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The Archers Lodge Experience

    22 January 2021

Having worked in boarding schools – either as assistant housemasters, housemasters or Head of Boarding – for quite a number of combined years (we won’t disclose how many) we were chatting the other day about how it struck us both that the word ‘boarding’ fails so spectacularly to capture the essence of what boarding is and its lifelong impact on the young people who experience it.  It is such a ‘small’ word for such a profound aspect of a child’s life (and, indeed, those of the house staff who care for them).

There are many reasons why a child would opt for a boarding school and in this day and age we are seeing children making this choice with their parents’ consent rather than the other way around. Whether it be for the academic focus, the chance to experience increased independence, make lifelong friendships (and boarders really do make these), live in beautiful surroundings, have access to facilities which would normally mean a trip to a sports club or gym, or a combination of the above, children, with few exceptions, cherish their experiences of boarding. 

With a much greater understanding of children’s welfare and mental well-being over the last few decades, the boarding experience in the UK has, thank goodness, moved on from the days of Flashman; boarding is a positive, enriching and fun experience, and we are delighted that Sherfield (unlike many schools with boarding) has a good number of boarders back at Archers Lodge this term.  Already we are seeing the positive impact the experience is having on these lucky few who have the very great privilege of enjoying a thriving community and extended family atmosphere when so many other children have limited social contact with their peers except through devices and social media.  We are, of course, mindful that our boarders remain safe and we are following all of the government guidelines and advice.   Health and hygiene in the house is made all the more easy as every child has their own, well-appointed, ensuite study room.

Our returning boarders have continued to flourish and make the most of the activities and opportunities afforded to them by house staff and the vast school facilities. Indeed, pupils are currently engaged in art projects to personalise the spacious common rooms and corridors and enjoyed a Domino’s pizza and movie night last weekend. A daily post-school Boarding House run has been established around our beautiful grounds to ensure that boarders get outside in the fresh country air and experience some much needed off-screen time. In keeping with the physical activity and exercise theme, organised gym sessions are taking place in our Fitness Suite and the Sports Hall hosts Badminton Tournaments and Futsal Matches. Back at Archers Lodge, the new pool table has been a real source of enthusiasm and many hours have been enjoyed playing timeless family games such as Monopoly, UNO and Jenga.  Moreover, our snug area has proved a popular, quiet space to read and reflect and it has been refreshing to see the piano put to greater use.   

Moving to a boarding environment means joining a tight-knit and supportive community. Our aim is to guide and nurture every pupil so that they are equipped with the tools to leave us as happy, secure young adults who are ready to take their place in the world. When they leave Archers Lodge for the last time, we want them to look back with many happy memories and few regrets - to exit with a brighter future and as a better person.  

Boarding is something which children really need to try out to get any sense of what it is actually like - and most who try it love it.   To that end, we have been discussing plans to invite our day pupils to experience boarding when we are ‘back to normal’.  We would anticipate that this would be done in year or friendship groups for one, two or more nights and should be a great experience with organised activities, food and fun.  Following lockdown we would anticipate that many parents would be grateful of the chance for a bit of time off from the kids (remember those things called ‘a weekend break’?) and when the opportunity presents itself we will send you more information. 

We’d also like to freshen up that outdated term ‘boarding’ so we’ll start referring to this as the Archers Lodge Residential Experience (as a working title) which we feel better conveys what we hope to offer – a chance to experience life away from home in a safe, supportive environment, develop different skills, and improve resilience and confidence.

We look forward to seeing as many pupils as possible enjoying the experience at Archers Lodge.

Kind regards

Mr Page - Head of Boarding
Mr Ykhlef - Housemaster

News Senior Leadership Team Blog

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