Boarding at RSD is based around high standards of pastoral care and developing a rich experience of community living. Our aim is to ensure that boarding is an enjoyable experience and that the boarding environment helps boarders to develop academically, spiritually, physically and emotionally. Boarders are encouraged to develop a sensitivity to the needs of others; to be respectful towards one another; to accept difference and diversity; and to integrate with the wider school community.
There are two boarding houses, one for boys and one for girls, located in the heart of the school. If it is raining, boarders don’t even have to go outside to reach their classrooms! Both houses are divided into dorms, with 2-4 boarders to each room. Some Sixth Form boarders are appointed as boarding prefects and asked to help with the smooth running of the houses.
Where possible, new boarders are encouraged to visit the school and spend a little time in boarding before their first term begins. This is an opportunity for those joining the school to ask current boarders any questions they may have. There is also a general induction process, with each new boarding family receiving lots of information about the boarding houses, how boarding works and school life in general. Current boarders act as ‘buddies’ for new boarders and within a few days most new boarders understand how boarding and school work and are well-settled.
School days and weekends
On a typical school day, boarders waken at 7.20 am to get ready for breakfast at 7.50 am. The school day begins at 8.45 am and ends at 3.35 pm. After school, boarders are often involved in extra-curricular activities such as sports practices or music and drama rehearsals, or can enjoy free time until tea at 5.30 pm. Many boarders also take this opportunity to catch up on work or to make a quick visit to local shops. After tea, all boarders complete homework during supervised prep, from 6.15 to 7.45 pm. During examination periods there is usually a second prep session to help pupils prepare thoroughly and achieve their best. After prep, there is time in the evening, from 7.30 pm onwards, to enjoy leisure activities. Junior bedtime is at 9.30 pm and for seniors it is an hour later at 10.30 pm.
At weekends, Friday and Saturday bedtimes are extended by an hour and there is a more relaxed feel overall. Saturday morning begins with breakfast at 8.30 am and boarders can decide to join in school sports, spend time with friends or join in the Boarding Department’s organised activities. Sunday breakfast is at 9.30 am and this is followed by church at 11.00/11.30 am. Epilogue on Sunday evenings is at 9.00 pm and this is a chance to bring the boarding community together, including local boarders returning after a weekend away, and to reflect on recent events and look forward to what’s coming up in the days ahead.
What to wear – school uniform & day-to-day clothing
New pupils (and anyone requiring new items) will be taken to purchase school uniform on their arrival at school in August/September. You may want to bring basic items with you, such as white school shirts, but specialist items such as school blazer, tie and PE kit need to be purchased locally and the boarding staff will help you do this. All uniforms are inspected at the beginning of each term to ensure that they are in good repair and that they still fit. You are expected to wear your uniform with pride and you will be required to purchase new uniform to replace any tatty or ill-fitting items. You can find out more here.
The weather in Northern Ireland from September to June is changeable and you need to have a variety of clothing to cope with the different seasons. A local joke is that in Northern Ireland you could experience all four seasons in one day! It can be cool and wet for extended periods and you will need to make sure that you have a good coat and a pair of strong shoes/boots that will keep you warm and dry. A common mistake is to rely upon items such as hoodies, trainers and canvas plimsoles but these will not work so well if it is raining heavily or snowing. Layering is a good approach, with a variety of t-shirts, shirts and sweatshirts/jumpers allowing you to put on and take off layers of clothing as the temperature falls or rises.
Mealtimes are amongst the most important times of the day for boarders. We all know the value of good food and this is an area of boarding life that we focus upon regularly to make sure that boarders are well-fed with a variety of dishes which reflect boarders’ tastes and draw upon the best of local produce. The Boarding Committee works with the kitchen staff to suggest menus and plan special occasions.
Three meals are provided each day: breakfast, lunch and dinner. Meals are eaten in the dining hall with an informal atmosphere between pupils and staff being an important feature. Additionally, boarders may prepare their own light meals and snacks in the evening or at weekends in their boarding kitchens. The Boarders’ Christmas dinner and Chinese New Year dinner are special events in the calendar where boarders, staff and governors come together in celebration.
Typical Breakfast options – Choice of Cereals, Fruit, Porridge, Boiled Eggs, Toast, Cooked Breakfast (bacon,sausage,eggs,beans), Fruit Juice, Tea or Coffee.
Typical Dinner examples – Puchero (chickpea stew with pork and sausages), Chicken Green Thai Curry, Feijoada (black beans, pork and sausage, Moqueca (fish cooked in coconut milk with red pepper, onion, corriander and tomoatoes), Thai Prawn with Rice Noodles and Vegitables, Chilli Con Carne, Chicken and Chorizo Paella, Gyoza (Japanese dumblings), Burritos, Tacos and Quesadillas, Lasagne, Stroganoff, Fish Cakes, Pasta Bake, Bacalhau (cod, potatoes,red pepper, onion and bread crumb), Carbonara Spaghetti, Fusilli a la Putanesca (fusilli pasta in tomatoe, capers and anchovies sauce), Pizza, Roast Beef/Chicken Dinner, Ham Salad, Pinto Beans Salsa Salid, Buffalo Chicken Wings, Burgers and Hot Dogs.
All dishes are served with accompaniments including; rice, garlic bread, noodles, potatoes, French fries, vegetables and salad options.
This is not an exhaustive list and special events will result in special items being offered on the menu.
After school each day, pupils are often actively involved in a range of extra-curricular activities. Many also choose to join local community-based clubs and societies such as Scouts/Girl Guides and the local swimming club and avail of other volunteering opportunities in the evenings. The sports hall and table tennis are available most evenings after prep for recreation.
Weekends are a busy time for the pupils, who may be involved in various sports fixtures, or who may use their time to pursue a favourite hobby, perhaps through a school club or in the local community. The Boarding Department organises an activities programme for each weekend and these include simple things such as a walk to the park or baking as well as day trips to places of local interest. Typical trips include shopping in Belfast or Dublin, sightseeing on the north coast or a day at a leisure centre for bowling, climbing and trampolining. A stop-off for pizza or similar usually completes the day! The aim is to allow boarders both to have a great time when involved in school activities and to broaden their experience of Northern Ireland outside the daily school environment.
Study & Support
Boarders at RSD are amongst the highest achieving pupils in school. The close interaction with teaching staff during prep is a great support for boarders in their learning. There is a sense of community and working together to support one another. In addition, boarders have access to the Library and Careers Library plus the school IT network and the boarding Wi-Fi network (where they can utilise their own laptops and tablets).
Additional English language lessons are provided for those boarders whose first language is not English and who require additional support. Lessons are organised according to an individual pupil’s needs and overseen by a fully qualified teacher each week. Read more here.
Further information about the RSD curriculum and approaches to teaching & learning can be found here.