The premium way to develop talent

Summer courses offer students a taste of boarding life at top schools while choosing some dramatic options
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By Barry McDonald
Attending a summer boarding school in the UK can give students a real taste of a premium education at some of the best schools in the country. From the hallowed environs of Eton, Dulwich, Oxford and Cambridge, to the wild highland surroundings of Gordonstoun, the alma mater of the Prince of Wales, a summer term can be a life changing experience.

Claire MacGillivray, Course Director, Gordonstoun International Summer School (GISS) believes the advantage of a boarding summer school at a premium school is that students can experience a genuine taste of a permanent education. “What makes a summer school like our different from many others is we’re owned by Gordonstoun and have all the resources of Gordonstoun behind us. Many of our staff are former Gordonstoun pupils.”

Eton, perhaps one of the world’s foremost schools, and the former college of Prime Minister David Cameron, also keeps its doors open throughout the summer. It offers it’s full facilities and expertise available to summer boarders in order to offer the true Eton experience.

Tony Binns, Principal of Our World English Schools and Marketing Director of Dulwich College, says summer courses offer students a taste of boarding life at some of the top educational establishments. “The majority of courses combine English language teaching and/or academic study with sporting and social activities, plus excursions. There are many other courses to choose from, such as music, dance, drama, film-making, golf, tennis, soccer or cricket.

“Courses are generally residential, and the standard of accommodation offered by UK boarding schools continues to rise. Some schools offer single and twin rooms, with en-suite bathrooms. Another possibility for international students is staying with a host family, which offers a fuller immersion in British life.”

A summer school experience can also offer a true taster of a premium boarding education. “In addition to learning life skills, spring and summer courses offer a perfect chance to sample life in a British boarding school,” adds Tony Binns. “The positive experience of a well-run course will give students a welcoming taste of boarding school life.

“Courses offering an element of English, or other academic subjects, will also help to prepare the student for the intellectual and linguistic challenge of their new environment. Students can choose one of a number of courses designed specifically as preparation for boarding school life, or choose an international study centre summer course, which can then be extended into longer-term preparation for entry to a UK boarding school.”


By Lorraine Wilson
Russell Hall has been a Housemaster on the Gordonstoun International Summer School (GISS) for the past 10 years, responsible for the pastoral care of over 400 boys from all around the world.

In that time he has met many parents concerned that their child’s cultural identity may not be fully respected in what they’re concerned might be a ‘one size fits all’ boarding environment. “Part of what defines Gordonstoun International Summer School is our respect for, and celebration of, those differences, allowing all of our students a chance to expand their understanding of, and respect for, the friends they make and the families and worlds that they come from,” says Russell. “this way, as well as developing academically (our students can study English Language, English Literature and Creative Writing, Spanish or Computing), our students develop both self-confidence and a sense of both global and self-awareness.”

Russell Hall
Russell Hall

The experienced and highly skilled staff, both within the boarding houses and the Summer School itself, are committed to ensuring that all students are fully socially integrated within a safe and nurturing environment. “This underpins everything we strive to achieve, an infrastructure in which our students can flourish,” adds Russell. “The most rewarding moments for me as Housemaster are when the whole house is together – golden times when the boys interact with each other, whether it be on the football field or during the House table tennis competition where the finalists, in front of an enthusiastic House audience, feel as though they are Olympians; or seeing them impress each other as they slide down a water slide on a summer’s evening, in awe of each other’s courage and speed. It is those moments that make being a Housemaster on the Gordonstoun International Summer School so satisfying.”

Every year is unique at GISS, enhanced by the different combination of students, some returning, some attending for the first time, their personalities, backgrounds, nationalities; and the friendships forged and connections made with each other and the staff who are taking care of them. These bonds are formed very quickly, says Russell and is evident from as early as the second morning when they run down to breakfast together; relationships which develop throughout the programme and, in our modern world where global communication is so reliable, last for many years.

“No child is the same. I have had the great privilege of looking after many young people, of watching them develop and respond to the challenges they face as the Summer School programme goes on. And every child leaves the programme having gained confidence and acquired new skills, whilst forming long lasting friendships and having their cultural horizons broadened.

“These are the central aims of the Gordonstoun International Summer School programme; and we know they can only be achieved by providing a safe and nurturing place from which to venture forth, one in which differences are celebrated and embraced; and one that remembers that while its students’ homes might be separated by miles of land and sea, they all speak the same language when it comes to having fun.”