeth School in Barnet. The courses are tailored to different age groups with the 4-6 year olds having a different timetable to children ages 11-14.
This is a highly experienced Day Camp running in various London locations including Christ’s School in Richmond and Mill Hill School in North London operator catered for ages 3-16. Camps offer many sporting activities, as well as specialist care for 3-4 year olds.