Bembridge boarding campus: the hidden jewel

Nestled amidst 100 acres of land on the most easterly tip of the Island, lies the thriving community of Ryde School’s Bembridge Boarding Campus (affectionately known as the BBC).

Although the setting is quintessentially English, the students who make this Bailey Scott designed building their home bring an international influence to our Island. Representatives from over sixteen countries, happily share their global experiences with their local counterparts. Together, they bring a truly cosmopolitan feel to this small corner of the Island, one which is envied and shared by an ever increasing number of the school’s day pupils who choose to stay with us as ‘flexi boarders’.  Several return on a regular basis, either to suit parents’ work commitments, or to experience one of the many special events which happen at the BBC.

The Boarding staff see their pupils flourish: living with the students 24/7, watching them develop from their arrival as timid youngsters – sometimes at the age of 7 – to their departure to university, as confident adults, is a great privilege.

There are more than enough happy memories and shared moments of laughter to compensate for the long working day or any difficult moments which may occur along the way. Add to this the rich diversity of the boys and girls, the differing ages, and you have all the ingredients for one big happy family unit – one of which the boarders are all extremely proud.

Whilst the exterior of the house could remind you a little of Hogwarts, this is where any similarity ends.

The interior is tastefully decorated: comfortably furnished lounges with large leather sofas, wide screen televisions; games room with air hockey, snooker table, table tennis, games consoles and table football; fully equipped gym and much more – all these are put to very good use every evening after the boarders have completed their prep.

The welcoming and homely house kitchens, where the boarders make their snacks, are always full of laughter; with board games being played, musical instruments practised, impromptu football matches, or house plays and competitions, there is little time for anyone to be lonely.

The boarders’ day begins much as in any large family home (except, having such a plentiful supply of facilities there are few fights over who gets to the bathroom first). Rising at 7am, the children wash, dress and are served breakfast in our recently refurbished oak panelled dining hall, home to an interesting mural reflecting the animals entering the ark. A short journey to the main campus, and the academic day begins. The children complete their day of study and activity at the Ryde school site, before returning to the boarding house for supper and prep.

After the quietness of prep, the house suddenly becomes alive with the sound of happy, lively children. There are many activities on offer each evening and the camaraderie, which is at the forefront of any house event, is always a pleasure to see. As the younger members of the house begin to prepare for bed, the older pupils emerge from their rooms, having completed an often lengthy session of prep, and head to the kitchen to meet up for snacks and light hearted conversation about their day.

Maintaining good contact with pupils and parents, whether past or present, is a significant and very enjoyable part of my role, even though one rang me on Christmas Day to discuss beginning of term arrangements! A testament to the wonderful memories, which the BBC invokes for so many pupils, is the steady stream of Old Boys and Girls who revisit many years after they have left.  These long and lasting relationships make the job worthwhile.

As our recent Ofsted report concluded, we provide an ‘outstanding’ boarding  provision for those in our care. The children who are lucky enough to attend Ryde School, and particularly, the members of the boarding community, experience a wonderful environment in which to grow and learn; as I walked to breakfast this morning, the sun glistening on the sparkling sea, I could hear in the distance the sounds of youngsters chattering excitedly about the day ahead.