Life in Dean Park House

Posted on 02nd Feb 2022 in ESMS

Our ESMS boarding house provides a comfortable, close-knit and happy home from home for children from Primary 6 to Sixth Form. We caught up with Lucy, our resident Boarding House Parent, to hear all about Dean Park House and what life is like as a boarder at ESMS. We hope you enjoy this quick-fire interview!

What is the most rewarding part of being a resident Boarding House Parent?

Dean Park House is run very much along the lines of a real family, and I find it really rewarding getting to know the boarders as individuals, understanding their personalities and what makes them ‘tick’. It is so wonderful to watch our boarders develop and thrive while they are here, the Boarding House really allows them to get the most out of their time at school.

You must get very close to the boarders. Is it hard seeing them fly the nest at the end of S6?

Of course! Although, leavers are always so excited and motivated to start the next stage of their lives, that it is a delight to be able to see them off on their chosen paths, and to share their enthusiasm.

What is your favourite part of the day in the Boarding House?

The time I most enjoy is after school when the boarders arrive back at the Boarding House to enjoy some downtime before dinner and prep. They often sit down for a chat about their day, over a cup of hot chocolate and a homemade biscuit (thank you to the catering staff), have a game of pool, do a crossword, or spend time with their friends in the common rooms. It’s a moment when you get the chance to get to know the students better and to enjoy the homely atmosphere of the Boarding House.

What is your favourite part of the school year in the Boarding House? Do you have any special traditions in the Boarding House?

The second half of the autumn term is lovely, as everyone has had a chance to settle into the school routine and new boarders are beginning to feel part of the Dean Park House ‘family’. There is a palpable feeling of excitement in the run-up to Christmas, as the tree and decorations go up. We also have a Boarding House Secret Santa, which leads to plenty of intrigue and discussion, and suddenly new bonds are being created between year groups. In non-Covid times, there is a traditional Christmas dinner, carol singing and games in the Boarding House on the last Sunday of term.

How do you help new boarders to settle in and feel at home?

It’s a subtle balancing act between being available and ready to listen, but also not being too invasive. It can be quite a challenging moment for new boarders, between missing home and parents, fitting into the Boarding House and coping with the academic requirements. All the Boarding staff keep a close eye on new students and offer a listening ear anytime they may need it, so that they settle in quickly and feel safe and secure. This is very important as we all have different ways of communicating and interacting with our boarders, and it means that we, as a team, know how new boarders are adapting.

You were a Boarding House parent yourself and now you are our House Parent so you must have a great insight into the benefits of boarding?

It’s been really interesting making the move from being the parent of boarders to being a Boarding House Parent. Two things have struck me in particular: firstly, I’m so glad that my children were able to benefit from boarding at ESMS – I knew it was a lovely boarding environment when they were here, but now I have had the opportunity to get to know the Boarding House and staff as part of the ‘team’, I realise just what a great place it is and how lucky my children were to be here. Secondly, my experience as a parent of boarders has helped me to understand the important role that all the Boarding staff play. As a parent you really want to trust that the Boarding staff are going to look after and care for you child as closely as possible to the way that you would yourself. I wanted my children to feel appreciated, safe, encouraged, listened to, and recognised as individuals with their own needs. These are the key elements I try to bring to my role, and I also believe that kindness goes a long way to making boarders feel more ‘at home’ in the Boarding House, so I enjoy being able to do small things for them to make their lives feel better.

What makes the Boarding House such a special place?

My colleagues at Dean Park House – the House Tutors and Head of House – are fantastic and I think the boarders are very fortunate to have such a devoted and fun team to care for them. As I’ve already said, the Boarding House is run very much along the lines of a family, so institutional rules and regulations are kept to a minimum and the staff are very flexible in responding to the needs of individual students.

Can you tell us about some of the fun activities you do with the boarders on weekends?

Over the last term we have had a treasure hunt in Edinburgh city centre, went to the Laser Tag Station at Fountain Park, went go-karting, had several visits to the cinema, went to the Local Farmers’ Market and the Christmas Market. Several of the students enjoy trying their hand at cooking and baking, so we’ve kitted out the student kitchen with the necessary utensils and the Catering Staff are always there to provide us with the ingredients to make pretty much anything we fancy (cakes and pancakes are particularly popular) and this year, as part of the preparations for Christmas, we decorated chocolate logs - which were then promptly demolished!

What do you think is the most special thing about being a boarder in Edinburgh versus other cities?

The school is situated in the heart of the city, unlike many other boarding schools which can be quite remote or isolated, which means the boarders can benefit from the many cultural, leisure and sporting venues on our doorstep. Fifth and Sixth-Year students can go into town and meet up with friends at the weekend, which gives them a certain independence which I know they really appreciate.

What is the food like?

The catering staff at Dean Park House are amazing and provide a wide variety of lovely home-cooked meals for us every week, including cooked breakfasts and Sunday roasts. They prepare individual menus for any boarders who may have allergies, food intolerances or specific dietary requirements and there are freshly baked cakes and biscuits waiting for the boarders every day when they get in from school.

Can you tell us about how the boarders are supported with their mental and physical health out with school hours?

The Boarding Staff do a wonderful job of supporting boarders with their extra-curricular activities, whether it’s getting them up especially early on a school day to participate in extra sports training or giving them lifts to clubs and activities at the weekend, and of course we all take an active interest in their lives whether in school or out. We encourage all the boarders to get out and about at weekends but we’re also aware that they appreciate, and need, some down time as well. The student-to-staff ratio in the Boarding House means that we get to know the boarders very well over the school year. We are always there to listen and we work together as a team to make sure every student feels supported whatever their needs are.

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