The future of boarding

by Expat Life

DLD College London Principal, Irfan Latif, shares an insight into the innovative boarding experience provided for overseas students in the heart of London. 

British boarding schools are considered as some of the most sought after institutions in the worldwide education system, with students travelling from afar to reap the benefits of a residential education in the UK.

Located on a purpose built, state of the art campus set in the heart of central London opposite Parliament, DLD College London is exceptionally unique. With over fifty different nationalities represented in our student body, DLD is an incredibly enriched, internationally minded school. We aim not to assimilate students to a British way of life but instead, we ask for students to learn from each other. 

In recent years, we have moved from a ‘college with separate accommodation’ model to an innovative, ground breaking boarding school for students from the age of 14. Boarders live in ensuite bedrooms located on campus and take their meals in our Global Kitchen, which was officially opened by world renowned Chef Atul Kochhar. Students are supported in their studies through staff with a wealth of experience of helping international boarders, which in turn leads to a better understanding and higher attainment. Daily study clinics are led by academic staff members and students can often be found discussing and debating elements of their courses around the house, both at evenings and weekends.  

Our 250 boarders are housed in five ‘Huddles’, each looked after by a ‘Huddle Houseparent’ – greatly improving DLD’s community. Our nineteen Common Rooms have all been recently refurbished, and our recreational activities have been developed for evenings and weekends, contributing to the home-from-home atmosphere our boarders enjoy. By implementing advanced boarding software into our security and lockdown procedures, we have secured boarders’ safety. In a recent survey, 100% of boarding students said they felt supported, safe and secure here in central London. 

This year at the ‘Independent Schools of the Year Awards 2020’, we were delighted to win the award for ‘Boarding School of the Year’ and the Special Judges’ Award for ‘Independent School of the Year’, in recognition of our school’s superior student wellbeing and groundbreaking urban boarding provision. The judges recognised DLD as a school that is “brimming with energy” and “offers something really special in the sector for its students, combining old and new approaches to education.” 

Enriched Co-Curricular

At DLD College London we have a wide ranging co-curricular programme, with an extensive trip offering making the most of what London has to offer (Royal Albert Hall, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, Tate Modern, Wembley etc), in addition to a variety of inhouse activities such as open-mic, Halloween, Harry Potter, film and quiz nights.

We place great importance on celebrating diversity and encouraging an understanding of the varying nationalities and cultures represented in our school. The students mark several events including the Lunar New Year, Nowruz, Russian Orthodox Christmas, Thai New Year, Chinese New Year, Thanksgiving, Ramadan (with students attending a local community Iftar at a local centre), Yom Kippur, and other religious events. Each year we hold a DLD International Day when students present their own countries to the rest of the student body through food (with specially curated menus in our Global Kitchen), music, language and dress.

Student support and wellbeing

We are proud of our work in student personal development and are often recognised for our proactive and targeted pastoral care. Our wellbeing provision extends beyond the school day. Through the use of AS (Affective Social) Tracking, coaching methods, mentoring, nutrition, sleep education, and our new model of holistic pastoral care, our dedicated teams support our students in their studies, in creating and maintaining friendships, and learning the life skills necessary to progress. Students additionally have access to our award winning Wellbeing Centre. 

One of our key aims is to develop an understanding of mental health for all students and staff and we have trained over 40 students in the Mental Health First Aid Youth qualification since 2018, aiming at destigmatising the mental health concerns. This is an incredibly important point, as students arrive with varying levels of acceptance of speaking and sharing their challenges. We are ensuring that the perception of education is not solely on academic grades but an understanding of themselves and each other.

To support students joining us, our in-depth Induction Programme for boarding includes visits from the local Police about keeping safe in London, a real life Monopoly Challenge to help boarders find their way around London using Oyster Cards for the first time, and a sleep induction programme intended to equip boarders with ways of improving their own sleep patterns – particularly helpful for those adjusting to a significantly different time zone.

School community 

To ensure a full experience of living in London, we encourage our students to engage with the local community through various projects. These include working at the local city farm and food bank, supporting campaigns for the local community centre and children’s charities, and raising money for our school charity, Evelina London Children’s Hospital. Our students reported to the ISI inspectors that that they see the value of ‘serving rather than being served’.

Notably, throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, our school was proud to be declared as a ‘Beacon of Hope’. The student response at the start of the first lockdown displayed excellent leadership and empathy when our remaining boarding students decided to create huge posters in support of key workers and NHS staff, displaying them in the school windows opposite St. Thomas’ Hospital. The initiative then evolved to children from around the UK and artists from around the world sending their NHS rainbow posters, which our students and staff collated and added to the gallery in the windows, with over 4,000 pictures displayed. During this time, their sense of social responsibility and sense of positive impact was central to their journey in support of those who supported the UK. 

DLD is an inclusive and respectful community, where our core values of tolerance, respect and kindness are the foundations on what our school is built on – they permeate through everything we do. Our rich diversity is an excellent source of inspiration and allows for those values of tolerance and respect to embed, develop and grow. 

An ISI inspector recently said to us that we have ‘set the mould for Urban Boarding internationally’. Our facilities are fantastic, with some of the best boarding accommodation in the world. Our values and ethos are strong, our activities are endless, and our pastoral care and wellbeing is robust and student centred; we are a school which sets out to create the future leaders of tomorrow by enabling them to feel supported in their education today. Robin Fletcher, CEO of the BSA, said “The future of boarding is right here at DLD College London”.

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DLD College London is housed in highly contemporary, purpose built premises in the heart of London, on 199 Westminster Bridge Road, overlooking the Palace of Westminster and the River Thames.

The college offers students the chance to study a wide range and flexible combination of A Levels, BTEC courses, International Foundation Programmes (IFP) and GCSEs.

As part of the Alpha Plus Group, DLD College provides a ‘gold standard’ of educational quality. Classes are small, enabling students and teachers to focus upon the most effective ways of learning and to provide them with the highest levels of pastoral care.


To find out more about DLD College London go to

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