Jolly Hockey Sticks! – The Truth about Boarding School

Boarding school (definition): an education centre, usually in the form of an old manor house or castle, where students live all year round. Most of their time is taken up with practical jokes, driving the matron batty and chasing each other around lacrosse pitches. Common phraseology from the students inclues “rather” “awfully” and “jolly”.

Alright, who let you lot at the Enid Blyton?

Strange, really, that here in the UK – where we have a relatively large concentration of boarding schools, relative to some other countries – there are so many bizarre myths persisting about boarding schools. To be fair, I only started boarding five years ago and, before that, the only experience of boarding school that I had was the stories my Dad used to tell me about his boyhood – most of them concerning evil teachers, playing rugby in “sandpaper shorts” and the truly stomach-churning school dinners.

So, lovely charitable person that I am, I’m going to make my first post to this blog by dispelling some of the mystery and letting you in on what really goes on at boarding schools like St Mallory’s.

Now, let’s get started shall we?

Myth Number One: All boarding schools are out in the countryside.

False – though many are indeed set out of towns, many more are very much within cities and towns themselves – my own school is a prime example, we’re a massive landmark in the village, and the much older boys’ school is spread out over the place so much you can hardly tell where it starts and stops!

Myth Number Two: Only rich people go to boarding school.

False, false and false again! This is one of the myths that really irks me, simply because of the bad impression it often gives people of us. While most boarding schools are independent, and thus have high fees, there are plenty of scholarships and bursaries to be had – and it’s a tooth-and-nail battle to get them too, I tell you! Some of my friends’ parents have had to take out loans to pay for the fees, while plenty more have chip-ins from the extended family to take the bite off. Forces brats like me are also in abundance, as half of our fees are paid by the M.O.D as compensation for dragging us all around the planet and, subsequently, making a wonderful mess of our primary school level education.

Myth Number Three: Everybody sleeps in communal dorms.

Not exactly false, but probably not true in the sense you’re imagining. Though dorm layout varies from school to school, you can be absolutely sure that, nowadays, all those stories about twelve girls living in one room with only a bed, a curtain and a chest of drawers to themselves is a big fat lie. We do get some privacy, and even in relatively small schools like mine, communal dorms only have about five or six occupants maximum. Cubicles on corridors, like those you’ll see in St Mallory’s, are also a popular method of squishing as many sardines … sorry, I mean students, into a smaller space, while at the same time preventing us re-enacting Lord of the Flies after a particularly stressful weekend.

Myth Number Four: Everyone plays lacrosse.

A bit of a generalisation, this. True, lacrosse is a popular sport at several boarding schools, there are a good many that don’t play it, and certainly not everyone participates. I know because I’m one of the lucky few that don’t *coughI’mhopelesscough*. And it’s not all we play either – tell that to our hockey, polo, netball, archery, cross-country, swimming, squash and tennis teams!

Myth Number Five: “Girls’ school” is an alternative word for nunnery.

Bahahahaha, I think not! True, while interacting with members of the opposite gender is a little more difficult in a single-sex school, there are plenty of opportunities for interaction. Some schools, like mine, have both a boys’ and girls’ school in close proximity, and even those that don’t usually have weekly or bi-weekly discos or some other form of outing that allows for a little socialising.

Myth Number Six: Younger girls are made to do duties for the older ones.

Tom Brown’s School Days strikes again! Hehe, don’t worry all, this practice – known as “fagging” at the time – died a death several decades ago. On the matter of duties though, there tends to be some sort of setup regarding jobs for different year groups. Of course, this varies from school to school, but in the majority, the Sixth Form (years 12 and 13, to all you normal people) have duties that may include: prep (homework) supervision, putting everyone to bed in the evenings, supervising activities, taking registers at breakfast, organising house events … you get the idea. Oh, and yes, we do have prefects. I know because I am one! 😛

Myth Number Seven: It’s all midnight feasts and pranks!

LIES! LIES I TELL YOU! Though, for once, it’s a lie I wish was true. Forget raiding the pantry at midnight to celebrate a birthday – we’d be put on detention for a week if we were caught out of bed at that hour – we hardly have time for cake eating! Boarding school schedules usually involve a longer day than day schools, as we don’t have parents complaining that they have to come so late to pick us up and they feel they need to “keep us entertained”. We all work our butts off just as much as everyone else, and we don’t find it any easier than the next student. We’ll tease the teachers on occasion, and I will confess to once being involved in a plot involving a whoopie cushion, but all those ingenious wangles like inflatable jackets, popping coins and imprints of “Allo” on the French mistress’ bottom are, regrettably, mere fiction.

