Q. My son is not sporty; he has dyspraxia. He’s not particularly academic either – but a genuinely lovely laid-back boy. Friends say that he will struggle to fit in at our choice of boarding school, which is known for being a sports hothouse. Are we setting him up for a lifetime of teasing or bullying? Michael, Kent
It sounds like your son knows himself quite well, and you should be delighted; he may be more confident and resilient than you think. But do ask yourself, is your choice of school his? Is boarding the right choice anyway, given your concerns?
Simon Smith, deputy head at Haileybury, thinks you might benefit from talking to the school, ‘any boarding school housemaster worth their salt, should make sure your son isn’t exposed to persistent unpleasantness from other pupils. Whatever else the school is known for its primary focus should always be a child’s well-being.’
He also thinks you shouldn’t necessarily assume the worst: ‘From my experience, children of all abilities and interests will gravitate towards like-minded friends and be appreciated. More often than not, boarding schools, whatever their reputation, will offer an extraordinary smorgasbord of sports and activities from traditional team sports to individual pursuits. It may be your preferred school offers something that will at first interest and then inspire your son beyond his current reticence. He may grow to love representing the school in any team because of the social interaction and sense of school spirit.’
But Mr Smith adds, ‘why is the school your first choice? Does the school value sport rather than pressure pupils to perform well? Is it because your son has a real yearning to be there? One shared by the whole family? Often choice is as much a gut instinct rather than because of what the school purports to offer. Is it because you are impressed by the school’s Learning Support Department? A nurturing Learning Support Department will help your son overcome the challenges of his dyspraxia and to grow in confidence in and outside the classroom.
‘If the answer to these is yes then he will be fine. If not then look around a little more; there are a great many boarding schools with something for everyone and you will inevitably find the right fit.’