We ask Jenny Godwin, a matron at prestigious prep school Cheam, about what life is like in a school boarding house.
1) What atmosphere do you try to foster in the boarding house?
Our job is to provide a safe, happy and caring environment where students can relax after a busy school day; a home from home.
These are the things we aim for:
- To safeguard and promote the welfare of each child.
- To create an atmosphere of tolerance and trust.
- To provide accommodation that is comfortable and provides adequate levels of privacy.
- To have a range of activities, hobbies and pastimes that will help the personal and social development of each child.
- To help develop the child’s leadership and teamwork skills.
- To create a caring and positive environment.
2) Do children enjoy sleeping in dormitories?
The majority of children do enjoy sleeping in dorms. They treat it like having a sleepover with friends. They are able to bring in personal items like photos, soft toys, cushions etc to make it feel like home.
3) How do you handle homesickness?
All boarders feel homesick at some time. Talking to the child helps – finding out about any concerns they may have and offering them lots of reassurance and TLC. We will find something for them to do to distract them and make a plan of when they can call home (preferably not before bedtime).
Good communication between parents and boarding staff is very important, especially if there are any concerns at home. Boarding staff will always contact parents if they are concerned.
4) What happens if a child is ill?
The school has a matron or nurse on duty both day and night. If a child feels unwell, they will be assessed and, if needed, be put into the sickbay to be observed. Basic medications will be administered as suitable. Parents will be contacted.
If a child needs hospital treatment, they will be taken to the hospital by a matron or member of staff. Parents will be informed immediately.
We always keep parents updated about their child’s health and welfare.
5) What advice do you have for parents bringing children to boarding school for the first time?
Understand that your child will be anxious about boarding. Try to alleviate their concerns by talking to them about it. Arrange a visit to the boarding house to meet the staff and to look around prior to starting at the school. Bring in familiar items from home such as their own bedding and teddies. Arrange a time when they can phone or email you so you are available to speak to them.
Communication between school and home is very important. If you have any concerns, don’t hesitate to contact the boarding staff. We wish for your children to enjoy themselves and be happy when boarding.
Jenny Godwin was a matron at Cheam, a co-educational prep school in Hampshire, UK, for over twenty years.