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Meet your boarding school family: Sixth form tutor and teacher

Three students at Newbury Hall School, Berkshire

The sixth form tutor looks after the academic and personal welfare of students in sixth form (the last two years of secondary school, for students aged 16 to 18), as well as teaching at the school.

Alex McNish is the sixth form tutor and English and economics teacher at Newbury Hall School, a boarding school in West Berkshire, England. Here, he explains his role and shares his advice for international students.

‘What are your favourite snacks from your home country? You probably don’t think about them much, but when you can’t get them, they’ll seem very precious!

‘I am both a sixth form tutor and an English and economics teacher at a friendly international school in Newbury. I help our older students get ready for university, both academically and socially; as I write this, they are preparing for a university conference day tomorrow.

The UK school system

‘As sixth form tutor, I meet with my students every morning at
this crucial time – while they are writing their university applications – and I have developed a close personal and professional relationship with them.

'My job is to encourage students to do their best, and in return I expect them to tell me how they’re doing, their achievements
and worries. They always keep me inspired and enjoying my job.

‘My students look forward to lessons (at least, that’s what they tell me!), to their after-school clubs and trips. The main challenge through the week is getting prep (homework) done so they can enjoy their weekend with their friends.'


Grand day out: Dragon boat racing in the Brecon Beacons, Wales (©Newbury Hall School)

'Students have a lot of freedom at the weekends, and we do our best to let them do what they want so they are treated as adults – and judging from the sleepy looks I get on Monday mornings, they seem to use that free time to the full!

‘School life can be, admittedly, a strange environment: students, teachers, young adults, parents, house parents, friends, siblings… Sometimes I’m not sure how best to describe my role as "tutor". I feel like an older brother, a father figure, a coach, a teacher and a friend all rolled into one. Different students certainly think of me in different ways, and treat me accordingly.'


Life at a UK boarding school (left to right): outside Newbury Hall; inside a student's bedroom; celebrating Chinese New Year with a lunchtime feast (All photos ©Newbury Hall School)

‘Over the course of this year it has been highly enlightening to consciously promote and to see students grow and develop, and I look forward to repeating the whole process over again next year as new, initially shy students arrive and find their feet.

‘If you come to the UK to get a taste of living and studying at an international boarding school, you will have an unforgettable experience. There are bound to be a few things that you miss from home, though – which is why my biggest piece of advice when you’re packing for the great, big, terrifying, exciting UK boarding school adventure is, "Don’t forget your sweets!"

‘And if you run out, don’t worry. Remember that your parents can send food parcels from home… and also that there’s fish and chips every Friday lunch!

‘Pretty soon you will feel at home – and if you decide you don’t want or need those sweets anymore, you can always give them to your new friends (or teachers)...'


Enjoying fish and chips for lunch! (©Newbury Hall School)

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