Schools work hard to make the transition from home to school as smooth as possible. A seven year old is likely to find him or herself sharing a large bedroom with about half a dozen other youngsters, but having his or her own private space, with a wardrobe and locker and sometimes a built-in desk. The combination of private space - and inspectors are very keen to see that space personalised and reflecting the child as an individual - and company is important for helping children build friendships which may last a lifetime.
This companionship, coupled with a busy life outside the classroom as well as within it, and easy contact with parents, helps a child to weather the early days of missing home and begin to enjoy all that school life has to offer. Ask any boarder what has been the best thing about boarding, and they are likely to say, ‘Being with friends,' whatever their parents may think about academic excellence.
The international nature of boarding, with pupils coming from all over the world to take advantage of all that UK boarding has to offer, is another bonus. Children learn to understand different peoples and different cultures by making friends and living in a thriving community based on mutual respect, an excellent preparation for the increasingly international adult world.
Older children are likely to find the numbers in their bedrooms diminish, with perhaps two or three sharing up to the age of 16, and single study bedrooms - often with en suite facilities - rapidly becoming the norm for sixth form students preparing for university.
The older the students, the more likely they are to have established their friendships and the more likely it is that they will wish to spend more time studying: there may be fewer people in the room, but the desks will be larger, the shelves more laden.
Sixth form boarding is increasingly popular: parents are happy that their child is less dependent on home and family for a couple of years before the complete freedom of university, and are pleased that someone will be on duty to check that they don't work on their art project all night, at the expense of tomorrow's lessons, without getting into the kind of argument that can generate when it's Mum or Dad doing the nagging. Young people enjoy the ‘half-way house' between home and university too - they feel more independent, but good meals appear at regular intervals, and their room is not allowed to degenerate into quite the awful state common in student accommodation.
At all ages of boarding, schools offer comfortable, pleasant accommodation, with single study bedrooms frequently larger than those at university. Communal areas such as common rooms and, for older pupils, kitchens, are well equipped and have the advantage of staff supervision, ensuring that students learn to respect other users and the facilities at their disposal.
All of this will be overseen by friendly, professional, committed and dedicated Houseparents, for whom the happiness of the boarding house depends upon the happiness of individual boarders and the strength of the relationships they build with each other. Often, Houseparents become the most significant people in a child's boarding life - whatever the age of the child - and they take that privilege very seriously indeed.
CREDIT: Image header taken from BSA member school Gresham's Prep School