This May is proving to be true to form with the spring showers…. We don’t know if we’re coming or going amongst the rain and the glorious sunshine! However, we have welcomed all of our boarders back with open arms and the usual bright smiles to start the term off. We have a record 21 new permanent children starting this summer term, (when we say permanent this means children who are with us for their schooling at WHS). We are still yet to welcome our international short short stay children in the latter part of the summer term and they will only be with us until July, but until then, we are thrilled to have 14 of the 21 new children as boarders (9 boys and 5 girls).
The Ones are in good spirit and there is a lovely atmosphere in dorms as they settle into their final term at school. They are also in for a treat this term since we have introduced for the second time running, a ‘Ones’ Privilege Night’. We have set the tone with pot noodles for the boys and chocolate brownies for the girls though it will change weekly with what they will have. We have done privilege night in order to elevate the year group away from the rest of the boarding house and to acknowledge their final term and status within the school. It doesn’t come free to them though-unfortunately they have to work at getting the treat and enjoying the comfy room with their peers. The Ones simply have to have no more than two crosses over the week and to make sure they have done all of their ‘chores’ the evening of their treat (basically, showering, clothes into laundry and putting clothes out for the next day). With this now happening for the Ones, they can enjoy a fantastic weekly routine of TV nights, privilege night, dorm of the week night and treat night! Not bad and that doesn’t include their regular evening activities and weekend fun!
The Summer term is always full of nostalgia and I must write the obligatory sentence ‘There is nowhere better than life in an English prep boarding school in the summer: hearing the cricket bat knock the ball for six accompanied by light clapping and followed by the obligatory cucumber sandwich at tea, epitomises summer term bliss and the making of childhood memories’. It is such a pleasure to be part of this world that can only exist at Windlesham House and we are forever reaching out and drawing new children and parents in. Our marketing team are working incredibly hard but we all know that the school sells itself. Turning onto the drive and being presented with the most beautifully manicured pitches, the Queen Ann style house sits deep amongst the most stunning and green setting, always giving the wow factor- whatever the weather.
Mr and Mrs Foster are always busy showing prospective parents and their children around the school. As for boarding, we are endlessly enjoying having children come and stay here overnight as part of their taster day. In particular, we are proud to have our own children give the prospective parents a full tour of the school and answer questions they may have. We always emphasise that new children have a host in the dorms to look after them and they show the overnight child the ropes during their time here.
It is interesting to hear parents’ observations about each boarding house. And whilst I’m on the subject, I would like to emphasise the obvious differences between the girls’ boarding house and boys’ house that always comes up in conversation. To all parents who have mixed gender off spring, I’m sure you have will have clearly noticed the differences between the children in their everyday behaviours, manners, routines, socialisation and their play. I apologise before I go on but I am about to outline stereotypical gender differences. Girls are mostly noted for talking excitedly and yet adore sitting quietly and colouring, dressing their dolls, playing dress up and making things pretty (whilst obsessing on what pair of shoes they are going to try on from their Mummy’s collection). Boys on the other hand love action, watching it and being part of it. They love things that move and taking things apart to see the mechanical insides. They are far more into their physical being and research shows male babies prefer to look at a mobile with a collection of items and colours over a single face (team mates?). It is common knowledge that girls are keen to communicate and enjoy one on one chat full of emotion and feeding their dreams but when they fall out, they fight silently: Boys will fall in and out friendships and reconcile with a punch followed by a hand shake.
It is all of the above that makes serving their environments even more so appropriate and important. It is these two different environments and the result of the gender differences that are what creates a talking point amongst visiting colleagues and prospective parents at WHS.
So let me illustrate what you would classically see in any boarding house. Our girls’ boarding house is gloriously pink, purple and pastel green with polka dot curtains, colourful rugs, bunting and soft low level lamps. Their bedside tables are cluttered or beautifully organised in some cases, with creams, lip balm, lotions and colourful hair ties. The walls are certainly where it is all happening! Girls put their ‘lives’ on show and use anything they can to represent their personalities. Most dorms are buzzing with colour and things to look at. The walls are completely adorned with posters of people and celebrities they admire, designer paper bags, trinkets from friends, and postcards from family holidays and friends living afar. The girls ensure there are as many photos montaged together full of familiar faces and fond memories. It is a constant matron’s headache asking the girls to bring in a capsule wardrobe for the term! It can always be guaranteed the drawers fill up with new and favourite clothing until the drawers are fit to burst! The dorms are just full to the brim with girly items of clashing colourful teddies and duvets…. Just like ‘An Englishman’s home is his castle’….when it comes to girls boarding- ‘Each bed is a little girl’s palace’.
Most of the time, when a prospective parent comes to view the school they will visit the boys’ boarding house after having seen and witnessed the girls dorms. Mostly they look baffled as to why the boys’ dorms are so intrinsically different. Naturally we talk about how we have parity as much as we can when it comes to meeting their needs- though the boys don’t need 15 more minutes to wash and dry their hair (but if they ask they can have it!). The stark differences in the boys’ dorms are the minimal wall decorations and personal photos plus other home related items. I need to stress that this is not without trying on our part. We reduced the size of the notice boards to make them more appealing to put items up and also dorm poster competitions, but alas… to no avail. It boils down to boys not wanting to put their lives on show but rather in their cupboards. If one was to be invited to look inside each individual’s cupboard, they will see the boys most treasured items located in their own carefully selected place. I politely asked to look inside a selection of cupboards and apart from being superbly tidy (yes… tidy!), there are neat piles of family photos, postcards, match attack cards, sticker books, torches, intricate Lego models, chess sets, drafts, top trumps, books for boys, magazines, grooming kits, ‘make your own model aeroplane’ kit and much more. Saying this, there are always teddy bears and football related duvet covers to set the conversation and league table debates going!
So therefore, these are things that clearly can’t be put up on the wall but these items mean just as much to boys as do the posters and trinkets for the girls. So in reflection, we have painted the boys’ dormitories bold yet bright, light and airy colours. They are like how a boy’s bedroom would be at home… just a bit bigger and a lot busier. Nevertheless, we have encapsulated a boy’s bedroom and they are welcome to decorate them as much or as little as they want.