Phew! That’s all I’ve got for now – my poor brain still hasn’t quite got over the fever that’s been persecuting me this past week. I hope I’ve covered some good bases up there, but if there’s anything you feel I’ve missed, feel free to drop a comment with your question and I’ll do my best to answer it to your satisfaction.

In the meantime, farewell all, live long and prosper!

– Charley

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22 thoughts on “Jolly Hockey Sticks! – The Truth about Boarding School

    • Charley R says:

      Of course it is! I can’t say a thing about Hogwarts because, regrettably, I never got my acceptance letter until it was three years too late. They sent me an apology letter though, and I’ve been to visit a couple of times. Afraid I can’t get you any autographs – Harry hates it when I ask him that 😉

  1. Erm… Either you deleted a comment on accendent or you’re talking to yourself Mx Charley. *grins*

    I have this sudden wish that I’d gone to a boarding school… though it probably wouldn’t have led to the same chain of events that put me where I am today, and I kind of like the hubby and kids (the vast majority of the time)…

    So how much do people really say Jolly over there? *grin* The only time I can hear that word without an english accent in my head is when people are writing about Jolly Old St. Nick. :}

    • Miriam Joy says:

      I say ‘jolly’ – “And it’s jolly irritating, too!” – but everyone I know laughs at me when I do it. I don’t know why they think it’s so odd.

      Also, she didn’t delete a comment, it just hadn’t been moderated yet. I’ve approved it now 😉

    • Snarf! I forgot to approve it before I replied, lol. Should be fine now *grins*

      I do say “jolly” occasionally, but not every other word like some people seem to believe we do. And it does sound a little funny, lol!

  2. I say, old bean, you didn’t mention the ‘Gollum’ incident and the posters around the school, and I’m sure that should have featured. Shouldn’t it?

    On the other hand, great post!

  3. Miriam Joy says:

    Reblogged this on A Farewell To Sanity and commented:

    Remember that novel I’m co-writing? Over on the St Mallory’s blog, Charley’s giving us an insight into boarding schools, just one of the things we’ve got going on over there. Be sure to follow us for more! =D

  4. Very funny and enjoyable blog, Charley. I never went to boarding school, but, although I read the Enid Blyton’s, my favourite boarding school books were by Nancy Breary, Angela Brazil, Dorita Fairlie Bruce and a host of others. Breary, in particular, writes excellent books about real, funny, but believable people, (The Lower Fourth Excels Itself, Juniors will be Juniors, etc.) and I still think they are great. She was the main reason for my fervent desire, between the ages of 11 and 13, to go to boarding school, until my sister pointed out what a lonely life it would be away from my family.
    I thought fagging was a boys’ school only practice, by the way? Never came across it in my widespread girls’ school reading? And in most of the books I read, hockey was the main sport!
    Great post – makes me look forward all the more to St Mallory’s.

    (For boys’ boarding schools, have you read PG Wodehouse’s early books, particularly Enter Smith – aka Mike and Smith? Warmly recommended!)

    • Miriam Joy says:

      I always wanted to go to boarding school too, but I never really read many books in which it featured. I’m not sure why my brain wanted to, therefore, especially since I thought they were horrible places where kids suffered under cruel tyrants of teachers. I think I just thought it would be a more interesting existence that would give me something to talk about?

      Or perhaps I just wanted to get away from my brother and sister…

    • Charley R says:

      Yay! Glad you’re looking forward to it 🙂

      “Fagging” was predominently a boys’ school thing, I think, but I think similar ideas of younger ones doing stuff for the older girls happened in girls’ schools too. Probably not as brutal as it’s famous for being, but probably still happened.

      Haha, the funny thing is I was terrified of going to boarding school myself – I’d not read that many books about it when I was younger, and I didn’t like hte thought of going away from home. Funny thing is that, now I’m here, I wouldn’t trade it for the world, haha!

    • Charley R says:

      You’re very welcome! I take great pleasure from banishing myths put about by people who’ve probably never been to a boarding school in their lives 😛

  5. Awsome info and right to the point. I don’t know if this is really the best place to ask but do you guys have any thoughts on where to hire some professional writers? Thanks 🙂

      • Charley R says:

        I’m sure Facebook’s got a horde of them roaming around – writing sites on the web are popular haunts. Miriam and I use one called Protagonize, but I’ve also heard of Ficly, 1000 Monkeys Typing … you’ll find them. Hope this helps!

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