Pupils are a great advert for co-education – charming, friendly and sparky, the sort who can fit in anywhere.

Boarding Life

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One of our greatest strengths is the quality of our relationships and the companionship that these meaningful connections engender. Our full boarding environment inspires an incredible sense of community and helps our pupils to develop deep and meaningful friendships that are sustained and sustaining in life beyond the College.  

Julia Hodgson

Head of Boarding

The Benefits of Full Boarding

Our most recent ISI inspection report (March 2018) commented that: ‘There is a real sense of community and shared focus, underpinned by the full boarding experience, which has a significant influence on pupils’ personal development.’ Pupils are helped to learn to treat each other and all members of the community with kindness, sensitivity and respect, and to recognise that the chance to live, work and learn alongside people from diverse backgrounds and different countries is a genuine privilege.  

The ISI report went on to say that ‘the emphasis on happy, thriving boarding communities at Marlborough has a strong influence on pupils’ actions and behaviour.’ Life in a community of over 1,000 adolescents is not without its inevitable ups and downs, but as the last inspection noted, ‘Pupils form very positive and productive relationships with each other, irrespective of culture and background. With the support of the house system, pupils emulate a family approach to building successful relationships, drawing on reflective and restorative practices to enable them to maintain supportive, strong relationships.’ 

The essence of our pastoral care lies in our house system, where our 16 houses enable the Housemaster/Housemistress and the Dame to get to know the pupils in their care very well and to tailor their support to meet individual needs. The Housemaster/Housemistress is principally responsible for the welfare and well-being of their pupils and they work in partnership with the Dame for the practical and pastoral running of the house. Specifically, the Dame will provide day-to-day care and support and is readily available to pupils in house throughout the school day. They are supported by Resident House Tutors, personal tutors and the domestic teams. 

During their time at school, our pupils come to rely very heavily upon the support, guidance and direction they are given in their house. Houses vary in character, composition and location but they all share the central ethos of our community. We seek to work in genuine partnership with parents, based upon agreed values which elevate the well-being and prospects of young Marlburians. Communication with parents is frequent, visits are encouraged and exeat weekends mean that pupils return home every third weekend for quality family time. We strongly believe in the benefits that our full boarding environment can bring to supporting the development of successful young adults. These benefits are rich and diverse and we encourage parents to read an in-depth editorial on this topic, which includes the views of our pupils. 

Marlburians appreciate that there is a balance to be achieved between independence and interdependence and they engage with full boarding with real generosity of spirit, energy and a palpable sense of fun. The pupils who are happiest and most successful here are those who want to embrace the opportunity full boarding offers: to live in a community where learning, personal growth and exploration are the top priorities; where academic programmes and co-curricular activities are abundant; where making friends is paramount; where support is all around them and every success is celebrated.  

Life as a Boarder

No two days are the same for Marlburians, but the following schedule offers a flavour of what life is like for our pupils.  

Pupils wake up at around 7.30am. Many will eat breakfast in their boarding houses but some will go across to Norwood Hall. Every pupil will see their Housemaster or Dame for check-in before 8.15am. This allows them to ask any questions or for the Housemaster or Housemistress to pass on messages. Pupils keep all their books and equipment in their boarding houses and prepare for the school day there. Every house will attend Chapel once a week before school starting at 8.20am, and first period begins at 8.45am. All lessons are 55 minutes long and the timing of the end of the lessons varies according to year group. Lunch is eaten in Norwood Hall by all pupils.

P1         8.45am–9.40am
P2         9.45am–10.40am
Break 10.40am–11.05am
(Most pupils return to their boarding houses but drinks and refreshments are also available in Norwood Hall.)
P3         11.05am–12.00pm
P4         12.05pm–1.00pm

Afternoons vary greatly according to the day of the week, the term and the year group. As a general guide, pupils have at least one afternoon lesson on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and older year groups may have two. In the Michaelmas Term these lessons happen late in the afternoon after sport and activities, and in the Summer Term they take place after lunch. On Tuesday and Thursday afternoons there are no lessons as the time is taken up with activities and then private study time in houses from 5.30pm to 6.40pm.  

An outline of afternoon activities by year group is shown below as a guide. The co-curricular programme at Marlborough is extensive and it would be impossible to do justice to it here.  

MondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFriday
ShellSportChoose two activities from over 30 optionsSportActivity rotation and talksSport
RemoveSportChoose two activities from over 30 optionsCCF, outdoor activities or orchestraSportSport
HundredFree afternoon or service activitySportCCF, outdoor activities or orchestraSportSport
Lower SixthFree afternoon, service activity or physical activitySport or physical activityCCF, service activity or orchestraSport or physical activitySport or physical activity
Upper SixthFree afternoon, service activity or physical activitySport or physical activityCCF, service activity or orchestraSport or physical activitySport or physical activity

After supper, pupils check in with their Housemaster or Housemistress before the start of prep at 7.30pm. Prep for all year groups runs from 7.30 to 9.00pm. The Housemaster and at least one tutor will be on duty in house each evening and every pupil will meet with their tutor on one evening a week in their boarding house.  

A small number of supervised activities run between 9pm and 10pm which pupils may opt to take part in and Sixth Form pupils are allowed to visit another house between 9pm and 10pm. All pupils must return to their boarding houses and check in with their Housemaster or the tutor on duty by 10pm.  

The working week at Marlborough is full and weekends offer a rich programme of structured activities, social occasions and other recreational opportunities. The termly Almanac is testament to the ‘full’ nature of boarding life, and the vast majority of pupils (over 80%) choose to stay at school through the term-time weekends in order to benefit from the extraordinary range of opportunities open to them.  

On Saturdays, morning school and lunch is followed by the chance for sports teams to compete against other schools. While the vast majority of pupils will be involved in teams and fixtures, others will have the chance for day trips, whether cultural or adventurous, depending on taste! Saturday evenings provide the chance to socialise. A programme of events is arranged centrally, usually by year group, and provides the chance to meet friends from other houses at, for example, ‘bars’ and dances, quizzes, film nights or interhouse competitions.  

On Sunday, the school comes together collegiately; the majority of pupils choose to attend the mid-morning Chapel service. After a long brunch, there is a chance for individual choices about how to spend less structured time. Older pupils typically choose to consolidate academic work or pursue independent interests beyond the classroom; the Memorial Library is a wonderful resource valued by the whole community. Pupils can take advantage of the facilities in Art, Music and Design, for informal and individual creative endeavours, or use the time to rehearse, whether for drama, music or other performances. The extensive sports facilities are always popular.  

Most importantly, however, are the weekend house events, aimed mainly but not exclusively at younger pupils. They range from the adventurous (ropes courses, raft building and teepee camping) and the relaxing (spa treatments and ‘wellness’ sessions, bake-offs and pottery painting) to the outright fun (Bubble Warz, circus skills and roast beef rambles)! The aim is always to bring pupils together, enabling friendships to deepen, and promoting bonds within houses which strengthen over time and fortify our vibrant community.