Catherine Stoker is our resident Yorkshire Consultant, specialising in school advice to UK and international families.
Since my move north nearly two years ago, one of the real pleasures of my job has been visiting some of the fantastic boarding and day schools that are located across this stunning area of the country. As I look out of my office window across rolling hills to the snow-topped moors, Labradors at my feet, it’s not hard to see why Yorkshire is referred to as God’s own Country. I consider myself truly lucky to have escaped the commuter rat-race of the South East.
Yet, at only 2 and a half hours direct train to London, flights from local airports connecting with major London hubs, shhhh don’t tell anyone, but ‘the north’ is not as inaccessible as many may think.
Without the same bun-fight for places, as many schools in the South East, looking north opens up to parents a plethora of fantastic independent day and boarding school options for children of all abilities and talents. With less need for tutoring to attain that holy grail of a place, children can grow up at their own pace, not to mention the money saved! Schools where, alongside proven success in the academics, you can bring your horse, learn to shoot and fish, explore talents in Music and Drama, play sport to an exceptionally high level. All amongst a friendly, welcoming community which values and challenges each child as an individual.
On a visit to Pocklington School yesterday, I was impressed by the obvious passion and commitment of the staff, to both the children and the school. I got the impression that it’s the sort of place where you arrive to teach for a couple of years, but find yourself still there 17 years later. Queen Margaret’s and Queen Mary’s both deliver similar passion for supporting each girl as an individual and going the extra mile, resulting in impressive examination results. On a recent visit to Ampleforth, the caring approach of the girls to embrace and welcome a new pupil from overseas was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. Almost comical in their excitement to make a new member of their ‘family’ feel welcome. I find it hard to believe that any other prep school in the country could rival Aysgarth’s ability to understand what makes boys tick. Crossing the Pennines, both Sedbergh and Stonyhurst offer exceptional all-round education. Value-added wise, having ‘the north’ on your doorstep extends educational opportunities in a whole host of areas. Yes, you may need cashmere, wellies and thermals in winter. However, the space and fresh air compensate for that in spades.
So far, I’ve only dipped my toe in the water and look forward to many more school visits in the months and years to come. Bearing the welcome, I’ve received in mind, the tough thing now is definitely persuading me to come South! So, if you’re a parent struggling to find the right school options in the South East, why not broaden your horizons a bit and look north. You never know, you just might find a whole new quality of life for both you and your children that you didn’t know existed!
By Catherine Stoker
11 Jan 2018
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