With special insight into our international students, our Head of English as a Second Language asks what makes our family atmosphere?
Coming to a boarding school in itself can be a nerve wracking experience. Leaving home for the first time, living with new friends, the different sights, sounds and smells around you. But this becomes harder if you are arriving in a new country with all new expectations and a language that you are unfamiliar with too.
Every year we welcome international boarders into the school from countries as varied as Germany, Hong Kong and Nigeria with over thirty new international students arriving this year alone. So what measures do we put in place to make sure our boarding houses feel like home, with staff and fellow students starting to feel like an extended family?
High ratio of full time house staff on hand 24 hours a day
Miss Anders leads a boarding team that is on site and available to the boarders throughout the school day. Whether you need to check travel arrangements for the end of the school term or just see a friendly face between lessons, the matrons and house masters are available. Trained by the Boarding School Association, Miss Anders to always on hand to look out for signs of loneliness or unhappiness and as a former boarder herself she know how to support pupils if needed. There is something special about living in a boarding house and the nurturing of our house staff will create a family bond across year groups.
Keeping students busy after school hours
Ensuring pupils are busy and active doing things they enjoy leads to happy children. Free time at Fyling Hall is packed with activities that use our wonderful location to the maximum. Whether it is horse riding or mountain biking in the North Yorkshire Moors or walking to the beach for an ice cream there is plenty to do outside here. Music practise rooms are open for boarders who are musically talented and many take part in local choirs, bands and orchestras too. For those who prefer indoor activities the house staff run pool competitions, film nights are popular and the 6th form girls have run pamper sessions for their house with face masks and mani-pedis. At the weekend trips to York, Scarborough or just into Whitby for shopping are popular and pupils are encouraged to spend time with friends from all different nationalities which helps them quickly make friends and improve their English.
Small class sizes
When pupils are in school, keeping their class sizes small allows the teacher to monitor their progress more easily. At Fyling Hall, our classes rarely go above 14 pupils and in our English Second Language classes, the average class is only 8 pupils. This allows academic progress but more importantly means the teachers really get to know each pupil well. Positive relationships between teachers and pupils lead to a friendly classroom atmosphere and encourages questions from pupils. We find that pupils who are questioning actively engage in their learning more readily and therefore learn at a quicker rate. Teaching and boarding staff often cross over at Fyling Hall, with many members of boarding duty staff teaching during the day. This allows a close communication between both teams to ensure pupils are happy, fulfilled and feel part of their new family.
Small dorms but also access to common rooms and social spaces
At home, I am sure most pupils have their own bedroom or share with a sibling. They would probably prefer to continue having their own bedroom at their new boarding school; so why do we offer small dormitories rather than private rooms? The answer is simple, pupils who have private rooms often shut themselves away in the first few weeks of arrival and therefore feel isolated and alone away from family for the first time. By offering small dorms of between 2 and 5 beds, pupils are encouraged to make friends and share experiences within their room. Our dorms are often multi-cultural which encourages pupils to use English as a shared language and therefore help their language to progress. Pupils are allocated their dorm by age with many pupils sharing with their classmates too, meaning there is always someone who can help with homework or to share a laugh with about the day.
Mixed age boarding houses and supportive older pupils
Our senior students (Head Boy/Head Girl) and our house prefects hold responsibility for supporting the pupils in the lower years. In recent years this has included listening to younger pupils read or helping them learn their spellings, taking part in a mentoring programme or just being on hand when new pupils move into the boarding house. Seeing a smiling face who has been through the same emotions as you, who understands you and in some cases who shares your language can be reassuring for pupils when they first arrive. We encourage the 6th form and older boarders to be supportive to their younger boarding siblings and help them through the first few weeks in particular.
We love our international boarders here at Fyling Hall and it is gratifying to see that so many of our boarders love it here too. This is what makes our family atmosphere. Pupils who come for one term and end up staying for three years, or pupils who come back year after year for short stays with us once their home school holidays start. We look forward to seeing you all again soon!
Lizzie Jeeves, Head of Drama and English as a Second Language, Year 7 Tutor