The first day boarders have started at Benenden School, making history at one of the UK’s leading boarding schools.
A small number of day boarders – a standard industry term for a pupil who attends on a daily basis rather than boarding – have started the Autumn Term in Years 9 and 12. It marks the first time since the School opened in 1923 that it has offered anything other than full boarding, in which all students live on site apart from specific weekends.
Benenden Headmistress Samantha Price said: “It is incredibly exciting to have welcomed the first day boarders to Benenden.
“We have long been asked by local families if we could introduce day boarding and the way in which our new day boarders have seamlessly become part of Benenden reassures me that we have definitely made the right decision!
“It’s great to see them throwing themselves into School life and instantly making new friends.”
The School has intentionally limited the number of day boarders joining each year to a handful of girls to ensure they can be smoothly integrated into Benenden. One of the new Lower Fifth day boarders, Verity Lees, said: “Being among the first day boarders makes me feel quite special!”
Another Lower Fifth, Yasmin Budd, said: “It’s been really good so far. Before I came here I thought it was going to be quite strict and that it was all about the academics – but it’s not all about academics, there’s a lot more to it like friendships and sports and things to help you in life.”
Holly West, in the Six One, added: “I feel like I’ve spoken to a lot of people and got to know everyone, everyone’s really talkative and friendly.”
During their first few days the new day boarders joined the rest of the School in the traditional Autumn Term curtain-raiser, House Dram, in which each boarding house puts on a performance from scratch over three days, culminating in a raucous Sunday afternoon in the Theatre.
Day boarders play a very large part in Benenden life. They join existing boarding houses and, along with their boarding peers, attend lessons and sports matches on Saturdays as well as major school events on some weekends. They are also encouraged to participate in some of the 150 co-curricular activities available outside of lesson times, including in the evenings.
Of the decision to introduce day boarders, Anne Wakefield, the School’s Deputy Head – Boarding and Pastoral Care, said: “Demand for boarding at Benenden remains incredibly strong and we are in the fortunate position of being oversubscribed, with waiting lists in operation. At the same time, family life has evolved in recent decades and we are aware that boarding does not suit all families.
“Our intention is to help as many families as possible to benefit from the Complete Education that we offer.”