Downside’s Boarding School Options for Forces Families
28 Feb 2017
For many Forces families where both or either parent is deployed around the world, a traditional military boarding school is the only option. What it promises to provide is a settled and supportive educational environment.
At Downside, we understand this. Whilst we don’t treat our service pupils any differently, we provide an all-encompassing education with appropriate levels of spiritual, moral and pastoral care in place to support them when needed.
Where Forces families can send their children to day schools, whether independent or not, these schools often don’t offer the same levels of care or attention; this is because their duty of care often ends when the school day does. At Downside, we are proud to offer an extremely high level of support around the clock all set within a remarkable 500-acre rural Somerset campus.
This article explores military boarding school options for those deployed in the services and explains why Downside offers an ideal environment for such families.
Benefits of Downside Boarding School for Forces Families
Boarding school boasts a multitude of benefits for all families, but they can be of particular benefit for Forces families.
For starters, we remain a traditional full-boarding school where 85% of our pupils are full boarders. Not only does this figure speak for itself, but unlike schools that offer a wider variety of boarding options, our weekends are full and busy. For pupils of Forces families, this can really make a difference.
Rather than finding themselves in the minority at weekends when many of their friends may go home, instead, at Downside School, they are in the majority and in the same boat as all our boarding pupils. Weekends at Downside are always full, busy and brimming with amazing activities that cater for both boys and girls and each individual year group.
Our house structure caters for those families seeking a traditional military boarding school. Downside boarding school life centres around a six-house system which provides the best support possible. We ensure that at each stage of our pupils’ school lives the appropriate level of support is in place. This support is delivered through our house staff, tutors, health centre and our school chaplains. This family-like environment means that if any Forces child is struggling with any issue or is feeling homesick we will always pick it up and offer the right level of encouragement to nurture them through any tricky patch if needed.
In the same way, many of our senior pupils are from military families, and they will have experienced all that your child is; this pupil support network is astonishing and the way in which all Downside’s boarding pupils look out for one another is very special. There also are many members of our pastoral staff who also have firsthand experience of the services – whether as ex-service personnel themselves or as being a member of an Armed Forces family. It is important to remember that at Downside, you are never alone and there is always someone around that has gone through what you may be experiencing.
The support network of boarding houses also serves as the perfect environment for all pupils to blossom within. It allows our pupils to develop true Benedictine values that are deep-rooted in all Downside life. This strong Benedictine boarding community really serves as the perfect stepping stone between childhood and adulthood. We see the developmental advantages that out boarding school offers pupils socially, academically and physically.
It really is no surprise that Downside School has been voted as ‘best for well-being’ by The Week Magazine!
Downside’s Boarding School Subsidies for Forces Families
We know that boarding school is an expensive option. But when you evaluate what your child gets out of a boarding school education – over and beyond grades – it really is a completely worthwhile investment.
Military families who claim the Continuity of Education Allowance will be required to pay only the minimum parental contribution of 10% of the basic boarding fees at Downside in respect of each child in the school, as stipulated under the CEA Regulations, plus all extras incurred as a result of the education of their child at the school. Downside will cover whatever fee sum remains, once the CEA has been taken into account.
A Traditional Forces Boarding School
Downside school has long had ties with the Armed Forces and Services. One aspect of this which has and continues to remain central to all of us here is the Downside Combined Cadet Force (CCF).
Formed as the Officer’s Training Corps (OTC) in 1909, the War Office gave the Downside OTC permission to open a firing range equipped with service ammunition in 1912. This used to be situated at the lower end of the third cricket field.
After the First World War, the Prince of Wales himself visited Downside in 1923, where the OTC were privileged in forming a guard of honour for him. On this visit he also laid a wreath at the War Memorial as many Old Gregorians who fought in both the World Wars had been members of The Downside OTC.
It wasn’t until May 1948 that Downside OTC was named as The Downside CCF as remains today. Following, the Combined Cadet Force remains a central part of life at Downside. Its role today is to encourage and nurture responsibility, leadership and self-discipline.
All our day and boarding pupils from the age of thirteen and up are able to experience the full range of CCF activities. This enables informed decisions to be made before moving onto the Royal Navy, or Army CCF sections for their last years at school.
If you think Downside School sounds like the Forces boarding school for you and your family, please visit our website or contact us today and we can arrange a trial night, open day visit, or taster day to help you with your decision.