Insight into State Boarding Schools

Steyning Grammar School boarders SUS-140810-123530001
Steyning Grammar School boarders SUS-140810-123530001

A survey released on Monday October 6 commissioned by the State Boarding School Association surveying 87% of parents of boarders in the State Schools sector confirmed that 93% of parents said their children were happy boarding and that they would recommend their child’s school and boarding to others.

In summary parents perceive the strengths of boarding to be: An holistic focus on the child, access to a wide range of activities and access to social life, friendships and a community.

Twenty-nine of the 35 State Boarding Schools participated in the survey including Steyning Grammar School. State Boarding has been referred to in past reports as ‘one of the UKs best kept secrets in education’.

Findings of this survey confirm parents’ opinion on the strengths of State Boarding as being the UK curriculum, value for money and a broader mix of children including international students.

Robin Fletcher, National Director of the Boarding Schools’ Association, said: “This survey shows parents increasingly see boarding as the right decision for their children. Children at boarding schools in the UK can get the best of all worlds – great academic quality, the chance to do so many other things and the opportunity to build lasting friendships.”

Steyning Grammar School is the only State Boarding School in Sussex offering weekly or full time boarding accommodation for students from Years 9-13. Ofsted 2012 judged our quality of boarding provision to be Outstanding, reporting:

“Boarders have their individual needs met in an excellent manner within a vibrant and culturally diverse environment. An ethos of mutual respect permeates the school environment and in particular is cemented in the fabric of everyday life within the boarding community.”

Mr Nick Wergan, Headteacher at Steyning Grammar School, a successful and high achieving school supporting over 2000 students from 11-18 years is proud of the school’s integrated boarding provision.

He commented: “These results are an impressive vote of confidence in the quality of our outstanding boarding at Steyning Grammar School.

“Parents at Steyning Grammar recognise how happy and successful their children are as boarders, and the significantly positive impact this has on their academic and emotional learning.

“Boarders develop an enviable skill set of grit, resilience, curiosity and zest, giving them a significant advantage in the next steps of their lifelong learning journeys; this takes place in a family community of care, friendship and enrichment that enables students to really fulfil their potential.”

Head Boy of Boarding, Raymond Njoku in his final of four years stated: “I made the choice to come here and I have not regretted that choice. It’s been the best experience of my life.”

Mr Wergan explained the strong school ethos: “Steyning Grammar School is a unique, successful and dynamic learning community, built on traditions of excellence and highest expectations, combined with a commitment to innovation and new thinking, supporting students in being the best they can be, in preparation for their futures.

“The school has always had boarders, since its beginning in 1614, and now the international aspect of our boarding community representing 32 countries adds enormously to this dynamic learning environment.”

A multimillion pound state of the art boarding facility opened in 2011 providing a dedicated Sixth Form house where students are accommodated in their own single-rooms, most with ensuite bathroom facilities, while lower year groups have large, spacious rooms which they may share with their friends.

This combined with three other recently refurbished boarding houses means that the school can now cater for 124 boarders. The boarding atmosphere is a happy, fun-filled one, and the friendships between the different ages, backgrounds, nationalities and genders are instantly noticeable, creating a real sense of community.

Many parents and students choose boarding as an option because this offers an environment where students can excel.

The national survey confirms that over 80% of parents choose State Boarding schools because of the high academic quality and the chance for their children to fulfil their potential.

At Steyning Grammar School, students and parents highlight that an excellent programme is in place which ensures that boarders receive comprehensive guidance and support in their transition toward adulthood and independence.

Miss Danielle Cook, Director of Boarding confirmed that: “This is certainly true at Steyning Grammar School with boarding students achieving 100% pass rate at A Level, with 84% of the subjects taken by boarders at A Level achieving grades at A* - C. Steyning Grammar School provides students with a real ‘home-from-home’ experience. Students quickly develop independence; build friendships and networks which last a lifetime.”

Deputy Head Boy Christopher Nixon who joined Steyning Grammar School from Northern Ireland in Y12 enthused: “Boarding is great; it prepares you for later life and higher education. It has influenced me in a really great way.”

Steyning Grammar School is an ideal destination for parents who want all the advantages of a familiar UK day-school in a beautiful, safe location adjacent to the South Downs National Park, free from the distractions to learning of modern city life.

Boarding can also offer that stepping stone for students between home and higher or further independent education, and an introduction to a more independent way of life whilst being surrounded by a strong support network of committed house-parents in each of the four boarding houses, a fully qualified matron and boarding tutors.

House Parent of Bolton’s Sixth Form House and Deputy Director of Boarding, Mr T Leighton echoed the sentiments of his team who feel privileged to live and work in boarding. “Our students take an active role in shaping their own boarding experience; student voice is valued, encouraged and lies at the heart of our philosophy of continual improvement and innovation.”

Recent Sixth Form College leaver, Arnau Devis-Peiro who has recently taken up a place to read Medicine reflected: “I have been very lucky to have chosen this boarding school for what have been the two most crucial years of my life, both as a student and as a person.”

Mr and Mrs Bello, parents of Feyi who has recently progressed to a degree course at Loughborough University and whose son now takes up a place in Y12 has nothing but praise for all that boarding offers.

“We have been blessed to have found a home away from home for the last two years. Academic, non-academic and pastoral staff have been a great support to our daughter.

“Her maturity and independence has increased and her focus and ambition has grown significantly.”

With a large and vibrant community there is always something to become involved in.

Whether representing a winning sports team or performing in front of a live audience, participating in the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, local beach cleans or downland conservation, charity and community projects or simply taking full advantage of the wide range of daily activities and weekend trips and events, every experience is unique and memorable.

The vast majority of the UK Boarders at the school come from the Home Counties and Channel Islands. Weekly boarders often live within the local catchment area of the School.

Head Girl of Boarding, Anna Donavan and her family from London chose Steyning for her Sixth Form College career identifying the family atmosphere and breadth of learning opportunities beyond the classroom as the reasons for their decision.

The survey found that parents believe State Boarding offers great value for money. At Steyning Grammar School there is no tuition fee to pay, and the boarding fees are three termly payments of £3470 for full boarding and £2930 for weekly boarding, providing a very affordable boarding opportunity for local students and beyond.

For further details on the Steyning Grammar School, the Sixth Form College and the Boarding environment we offer please visit A full prospectus is available online.

If you would like to have a tour of the school and boarding facilities or to join one of our ‘Boarding Taster Days’ to experience ‘Life as a Boarder’ then please contact our Boarding Registrar, Mrs Plimmer on 01903 817601.

Report contributed by Steyning Grammar School.