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星期四 2016年6月23號

【SCMP Education Post:Study in the UK】Boarding Insiders focus on nurture as well as education

The British have a saying that goes, “It’s not like the good old days,” and that’s certainly true to a point. Some things have certainly taken a turn for the worst: manners have gone out the window, children rarely play outside, and neighbours don’t mingle like they used to do. But it’s not the phrase to describe British boarding schools, which have moved with the times. They have certainly not gone backwards when it comes to nurturing pupils and keeping families on their side.


The majority of my writings about the British boarding school experience have tended to focus on the fruits of the present. We live in an era of luxury boarding houses and world-class sports facilities, a time of pastoral care of the highest order. But it’s instructive to review the past to see how boarding schools had to pick themselves up when they were down, and also to review just how they have moved with the times.


Excellent pastoral care, and concern for the well-being of the pupils, should be at the heart of every boarding school. Independent schools are now very good at nurturing pupils, but to make that possible, they must ensure the pupils feel like their environment is a home-from-home. This was not always the case. In 1989, the British Parliament passed the Children Act to nudge schools to provide a more comfortable living environment, along with suitable individuals with whom children could share their problems. In the 1970s, Eton had boarding houses with no central heating, something which would be unimaginable today. (I also recall some icy mornings at boarding school though my dorm was generally cosy.)


Modern boarding houses are exceptionally safe and warm environments. Over the years, pupils have gained access to spacious rooms with en-suite bathrooms. Opportunities for pupils to personalise their rooms, and install high-quality furniture, are also more likely to exist. But not everything should revolve around privacy and luxury, and a solid pastoral team must exist to enable pupils to have a complete feeling of well-being. In a modern boarding school, children are cared for by house-parents, who are often a married couple with their own family. This helps the home-away-from home concept to flourish. Moreover, there are always dedicated matrons at hand to give children a hug when things are not going so well.


Before the 1980s, contact between schools and parents was extremely limited, especially when you compare it to the extent the two groups interact in the modern era. Parents may have attended the occasional speech, but they had to rely on an end-of-term report to gauge how well their child had progressed. Parents’ evenings started in the 1980s, but schools hardly looked forward to them, knowing that their etiquette and professionalism would be in line for criticism. Consumer power took hold in the 1990s and parents began to demand value for money. Schools realised that parents were their most valuable assets, and sought to develop relationships with them, rather than brush them off when they began to complain.


Now the technological age is here, and we can see how schools take tremendous pride in making themselves available to parents, be it by phone, email, or enabling direct contact with a teacher. Indeed, many parents are on first-name terms with members of staff, something which is a far cry from the 1970s. Clearly, staff keep an eye on children and parents know this.


Boarding may have once been a tedious and isolating experience. One only has to read the recollections of Prince Charles who attended Gordonstoun to realise this. One negative factor of boarding is homesickness. Children just have to accept this will disappear after a couple of terms, and schools now have special counsellors and ‘homesickness’ policies in place to help tackle the matter. Boarding schools are no longer places where pupils must hide their feelings for fear of being ridiculed or bullied. Some schools even encourage pupils to be open about feeling homesick, as there will always be someone at hand, like a matron, a house tutor, a house parent, or a trained sixth-form mentor, to console them. Certainly, society and attitudes have come a long way.


British boarding schools offer a home-away-from-home environment in many ways. Unlike in the past, everyone looks out for everyone else. Older pupils offer book clubs and console younger pupils. Matrons hug children when they are down. Famously strict teachers lead extracurricular activities, and are known to get muddy to build rapport with pupils. The boarding school environment is extremely nurturing, and we would not want it any other way.

Original Article: http://www.educationpost.com.hk/resources/parents-guide/160719-overseas-education-qa-local-schools-vs-international-schools


1 寄宿百科 2 英國大學
3 談英國 4 赴英須知
5 赴英遊學 6 選校攻略
7 留英所得 8 親子關係
9 英名校大比拼 10 留英專家分享

陳思銘(Samuel Chan) 並非如一般外界人所認為的「富二代留學生」,家人數代都在流浮山經營海鮮買賣,父母學歷程度雖然不高,但努力工作賺錢把Samuel從小(9歲)就供養到英國寄宿學校格雷舍姆學院 (Gresham College)讀書,才能讓他早早就體會到英式教育優越全世界的原因。
Samuel Chan在留英之前亦都曾苦於在香港的教育體系中掙扎求存,但是香港朝令夕改的教育制度卻令他的成續止步不前,甚至感到老師也對自己失去興趣。直到接受英式教育後,他深深感受到兩地學制的差異:在英國,永遠是先發掘學生的興趣,再透過「興趣」作為推動其學習的原動力,釋放潛能。在英國,他獲得了使自己能夠表達自己並嘗試新事物的信心,最終以優秀的成續升讀英國頂尖的學府。
Samuel Chan留英長達15年,在諾定咸大學(University of Nottingham)獲得經濟學學士後,在華威大學(The University of Warwick)攻讀完政治經濟系碩士後回流香港。回流香港的Samuel鑑有感於香港教育制度無法充分釋放學生潛力,於是回流英國的他創辦了英識教育,以幫助更多有志留學英國的同學提供各類支援及顧問服務。
白手興手固然辛苦,但奮鬥數年英識教育終獲香港品牌發展局頒發「香港服務名牌」的升學教育中心,亦是同業首間獲此認證的品牌。後來,Samuel於2017年奪得「英國傑出校友獎」,該獎是英國文化協會及多家英國高等院校的共同構思,並由英國文化協舉辦,評選活動獲不少名人及王室人員支持及參與。可見,讓身為香港人的「陳思銘」的名字深深烙印在英國學術界傑出人仕的陳列櫃中。雖然事業受到肯定,但Samuel並不安於現狀,後來在2020年更創立Britannia Gateway 的學術培訓平台,提供更多元化的課程以幫助客戶適應英國課程。

論名氣,Oundle 未追得上 Eton、Wycombe Abbey 等頂級名校,但學校的學術成績在英國依然名列前茅。作為傳統名校,Oundle 非常重視全人發展,為學生提供多元課餘活動選擇。學校奉行英國碩果僅存的 House Dining System,或是令香港家長趨之若鶩的一大原因。
Bromsgrove 的師生比例是一比八,比一般的寄宿學校低。此外,綜合我曾到訪的學校,此校硬件設施之完善,可入選全英設備最佳的三大校園。校方不惜工本為學生提供舒適環境,甚至收購附近的酒店改建成宿舍,令宿生有名符其實的「五星級享受」。此校極具前瞻性,是國際化的英國宿校。
Brighton College 是英國首屈一指的私校,是香港家長最愛的寄宿學校之一。 看一間學校,除了教育宗旨、多元化活動、成績之外,更要看校長的魄力。十年前,校長 Mr. Richard Cairns 成為 Brighton College 校長後,把學校由全英國接近 150 名推至首 20 名。除了在教育方針上大力推動改革之外,也為了保持學生的求知慾而非常努力,是難得的好校長。
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