Simon and Rebecca Hamilton-Bing have two sets of twin girls at King’s Ely.
“BEFORE joining King’s Ely we were feeling increasingly guilty over the lack of extra-curricular activities that the girls did. We often rushed home for 6pm to spend quality time with them, which amounted to no more than frantically cooking a wholesome, vegetable-laden meal (not necessarily achieved), while they were in a different part of the house watching TV. So, quality time ended up being tea, bath, bed. To top it all, we were paying someone the same amount as the military personal contribution to do the school run and sit with them for two hours. The idea of boarding started to gain momentum, especially following a Christmas out of area.
“We looked at several schools within scope but with no particular thoughts on type or specialisation. However, we both judged the schools on the ‘feel’ of the place, the ‘buzz’, the way the escorts carried themselves and what they had to say, the facilities and the boarding house. King’s Ely felt right straight away. We were impressed by the amount of activity going on during the initial and subsequent visits. It seemed every other child was carrying some sort of musical instrument or in some sports kit or other. What was most noticeable amongst the buzz of ordered chaos was how cheerful the children were. The cynic may think this was some sort of St Trinian’s staging but it soon became apparent that this wasn’t the case.
“We took home a Yearbook to show the girls and asked them to circle the pictures they thought looked interesting. This got them quite enthused, especially the Prep Boarding House, Priory. This 11th century building was the original Cathedral Priors’ House and with its Gothic proportions, domed ceilings and gargoyles, it was enough like Hogwarts for the girls to want to take a look! Although a rather grand and imposing building, Priory is a small House with a maximum of 20 or so residents. The Housemaster and family ‘live in’ and are generally aided by a couple of GAP students and a Tutor. This creates a lovely warm atmosphere where the kids feel safe and soon get used to their second home. This was particularly important to us as our younger set of twin girls were only just eligible (by two days) and boarded for a whole school year before turning eight.
“Academically, all four girls are performing ahead of the national average by at least the expected whole grade. However, King’s Ely is not some kind of old style Grammar where children are ‘hot-housed’ to mental exhaustion. Something we didn’t appreciate at first but now cherish above all else is the holistic approach the school takes in growing the whole child. It isn’t just the smaller class sizes, external trips and visiting speakers that make the difference. We are constantly amazed at what they get up to: debating points of History, small enterprise projects, numerous clubs, sports and high calibre stage productions all form part of routine life at King’s Ely. All of these are aimed at making each child a well-rounded and confident young adult. Of course, this wouldn’t be possible without high quality, dedicated and enthusiastic teaching staff, whose passion for their subjects shines through at every parents’ evening.
“Perhaps the best example of how the holistic approach works is by mentioning one of my older twins. No star in state school at Year 2, but ahead of the majority of her peers, she received good solid reports. However, it quickly became apparent in her first year at King’s Ely that something was not quite right. After a few tests she was diagnosed with Dyslexia which affected her short term working memory. The Learning Support Team at King’s Ely has done the most fantastic job and got her from 18 months behind to ahead of the Key Stage requirements. She even loved Latin!
“We were slightly concerned over the amount of prep required each evening, especially when the school day was extended to accommodate the new 2016 National Curriculum (although Saturday mornings became free). However, apart from the obvious gain, the biggest benefit we’ve noticed is the fantastic work ethic the girls have. They are very self-motivated, dedicated to completing their work on time and have a strong sense of duty. This often requires forward planning and, sometimes, a little bit of self-sacrifice to de-conflict other activities, sport and home life. Prep is undoubtedly preparing them for further education and should stand them in good stead when they join the workforce (eventually!).
“Five years on and the girls are now well established in the Senior School and live in Hill House, an all-girl Boarding House on the edge of the campus. We are still amazed at what the girls get up to each week and how much they know. Highlights have included the fantastic Drama productions of ‘Joseph’ and ‘Oliver!’, which both younger girls were involved in, both on and off stage (Emily’s Artful Dodger was joyous!) and being beaten by the girls at answering questions during University Challenge!
“We still miss the girls each night and we’re sure they miss us. We know they are safe and well cared for, that they enjoy going to school (even double Maths!) and are benefiting from a well-rounded curriculum delivered by transformational teachers.”