Even though we know it’s greatly beneficial to have child receiving overseas education, parents are still worried if their young kid could be well adapted to the lives in a distant land. What if they’re being homesick? Recently, we interviewed William Brooks, Head of Brambletye School, who shared some of the school’s experience regarding this matter.
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BE: What’s the major difference between your school and other schools in the UK?
William Brooks (William): Brambletye School is going to be a hundred years old in 2019. It moved to West Sussex in 1933. We are relatively a small school, with 280 pupils, boys and girls aged 3-13. I think what makes us different is our boarding numbers are increasing, as we know across the UK the number are declining. And one also makes us different is that we feed a huge number of senior schools, over 21 senior schools this year.
BE: could you tell us something about the philosophy of your school?
William: We have three main values which are very simple: work hard, play hard and be kind. All of them are important. But for me, the most important is to be kind. Parents want their children to do well academically, do well in sports or art. But ultimately, they want their children to be safe, happy and secure. And if the children are kind to each other, and the school promotes that, then everything else fits into the place: the children work very hard and achieve great things.
BE: If a Chinese student or international student in your school is homesick and too shy to talk, how do you help them?
William: The first thing I would say is that homesickness is perfectly natural. I would be worried if a child was not sad about missing their family. And we appreciate that it’s very difficult for families to send their children to the other side of the world, and to drop them into an environment that is not necessarily natural for them.
I myself boarded from the age of 7 until 18. So I experienced this myself. My family lived in Africa and Middle East. What I would say is that we’re very careful to look after those children, let them settle in as quickly as others. They’re each assigned with a tutor and we have regular meeting with staff to discuss the progress of each individual child, to make sure they’re all flourishing. In terms of the homesickness, we also allow children to contact with their parents through either Skype or face-time, or using telephones.
Sometimes, too much contact can cause homesickness. And in fact, what’s good news for me is a parent call me and say, I haven’t heard my son or my daughter for two weeks. Where are they? Why are they not calling me? That is good news. That means they are happy and busy. And if they’re calling their parents every day, then maybe there’s a problem.
BE: What do you think of Chinese applicants? What qualities are you looking for in them?
William: obviously, one of the most important thing is that the child is able to access the curriculum through the language. So we would need the child has a basic grasp of English, and a good understanding of the basic. Otherwise the student would struggle to understand what’s going on. We can assist with extra additional English lessons and so on.
But we also would like a child that is going to fully involve themselves in school life. I don’t want a child that sits back and just takes notes. What the child is going to offer the school? Is it on the sports field, on the stage, is it in art, in music? What is a little addition just to their academics is something that really interests me.
Brambletye Preparatory School
● The Alma Mater of Benedict Cumberbatch, the famous “Sherlock” actor
● 15 students got into top 30 UK schools with a scholarship in 2015-2016 academic year
Founded in: 1919
Nearest airport: 25 minutes’ drive from Gatwick Airport
Location: West Sussex
Age range: 2.5-13
Number of students: 270
Teacher to student ratio: 1:6
Percentage of boarders: 30%
Percentage of international students: 13.7%
Curriculum and Destination Schools
English, Geology, History, Classical Literature, Mathematics, Modern Foreign Languages, Religious Studies, etc.
Shooting, Badminton, Fencing, Gymnastics, Cricket, Squash, Swimming, Ping-Pong, Trampoline, Water Polo, etc.
Art Design and Technology (including sketch, oil painting, printmaking, 3D work design), Drama, Music (Blues, movie music, African drumming, chorus, etc.)
Fun maths, Karaoke, dance, drama and musical performance, choir, symphony orchestra, artist work exhibition, excursion, charity events, club activities and weekend activities (mountain bike cycling, forest-walking, bowling, etc.)
Top schools such as Tonbridge School, Benenden School, and middle-class schools.