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A look at fifth-form boarding: Charlotte

St Peter's 13-18

A look at fifth-form boarding: Charlotte

Charlotte, Dronfield
You’re part of a community, you feel more included, and when you’re younger you can build relationships with the Sixth Form much more easily as a boarder.

Charlotte, Fifth Form boarder

Charlotte is the fourth member of her family to join St Peter’s as a boarder, after starting life as a day pupil at an independent school closer to home. She’s also the third sister to live at Dronfield (known affectionately by its residents as ‘Dron’), one of two senior girls’ boarding houses at St Peter’s.

“I always wanted to board,” Charlotte says, “and as soon as I heard about Dron, I wanted to live there. I started as a day pupil at St Peter's 8-13 in J2. It was much bigger than my old school, with its own science labs and everything. It was awesome, but hearing the stories from my siblings, who were all boarding, about how much fun it was, I used to beg my parents to let me board even at that age. I was so excited.”

When it was time to choose a senior school, Charlotte says, “My parents did ask if I wanted to go anywhere else for senior school but having heard all about Dron, I said no thank you! Plus, Peter’s is bigger, and there’s more opportunity, more playing fields.” As a talented Hockey player, and valued member of the 1st XI currently preparing for the National Finals, Charlotte appreciates the facilities and space for training ,the quality of coaching at the School, and the extra opportunities to enjoy them that boarding affords.

Charlotte understands the difficulties of the school selection process for families. She explains, “My Dad was a boarder at a boys’ school and loved it. My mum was actually against the whole idea, not just of boarding, but of independent education, but once my brother started, and she saw how much he loved it, she realised it was the better choice for us.”

Since Charlotte first started at St Peter’s, her parents have moved from Knaresborough to the centre of York. Despite boarding no longer being ‘necessary’ for practical reasons, Charlotte still chose to board.

“Mum wanted it to be my choice. It’s so much better being a boarder. You’re part of a community, you feel more included, and when you’re younger you can build relationships with the Sixth Form much more easily as a boarder. I walk around school and I know so many people from boarding, for example, at tea it’s just boarders so there’s a bond between us, even if it’s just a smile as you are going around school.”

For Charlotte, the advantages created by boarding stretch from those simple social perks to the effortless structure of the school day: “It’s easier to take advantage of the opportunities if you board. Things like Combined Cadet Force (CCF) and sports matches just fit into the routine. You haven’t got to think about food or transport, because we’re here, and the kitchen will just prepare something for you. It’s way easier to do things.”

Commuting is not remembered with much fondness: “Before I boarded, I just got the train home. It was cold in the winter and it meant there was a lot of time I was on my own. Once you’ve done boarding, you never want to go back to Day.”

As a Year 11 with two and a half years’ boarding experience, Charlotte looks forward to the added opportunities and responsibilities of Sixth Form life at St Peter’s. “I’m really excited about going into Sixth Form, we always get lots of girls joining Dron for Sixth Form, so we’ll have even more people to mix with.”

Fitting in – that common fear of those new to boarding – is not a challenge. Charlotte says, “Everyone here has been in that position at some point, of being in a new place. We are basically a big family. You’ll find your friends who you are especially close with but everyone is really accepting. Everyone actually wants new people. So people want to help you settle in.”

Boarding represents a life-long, rather than a temporary, community for many at St Peter’s. Charlotte explains, “My sister always wants to come back. She came back last weekend and spent Sunday evening in Dron. When you’ve lived with people for five years, you don’t just leave the community when you go to university.”

It’s not just girls who feel a continued sense of camaraderie. Charlotte says, “When my brother meets up with the guys he used to board with, he says that even if they’ve not been very good at keeping in touch, it’s like they’ve never been apart. It’s natural being together, like with family.”

Even as the fourth sibling to board at St Peter’s, Charlotte is clear that there were no pre-conceptions as to what her strengths, skills or preferences would be. Speaking of her elder brother and sisters, she says, “They’ve all taken different routes, university wise. My brother studied Ancient History at university and is now volunteering in Rwanda, my eldest sister is studying Physics but is currently midway through a placement at Morgan Stanley, and my other sister is in her first year at Edinburgh doing Business Management. No one ever told me this is what you should be like. I’m just myself. It was nice that my brother and sisters made a good impression, and it was good to have my sister here with me in Dron for two years, but now I can find my own way and set my own course.

Charlotte seems particularly well qualified to offer advice on those considering boarding from Third Form, counting dozens of girl boarders amongst her friends and community. She says, “Everyone’s going to be nervous, but there’s really nothing to worry about. Everyone’s going to be really supportive when you come. So enjoy it and get involved in as many things as you can.”