UK SCHOOLS IN CLOSE-UP
Week 1: Rossall School and Westbourne School
This is the first post in a series designed to help parents understand the similarities and differences between UK schools. This article and the next 5 will focus on exploring factors that make each school unique, as well as highlighting the key differences between the 3 types of school- boarding, independent college and state college.
Let’s start with a quick comparison to see how these two schools match up to each other according to a basic set of criteria. Both schools are co-educational boarding schools.
LARGE OR SMALLER SCHOOLS?
When comparing these schools it is important to look at their size first. Many Vietnamese parents seem not to want to consider smaller schools but in reality, they are quite popular with our Vietnamese students as they offer a higher teacher to student ratio than large schools. Shyer students would also find it easier to make new friends in a smaller school. See my article here and this article from The Guardian for more insights into types of school and especially smaller schools.
However, each school also has its own distinct character regardless of size, and this should also be taken into consideration. If at all possible, we always recommend prospective students and parents to visit the schools to see if they feel “right”. Different people have different requirements and the school culture and environment plays a big part in how quickly students settle down.
THE BOARDING EXPERIENCE
As far as international students are concerned, the main difference between the 2 schools is in the number of boarders. All international students board but the majority of UK students are day students from the local area. At Rossall there are 304 boarders, which is just under 50% of the school, in 8 boarding houses. At Westbourne just under 20% of pupils are boarders and there is one boarding house (boys and girls in separate parts of the house). There is also an option at Westbourne to stay with a host family instead of boarding, and becoming day students. However, the boarding experience at both schools is similar, as each boarding house has dedicated house parents who are on call 24 hours a day to take care of boarders, and there are evening and weekend activities and excursions arranged for them. At both schools, the majority of boarders are international, and day students are local residents. Many day students do, however, take part in the evening and weekend activities along with the boarders.
Rossall is a self-contained community, located in a small village on the Lancashire coast. Students have their daily needs provided by the school and if they need to go into a larger town or city, Blackpool or Manchester, for example, the school arranges visits. With its outstanding facilities, for Sports, Music and Arts, Rossall students have what they need on campus most of the time, whereas Westbourne, located right next door to the bustling and dynamic capital of Wales, Cardiff, makes use of the world class sports and city facilities to which students have access. They can also easily go into the city in their free time.
(Parents should note that in UK schools, students under the age of 16 are not permitted to leave the school on their own without supervision or monitoring).
Rossall closes for half term holidays (a one week break in the middle of each term) and students’ parents must also appoint a guardian who is responsible for them during longer holidays or if they choose to spend half terms outside the school. This can be a relative who is over 21 and a permanent resident of the UK; or they use a Guardianship service to place them with a host family during the break. This is an extra cost.
Westbourne School provides guardianship for its students and allows them to stay in the boarding house during the half term holidays. There is no extra guardianship fee required.
All students at both schools have to leave at the end of each term (Christmas: December-January; Easter: March-April and summer: June-September).
In terms of academic provision, Rossall has a broad choice of programmes for students – with an International Study Centre for those who need to improve their English before taking their main programme, and offers both IGCSE and GCSE, then A Levels and BTEC Diplomas or International Baccalaureate. Westbourne, by contrast, while it offers the same English programme and IGCSE/ GCSE as Rossall, teaches only the International Baccalaureate, not A levels. (For more information on the IB look here).
Therefore, for a student going into Year 10 or 11, the student at Westbourne knows they will be progressing to IB, whereas at Rossall they can make their choice after starting the (I)GCSE programme.
All boarding schools have costs in addition to the tuition and boarding fees.
- Uniform: £200-£300
- Exam fees: average £200 per year depending on the number of exams to be taken.
- Supplements for Materials, equipment etc. (depends on the subject and the course, for example A Level Art & Design may require special materials)
- Optional field trips and excursions- the school will organise several trips for students away from the local area of the school. Some may be course-related, others are more general, examples: theatre trip to London, skiing trip to Switzerland, geography field trip to The Lake District etc.
- English language: schools generally provide international students with a certain number of hours of English language classes per week, but if students are admitted with lower levels of English they may charge for additional hours.
USEFUL RESOURCES OF INFORMATION:
Sharing from TEC student, Pham Hoang Minh Quy, studying GCSE and IB at Rossall School