Life At School In The United Kingdom
General Rules of Behaviour
School rules are intended to ensure the safety and welfare of students and the smooth functioning of the school community. All schools publish their own rules and children are expected to abide by them. In general, the rules will cover the following areas, and encourage a proper environment for children to thrive socially and academically:
- Good manners, a sense of responsibility and tidiness are expected of children at all times and especially when representing the school away from the school premises.
- Attendance of all classes, as well as any many games or activities, are compulsory. When in class, children are expected to show a positive attitude. Disruptive behaviour in class is not tolerated.
- Violent, bullying, threatening or dishonest behaviour is not permitted, nor is the possession of fireworks, dangerous weapons, cigarettes, alcohol, illegal drugs or pornographic material.
- Children should respect the property of others. Mobile phones are discouraged, as the schools are not responsible for their security. They should never be used at a time that may disturb others.
- Children should take pride in their personal appearance and ensure that their clothes are neat and clean. Hair must be of natural colour and of a style and cut approved by the senior staff of the school. The wearing of jewellery is not usually permitted with the exception of one pair of plain metal earrings, which may be worn by girls, as may a plain metal necklace with a simple emblem.
- Children may only leave the school premises as outlined in the school rules. Usually younger children (up to age 13) may only leave school at certain permitted times and with the house master/mistress’s permission. Older children may leave at certain times without permission.
Schools adopt various sanctions against children who break the school rules. The most common punishments are as follows:
- Detention: the child is required to do supervised academic work or community service for periods of 30 minutes or more during time when they would otherwise be free e.g. during the lunch hour (after the meal) or after the school day has finished. This is normally used for infringements such as lack of effort in class or minor misbehaviour.
- Internal suspension: the child attends all lessons but in their free time must undertake community service and miss any extra-curricular activities such as sport. The child may also have to report to the Head at specified times. This may last for a week and is used for a serious breach of school rules (e.g. the possession or consumption of alcohol) or persistent bad behaviour.
- Suspension: the child may be asked to leave the school for a short period. In the case of a child from overseas they will be required to stay with their guardian family. This is not a holiday, and may disrupt the child’s academic work and is used for a very serious breach of school rules such as bullying.
- Expulsion: in extreme cases such as the possession of illegal drugs or sexual relationships, a child may be asked to leave the school altogether. There is no refund of school fees.
The School Shop
All schools have a small shop on the campus, which is sometimes known as the tuck shop. This is where children may buy items for everyday use such as stationery, toiletries, snacks, books, newspapers, magazines and phone cards. There may also be photocopying facilities. Transactions at the school shop are usually done on a cash basis, but in some circumstances (e.g. textbooks, dictionaries) children may request that such items be charged to their account to be paid at the end of term.
Most schools expect parents to supply some bedding (duvet, pillows) linen (sheets, pillow cases, duvet covers) and towels (bath and hand towels plus towels for swimming) for their children. In some cases the school will provide basic items such as sheets and pillowcases for which there is a hire charge, other schools will supply all items (at a charge) whilst some schools supply nothing at all. Where there is a school shop for uniform, this sometimes also stocks items of bedding (which must be paid for at the time of issue), but if there is no school shop any necessary bedding must be purchased in advance.
The purchase of any additional Items that your Child may need can be done by the Guardian Service Department.
Most schools offer three main types of insurance cover for parents and children.
Personal Accident insurance provides compensation in the event of a permanent disability or death. Any injury that does not result in a permanent disability or death is not covered. The child is covered for the duration of the school term including the uninterrupted journey to the school prior to the commencement of term plus the following holiday period.
Compensation will be paid in the event of a minor injury such as the loss of a tooth to the more serious such as the loss of a limb to the ultimate, death. The school can supply full details of the insurance policy. The premium per term is currently around £5.00 and most schools insist that parents take out this insurance for their child. Parents may also choose to provide private health and/or dental cover for their child and this is available through most schools at around £60.00 per term.
Personal Effects insurance covers loss of or damage to a child’s personal property over the period of the official school term, which includes uninterrupted journeys to and from the school at the beginning and end of each term. Certain items such as contact lenses and items of jewellery (other than watches) with an individual value in excess of £100.00 are not covered. The maximum sum insured is £500.00 subject to a limit of £150.00 for any one article, so parents should inquire about extra cover for expensive items such as computers and stereo equipment. The premium per term is currently around £6.00 and parents should make it clear if they wish to take out this insurance for their child.
School Fees insurance – if a child is absent from school due to illness, injury or any other cause, the school will not refund fees for the period missed. The school fees insurance scheme provides for a refund of fees in the case of absence due to illness or accident. Payment will not be made until after a minimum period of absence (from 4 – 8 days depending on the scheme). The premium per term ranges from 0.5% to 2.5% of school fees and parents should make it clear if they wish to take out this insurance.
Miscellaneous Charges & Deposits
Some schools ask for a deposit for use of the school’s libraries; there may also be charges for membership of clubs for extra-curricular activities; subscriptions for the use of facilities only available to Sixth Form students; donations for the maintenance of school buildings etc.
