The advantages of a boarding education well away from London or the UK’s big cities
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Written by Sedbergh School Deputy Head, Ms Lotte Tulloch
Nestled in the foothills of the magical Howgill fells, in a world away from city-life, a single curlew cries to signal the start of a new dawn. For nearly five hundred years, Sedberghians have been waking up to a natural landscape of unsurpassable beauty. Admittedly an occasional blast of arctic freshness and plenty of well-watered vegetation prove that there is a climate difference between the north and the south and yet our pupils relish in this natural environment.
Children can be children when well away from the temptations and distractions of urban life. Running in the fells, swimming in the rivers, and a shopping trip to the local sweet shop are highlights of a Sedberghian education – even for our oldest pupils. It would be all too easy for a sceptic to see this lifestyle as old-fashioned and not suitable preparation for the lives our children face in the future but those who live and breathe this know this is not the reality. The values of humility, ambition, resilience and kindness are timeless, not traditional; they transcend time and space and if our children leave here safe in the knowledge that they have these skills, the lack of an urban influence ceases to be of relevance.
Life during a global pandemic has taught us many things particularly those of family values, fresh air, a healthy lifestyle and an ability to adapt and nowhere is that seen more than in the natural world. And yet that does not mean that we are not at the forefront of cutting-edge educational development and our pupils continue to benefit from our world-class pedagogical outlook. The shift to remote learning was managed with reluctant ease as the infrastructures and skills were already in place. Watching Shakespeare come alive on a live-stream of The Globe theatre was part of our daily diet of education from a remote setting and therefore the ability to adapt was simple.
It is sadly unusual to find true boarding schools in much of the country as the preference to flexible and weekly boarding continues to rise. And yet our full-boarding philosophy is what allows us to give our children the time to pursue activities. There is no point holding a choir practice or a hockey match in the evening if some pupils have already gone home but when the community here remains on site then time ceases to be hurried and rushed and our pupils can achieved so much in a day.
To be remote and away from urban influence may sound to be cut-off from society but the reality is pleasingly different. Sedbergh benefits from extraordinary transport links; just five miles from the M6 and twenty minutes from the nearest station where trains depart hourly to London in 2 ½ hours and Edinburgh and Glasgow in ninety minutes.
Lifelong friendships are forged through the act of doing and being and a busy, carefully managed balanced day allows pupils the opportunity to pursue their interests and their passions surrounded by other likeminded children. An ethos of compassion and support does not replace family life but is merely an extension of the love and warmth felt in family dynamics at home.
Our attitude to risk-taking is very much one of support and encouragement knowing that the risks we wish our children to take are ones which develop them as people and characters and are desirable qualities in an education.
As the world continues to race, sometimes seemingly at an unmanageable pace, our pupils remain purposefully going about their lives in the safety and comfort of one of the most beautiful settings.