To board or not to board? There is another option …

Posted on 11th Mar 2024 in Which School?, School News, Boarding

Stephen Mullock, Deputy Head at Ellesmere College, considers the benefits of weekly boarding and why it is often a brilliant alternative.

When looking at school options for your children, there only used to be two choices - boarding or not boarding, and these days knowing that your child is getting a consistent, high-quality education regardless of the external environment is crucial for their personal development and educational journey.

Well luckily many boarding schools today offer a number of boarding options, but one option in particular that is becoming increasingly popular with a large number of parents is part-time or weekly boarding - a helpful and viable alternative to, and a bridge between, the world of a day pupil and that of a full-boarder.

The choice can also depend on the distance away from the school – usually the determining factor for many parents in the choice of a school – and so the option to weekly board offers parents a much broader choice for their child as they can board on an ad-hoc basis during the week, and return home at the weekends, or part way through the week as desired using a school bus service or evening collection by parents.

The choice of schools available based on the needs of the child increases dramatically – schools that were considered ‘too far away’ are now within reach, and journey times on a daily basis through the week are reduced, leaving the drive to and from school only on a Sunday and a Friday.

Flexibility is Key

Weekly boarding is also the next logical step for many students after having ‘ad-hoc’ boarding experiences – a flexible option based on the needs of the child for specific events or family reasons, for geographical reasons, or here and there for academic or co-curricular commitments after school. And if a child weekly boards and usually goes home at the weekend but would like to stay for a fixture or a concert at the weekend, the school should - and usually can - accommodate most requests!

This provides parents with a 'helping-hand', giving them their own flexibility not only in being able to successfully manage their work or personal commitments without the stress of baby-sitters or cost of nannies, but also to control the growth of independence of their child. The child can then maintain a level of consistency, security and familiarity with their academic and co-curricular schedules during the week, and enjoy the many programmes of activities that are on offer in the evenings. It is also a way to break into the field of full boarding perhaps during the Sixth Form years and can be easily aligned with College events and exeats. The step to University or moving away from home also becomes an easier one for both parent and child as the level of independence and confidence grows through the years.

The Benefits of Weekly Boarding for Students

Ad-hoc and weekly boarding is a great introduction - a taster! - of what full boarding is really like and gives children a chance to experience what life is like as a boarder as they move through the school, as well as the opportunity to meet students from many other nationalities. It also works really well to ready a child for the move from senior school to college or university where they often live away from home in halls of residence, teaching them valuable lessons in independence and resilience in a safe, familiar and monitored environment. Quite often, after perhaps one or two ad-hoc boarding sessions which offer a brief insight into boarding life, it is the child who then initiates the next step in asking if they can weekly board as they grow older, more confident and need to spend more time with academic studies (Sixth Form for example), or if they are involved in after school co-curricular activities.

Boarders also grow and learn within larger friendship groups, share more experiences together and form life-long relationships and usually provide an opportunity for students to take on roles of responsibility – Head of House for example - and learn to become more independent, whilst developing the skills to work together as a team. Through this many students develop greater self- esteem, confidence and feel better prepared and ready for the next phase of their lives.

Ultimately, weekly boarding is an option in many boarding schools which is going from strength to strength and which many parents, students and staff have seen the benefits for all.

And above all…boarding is Fun!

And last but not least … boarders of every type have fun! There are usually a huge range of exciting and meaningful activities on offer to weekly and full-boarders - from co-curricular activities such as sport and drama, CCF and Duke of Edinburgh, a round of golf, games in the sports hall or working out in the gym or heated pool, evening debating groups, even taking part in twilight catch up lessons - not to mention the sporting, cultural and retail experiences on offer.


Stephen Mullock is Deputy Head External Relations at Ellesmere College in Shropshire – a co-educational day, weekly and full boarding school for students aged 7-18 years old.

For more information on the types of boarding that are available for your child at Ellesmere College, please click here: Boarding at Ellesmere or call: 01691 626510 or email:

This article first appeared in the 2024 edition of Which School? You can view the digital version of the guidebook here: