Beyond the brochures: Educational consultant Jim Hewer will help you choose the right boarding school in Britain for your child
Just about every boarding school in Britain has a website claiming it is the most prestigious, caring and attractive school with the most successful alumni.
It can be hard for parents to wade through all the hype to pick the boarding school that is right for their child, especially if they are in Bermuda, thousands of miles away.
The answer might lie in hiring an educational consultant such as Jim Hewer, founder of Heritage Education. Using experienced gained from 13 years working in the industry, he advises parents on the best British boarding school for their child.
He will be in Bermuda this week along with staff from British boys’ boarding school Woodcote House, to talk about the possibilities of an English boarding school.
“A lot of parents find picking a boarding school to be very confusing, particularly if they are not really familiar with the British boarding school system,” Mr Hewer said. “The majority of people will pick a school because their friends’ children went there. They also go online and look at websites of different schools. I’ve heard of parents choosing a boarding school because it is close to Heathrow Airport.”
Not every boarding school is right for every child, he said.
“I think you can go to any school and get on or not get on,” he said. “They used to say it’s character-building, but that term is misused. The children I have seen who arrived from another country and found it very difficult, they have been the ones who got the most out of it at the end. Even 25 years ago schools were very different. You weren’t cared for in the same way. Today, these schools are closely monitored.”
He worked in boarding schools as a teacher and then as senior master at Papplewick School in Ascot, Berkshire.
“Being the senior master gave me a good overview of the pastoral care of the children,” he said. “My whole family is involved in British boarding education. My wife is deputy headmistress at St Mary’s Ascots, a prestigious girls’ school. My brother-in-law is a housemaster at Cheltenham College, and my mother works at Marlborough College.”
One of the reasons he is a big proponent of the boarding school system is that he himself went to boarding school from the age of eight.
“The boarding schools are generally small, with 200 pupils on average,” he said. “It gives them an incredible platform to move on to senior school.”
Heritage Education will offer an opportunity next year, for parents and children to decide if boarding school is right for them.
“These will be a series of academic summer schools, to give families the chance to put their toe in the water to see what they think,” said Mr Hewer. “It will give their children a chance to see if they like it.”
The educational consultant puts a huge value on personal attention, only doing about 20 placements a year.
“I want to give the family the best possible experience,” he said. “I start off with a consultancy phase. I will speak to the family, in person or on Skype. I then collect a lot of school reports. I will send some assessments for them to do. I speak to the current school. I spend a lot of time building a picture of the student and children in that family. That is very important.”
He then draws up a shortlist of possible schools, and the family visits them. He believes that going into personalities, abilities and preferences in great detail avoids the child being sent to a boarding school that does not suit them.
“I have, over the years, seen when it can go wrong,” he said. “More often than not, though, I have seen a huge number of success stories where it has gone really right.”
Mr Hewer said that a lot of people in the educational consultancy business get a commission from schools for placing students there. He does not accept commissions from schools; he is paid by the parents.
“If I accepted a commission then I couldn’t say I was giving the parents unbiased advice,” he said. “I wanted to differentiate myself. I get a real buzz when I receive a letter months later saying the child is doing well at their new boarding school.”
Travels through his job this year have taken Mr Hewer to Spain, Korea and Bermuda.
He and headmaster of Woodcote House School, Henry Knight, and deputy headmaster, Andrew Monk, will be available to chat on Friday at Lancashire Insurance at 7 Par-la-Ville Road, Hamilton from 11am to 4pm. There will also be an informal drinks party at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club on Saturday from 4.30pm to 8pm. To RSVP e-mail email@example.com . For more information see www.heritage-edu.co.uk or www.facebook.com/heritageeducationandlinks.
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