Headmaster Simon Smith recently contributed to an article in Private Schools Magazine where he was asked the following questions:
- In your opinion, is it best to send a child to a school in the country or city?
- Can explain why – what are the main pros and cons?
- What advice would you offer to a parent making the decision?
Here are his thoughts:
Like so much with choosing the right school there is no definitive answer and indeed there may even be a third way.
Town or city schools have many benefits ranging from more accessible transport links, greater opportunities for learning outside the classroom via nearby museums, art galleries etc. and may have the advantage of familiarity to pupils coming from similar settings who, as they get older and more independent, enjoy the buzz of a town and the distractions of city life and café culture.
However, schools in the heart of a town might also suffer from a lack of recreational space and sports pitches. They may have to endure the downsides of pollution (traffic, noise and poorer air quality for example) and some of the local amenities may be more of a distraction than a cultural benefit.
Country "campus" schools tend to have the space to allow a more relaxed feel and so may suit those looking for a nurturing atmosphere with a wide-ranging sports and outdoor pursuits programme to complement the curriculum.
It's no surprise that most British boarding schools tend to have the aesthetic wow factor and be located in the greener parts of the UK away from the hustle and bustle of city life; though time spent travelling to other schools for sports fixtures, trips etc. is likely to be a lot longer and for more senior pupils a school deep in the countryside may start to feel, ironically, quite claustrophobic.
The question, though, ignores the fact that some schools are located on the edge of small market towns and so pupils might benefit from the best of both worlds. More importantly, the question overlooks a third type of school – the coastal school.
Schools located near beaches and coastlines have additional, distinct, benefits: an unrivalled water sports and outdoor programme, opportunities that Heads of Geography and Biology would kill for and sea views with clean air that must surely benefit pupils' mental as well as physical health.
Most families will instinctively know which type of location their children will prefer given their wider interests and personality type. Parents looking for a "safer" environment will probably err towards coastal or country schools. Parents or children might, however, see town schools as better preparation for building the sort of streetwise life skills one needs at university and beyond.
Ultimately the school, its Head and teachers, its reputation, its curriculum and co-curricular offer as well as its "feel" will come first and its location should be of secondary importance.
My advice, after an initial shortlisting of schools, would be to visit a range of schools in order to decide. Time spent travelling around will be well worth it in the long-term - after all parents and children are making one of the most important decisions of their lives.
In conclusion, if pressed, having lived in and taught in all three types, I would strongly urge families to consider any school where the First XV can train on the beach!