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What is boarding school like?

The Ultimate Guide to Boarding

To celebrate National Boarding Week, we're exploring the different types of boarding available at Queen Margaret’s, as well as some thoughts about boarding from the girls themselves.

To celebrate National Boarding Week, we're exploring the different types of boarding available at Queen Margaret’s, as well as some thoughts about boarding from the girls themselves.

What is boarding school like? What boarding options are there? Here in our boarding school guide, we answer these questions and discuss what life is like at an all-girls boarding school.

What are the Different Types of Boarding?

Parents and students at Queen Margaret’s have a choice of three different kinds of boarding: full boarding, flexi/weekly boarding and day school. What is right for some will differ for others, so this choice is important. We aim to make juggling work life, distance from school and time as easy as possible for every family.

Full Boarding School

Full boarders can completely immerse themselves in the boarding experience, from weekend trips to movie nights.

Boarders go home for Leave Out Weekends (exeats), Half Terms and holidays, one of which occurs every three weeks. This provides a break from the busy term life and gives regular opportunities to see family.

Flexi and Weekly Boarding

Flexi boarding ranges from one to three nights a week and Weekly boarding is Monday to Friday. This provides great flexibility for allowing parents’ lives to fit around their daughter’s schooling. Additional nights can be easily arranged, allowing the girls to experience life as a boarder as well as having the comforts of their own home.

Day Girls

Day students are by no means missing out. Girls are allowed to stay from 7:30 in the morning until 7:30 at night. While these hours undoubtedly help families with pick up times, it is ultimately great for the girls. The time after school allows for further study or enabling practise of their favourite sport or instruments. Vertical House meetings happen before 7:30 at night so day girls can participate in these and they can join in weekend activities and trips if they would like to as well.

What Do Our Girls Think About Boarding School?

Alexandra (Year IV) has expressed that Flexi boarding is the best thing for her academic and extracurricular studies.

There are plenty of benefits of boarding schools. Not having to travel in the morning and at night is one of the biggest positives about boarding for the girls and parents. Girls can benefit from this extra time especially at night for academic and extracurricular reasons. Younger girls benefit from set homework times after school because it puts them in a focused environment.

What are the Boarding Houses Like Throughout the Years?

Years I & II – Red House

Red House provides a warm, homely environment. This farmhouse style boarding house means that girls find it easy to settle in.

Years III & IV – Atholl House

Girls then move into the Main School and into Atholl House. Atholl House is very central within the school, therefore nothing is too far away. The spacious mezzanine rooms boast some of the best views in the School over the stunning grounds.

Year V – Winnie’s

Named after an Old Margaretian and famous author Winifred Holtby, the building provides a modern living space for the GCSE girls. Girls share with three others and have a study room opposite their dorms.

Lower Sixth – Cloisters

As girls transition from GCSE to A Levels, it is important that the boarding houses recognise these changing needs. The large kitchen and dining area alongside a large common area in Cloisters, gives the house a modern and chic vibe.

Upper Sixth – Cottages

The Cottages provide independence for the girls as they reach their last year, preparing them for life after QM. There are five cottages and girls are encouraged to decorate their own dorms how they would like.

Learn More About Our Boarding Houses Here

What to Expect on Your First Day of Boarding School

Feeling anxious and nervous on your first day at boarding school is expected. Current QM girls have said that they felt welcomed as soon as they arrived, and when every girl is going through the same thing, it can be easy to find your feet in such a supportive environment.

When we asked our Full boarders what their first days were like, the overwhelming response was that the girls missed home at first, but they were kept so busy they did not think about it too much. Housemistresses are acutely aware that the girls are going to miss home and are ready to provide support in these situations.

To make things easier, parents are encouraged to come to Sports matches and School events when possible and cheer on their daughters.

Many girls see their confidence levels increase as they begin to board and live with their school friends 24/7. They often realise that quite quickly they can be themselves, many of our girls have described this as the best thing about boarding school.

What are Weekends Like at Boarding School?

Free time and weekends at boarding school are spent differently for each year group. Years I and II have the luxury of the Red House Lawn and Terrace accompanied by a private playground area. Girls love using this space during lunchtime and after school too.

Common rooms are great spaces where the whole year group can meet and talk over tea and toast. There are many common rooms throughout the school where girls can congregate to enjoy some free time.

Weekends are a chance for the girls to relax and enjoy themselves. The older girls are allowed to go into York together once they have completed their school commitments.

In the Upper Sixth, Saturday night is often spent in Cellars, the Sixth Form social hub. Music is played and it's a great way to celebrate the end of a busy week. Brunch is normally served on a Sunday morning and a Chapel service is either in the morning or afternoon. Whole School Community Weekends happen throughout the year.

From Year V to Upper Sixth, the girls enjoy Wednesday afternoons off from lessons. This time is primarily used for study and participating in sports.

What to Bring to Boarding School

Packing can be one of the most exciting parts of preparing for boarding school. If you’re not sure what to bring then we recommend getting in touch with us for advice and guidance as what you'll need in each year group can differ. However, some key items include the following:

  • Bedding – Bringing your own duvet cover and pillow cases adds some personalisation to your room.
  • Clothes and hangers – As well as your uniform, don’t forget to pack casual clothes that will suit all types of weather.
  • Personal items – Make your space your own with mementos, books and pictures to help make boarding school your home from home.
  • Stationery – pencils, pens, rulers etc will all be needed when studying, be sure to pack suitable stationery before you arrive.

Can I Stay in School for Leave Outs (Exeats)?

Being able to stay at school during extended weekends provides flexibility for families, especially for international students. There are six Leave Out Weekends each year, this allows for planning of six different programmes. During our previous 'Stay in for Leave Out' programmes girls have visited cities up and down the country, seen cultural and historical attractions, and have taken part in fun outdoor and sporting events.

The Health and Wellbeing Centre

QM recognises that every girl's health and wellbeing is paramount to their happiness and success in being the very best versions of themselves.

The Health and Wellbeing Centre is located centrally within the school. It has daily surgery appointments and a team of nurses on hand. Nursing support is available throughout the day and night during the term times. Boarding students are registered with the local village surgery and the GP comes to the Health and Wellbeing Centre every week. An Emotional Wellbeing Practitioner is also available if the girls ever need someone to talk to confidentially.

Final Thoughts

Having different boarding options at our school ensures we can adapt for every family and each individual girl’s needs. Whether it’s Day, Flexi, Weekly or Full boarding, having school as a second home is an excellent way to achieve both academically and socially. Learn more about boarding at Queen Margaret’s and about National Boarding Week.

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