STUDENT BLOG: Sixteen good reasons to board at Ripon Grammar School

Former sixth form student TABITHA MILTON - now studying politics, philosophy and economics at Durham University - explains how she benefited from boarding at Ripon Grammar School

I STARTED boarding at Ripon Grammar School in 2013 as a nervous eleven-year-old. The six years since have been the best of my life and this is partly due to my experience as a boarder. Deciding to become a boarder was the single best decision of my life, I have no doubt that the friends and memories I’ve made in Johnson House will last a lifetime. With that in mind I want to share sixteen of the best things about my time as a boarder at Ripon Grammar School:

  • 1.The independence – Most people starting to board have never lived apart from their parents, whilst this is often a daunting experience it also provides an amazing opportunity to develop independence. Despite the structure in boarding, there is also a large degree of freedom and an expectation to be organised for yourself. In the older years this freedom is further extended, which means that for the most part you are in control of your own schedule, letting you gain vital skills to prepare for university and later life.
  • 2.The friendships – The friendships formed in boarding I feel will still be in my life in twenty years, this is because over time the friends you make in the boarding house become a second family. Living together enables you to be there for each other and have someone there for you, forming a unique bond. My best friendships have been developed in the boarding environment, because small things like someone making a cup of tea for you or being there to listen after a bad day make a huge difference.
  • 3.Becoming closer with my parents – Teenage years can be testing for the relationships between parents and their children. But as a weekly boarder, seeing my parents at weekends, I value my time with them highly and have a better appreciation for the sacrifices my parents make for my education.
  • 4.The atmosphere – Boarding is a friendly and safe environment, where support is always available, both from friends and staff. From day one the atmosphere is welcome and is somewhere I have always felt happy to be myself. From first year students to those facing their stressful final year in education, there are always happy faces in boarding, which makes Johnson House somewhere not only to live and work, but somewhere that feels like home.
  • 5.The houseparents – Houseparents are always there to have a casual chat about anything from school to your weekend plans, from exam stress to a movie night. They are willing to offer advice and listen to your suggestions of how to improve boarding, the most recent of which has been the repainting and redecoration of the common areas. The relationship you form with houseparents is supportive, however different from the relationship of teacher and pupil.
  • 6.The food – Every morning and every evening we get home cooked meals, including daily cooked breakfasts and cereals and a variety of dinners, including curry, macaroni and meatballs. As a vegetarian I am provided with delicious meals, that are tailored to mine and the other vegetarians’ preferences, as our chef Claire is always trying to make us the best food possible. The home baked snacks accompanied by a hot drink are something which I look forward to after a hard day at school.
  • 7.Having a positive learning environment – Studies have shown that students who board typically do better in their academic studies than those who don’t. The boarding staff encourage hard work, without being overly pressurising. Being around other boarders who are working is also very motivational. In prep time distractions are minimal, which allows you to focus, something which isn’t always the case in home environments.
  • 8.The sense of community – The boarding community is a unique environment where students from different year groups bond to form their own boarding family. Throughout the year there are events such as the boarders’ Christmas party and the annual theatre trip which unite the boarders as a family, not just a group of students. I only have a brother, but boarding has given me the opportunity to feel I have sisters.
  • 9.Bonding with different year groups – During my time as a boarder I have made friendships with students from a variety of year groups, a luxury that isn’t always easy during school time. These friends are able to give insight into what’s to come at school, which was especially useful during my GCSE year, and in turn you can help younger students feel they have someone looking out for them.
  • 10.The structure – In boarding the specific times allotted for homework and meal times facilitates academic success as well as organisation in hectic times. There is time to relax and take part in recreational activities, but there is also structure that allows you to stay focused and succeed to your fullest potential.
  • 11.Being treated as an individual – In boarding the staff treat us as individuals and respect each and every opinion presented. In regular tutor meetings we are given the opportunity to voice any concerns and are given one-to-one attention.
  • 12.The access to the school’s facilities – In first to third year every night there are activities which include swimming, art, cooking and sports. These have enabled me to take advantage of the swimming pool, sports hall, climbing wall and school fields. After third year this access continues as an option, not a structured activity.
  • 13.The ease – School runs, bus journeys, long walks, these are the everyday realities for most school pupils, however, as a boarder you can be at school in a matter of minutes and be home in the same time. This convenience cannot be underestimated, especially in exam periods, when you don’t have the same difficulty of waiting around for parents or a school bus. Equally you can fully access the range of after-school activities and clubs offered by school, without causing any hassle to parents.
  • 14.Separation between school and home – When the workload begins to step up, creating differentiation between schoolwork and spending time with your friends and family can be difficult. Boarding has allowed me to have some degree of separation between work and leisure time, my home has remained a place where I can relax, rather than be constantly concerned with work while I’m trying to enjoy my weekend.
  • 15.Having access to help from older students and teachers – One of the most valuable things about boarding is the constant help available with your academic studies. In the run up to my GCSEs older boarders were incredibly helpful for many of my subjects and the two gap year students who specialise in languages are invaluable for speaking practice.
  • 16. The dorms – Over the last six years as a boarder at Ripon Grammar I have lived in dorms of four, two and then had my own room, and I have enjoyed all these experiences. At first, I thought staying in a room with three other girls would be overwhelming and that I would never have my own space, but the dorms are designed to give each girl their own space, whilst still creating a social environment. Typically, the larger dorms are for younger years and I have very fond memories of dorm life, but now as a sixth former I appreciate my own space.

These are just a few of the best things about living in Johnson House, but there are hundreds of other elements that make being a boarder such a special experience. I am grateful for being allowed to mature and experience the joys of boarding life at Ripon Grammar School.