The School Campus
A typical independent boarding school is a self-contained community comprising a group of buildings each with its own function. Depending on the size of the school and the land it occupies, the whole campus can resemble a small village with roads and paths connecting the various buildings and garden areas.
The main school building is usually a historical one (often the former home of a wealthy aristocratic family) and this is generally the administrative heart of the school where the Headmaster’s office, and other administrative departments are housed. Classrooms can occupy purpose-built blocks or older buildings converted and equipped with all the facilities expected in a modern school.
Accommodation for the students may occupy part of the main school building or classroom buildings or it may be in separate boarding houses. Every school has its own libraries, dining-hall (also known as a refectory), shop (also know as the tuck shop), a chapel where religious services are held, an indoor sports hall, as well as outdoor playing fields, tennis courts and the majority of schools also have their own indoor or outdoor swimming pool.
There is also a sanatorium (san.) or infirmary – a kind of mini clinic where children suffering from minor ailments and the more common childhood diseases are treated and accommodated until the child is well enough to return to his/her boarding house.
Boarding accommodation varies greatly from school to school, but in general there is a system of shared rooms for younger children, whilst older children are usually accommodated in double or single rooms. Generally where more than 8 or 10 children are accommodated together, the beds and wardrobe spaces are divided into small rooms or cubicles with curtained doorways, thus giving some privacy, but maintaining a communal atmosphere – these are known as dormitories. Up to 8 or 10 children may be accommodated in large open rooms without any private enclosed areas. In some cases double-decker beds called bunk beds are used, or a combination of desk with bed suspended above.
The boarding house is designed to be a home-away-from-home, so children are usually encouraged to personalize their bedroom area with their own bedcovers and the addition of posters to the wall. Suitcases and trunks are not kept in the bedrooms but stored away during term time. There are no locks on doors, so it is not advisable for children to keep large amounts of money or other small valuables in their houses.
Each boarding house also has separate but accessible living quarters for the house master and/or mistress, plus a communal sitting / television area and a small kitchen where children can have cold drinks, make cups of tea, coffee, cocoa etc. and make snacks such as toast or sandwiches in the evenings and at weekends.
Washing facilities usually consist of a communal bathroom with washbasins, shower cubicles and separate rooms for baths. Most schools are now installing additional shower facilities – formerly baths were popular, but now showers are much more in demand.
Letters should be addressed to the child with the name of their house as well as the school address. Mail is distributed by the Housemaster / Housemistress. Most schools now offer the facility of receiving and sending fax messages, for which there is usually a charge, and some schools also offer an e-mail facility. All communications should include the child’s full name and the name of his/her house to avoid confusion or delay in messages reaching the child.
If parents wish to contact their child by phone they should do so after school hours and, if available, use the house direct phone line. Phone calls should only be made during school hours in an emergency – children will not be able to leave lessons, but a message may be left with the Housemaster / Housemistress or school secretary for the child to call back.
Some schools offer a voicemail facility (at an extra charge) whereby each child has his/her own answering service where brief messages may be left. Parents should dial the main school number and if during school hours ask for the voicemail system. Once connected parents should key in their child’s personal number and leave their message. If calling outside school hours a message on the school answer-phone will instruct what number to dial for access to the voicemail system, and once into the system the child’s personal number should be entered and a message left.
Visits to the School by Parents
Parents are always welcome to visit schools, but should contact their child’s Housemaster / Housemistress in advance to ensure that the child and any member(s) of staff the parents may wish to see are available. If parents wish to see the Head they should make an appointment with his/her secretary.
Each term schools hold parents meetings which parents or in the case of overseas students, their guardians, are encouraged to attend. They provide an occasion when each member of staff who teaches the child, along with the house master/mistress may be consulted on the child’s academic progress and general welfare.
Three meals are provided each day: breakfast, lunch and supper. These are usually taken in one large communal dining room (sometimes called the refectory) for staff and children alike, although at some schools some meals are taken in the dining rooms in the boarding houses. Most schools now operate a self-service system except in the case of young children, who are served by older students or by catering staff. Where the self-service system operates a child may usually choose one of each category of food available or will be told what, if any, restrictions there are. Portions are usually served by catering staff, and if any child would like more than an allocated portion, he/she may return for a second helping once all the children have been served.
At the end of the meal each child is expected to take his/her tray with dishes, cutlery etc. to a collection point for washing up, and if necessary, unload the various items.
Most schools have an affiliation to the Anglican (Church of England) or Catholic church and in most cases there is a chapel (small private church) on the school grounds where students are expected to attend religious services two or three times per week. Children who are practicing members of another religion (e.g. Muslims, Jews) may ask to be excused attendance at religious services, but atheists and agnostics are not exempt.
England is a secular society and regular attendance at church services does not play a major part in the lives of the majority of the population. However schools feel that church services and religious instruction lessons distil in the children broad moral values – the difference between right and wrong, consideration for the welfare of others etc.
The school chapel often offers the largest space where the whole school can meet and assemblies are often held there. These are not religious occasions, but a chance for the Head to address all students and staff on matters of general interest and related to the smooth administration of the school.