Find out about the benefits of host family boarding



Many students at d’Overbroeck’s, both from the UK and abroad, live with host families for all or part of the time they are studying with us. These families are carefully selected; we know where students live is essential to the overall experience of being at a school, particularly if they are studying a long way from home. d’Overbroeck’s has been housing students with local families for over 30 years and a quarter of them have been with us for over ten years so we have developed excellent relationships.

Next year we will have around 40 host families offering offer between one to six rooms all located within a ten-minute walk or bus journey to school. These families must meet very selective criteria. Besides the usual police checks, fire safety and safeguarding checks, we ensure they are choosing to host for reasons beyond financial remuneration. Inevitably, being North Oxford, they are usually professional people (we have three Oxford professors this year) who, besides offering pastoral help, are also able to provide good academic advice whether straightforward subject assistance or even help with the UCAS personal statement.

Students living with a host family can expect a welcoming environment, and we are in regular communication with our host families, the student and student’s parents to ensure that their time is a happy and productive one. As you would expect our families meet all of the safety and safeguarding regulations required by the government

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For some students the idea of a host family might be an unfamiliar option but the experience of our students is that it is a very positive and enjoyable one. In many cases students have kept in contact with their host families for many years after leaving the school.

The benefits of host family accommodation include:

  • Being in exactly the right environment for them. We have a number of different host families and we take great care to match the right student to the right host family. We keep a range of host families to suit the differing needs of the student. We take care to match the right student to the right host family and listen to dietary requests, like/dislike of pets/young children in the house, proximity to school, piano availability etc.
  • Pastoral support. Our host families are a great support to students. The families are in regular contact with the school and work with us to make sure their student enjoys their time with us and does well academically. Most of our host families offer rooms for students once their own children have left home. Together with their mandatory safeguarding training, this means that as fellow parents who have already experienced this age group, they are well equipped to offer pastoral advice to the student. A host family son/daughter still residing at home can also be an added bonus and potential friend to the student.
  • It is a great way to experience and learn about British culture and for international students to develop their language skills even further. The family will gather round the dinner table each evening and, for international students whose first language is not English, this is a highly effective way to improve their English language skills as well as a chance for the family to check all is well with the student. Even if there are two or three students of the same nationality living in the house, the families expect their students to speak English in the communal spaces. The family might include the student in social/cultural outings should they wish.


  • The size of the student bedroom is likely to be larger than that in the boarding house and many of our host families offer single bedrooms with private ensuite bathroom for the student.
  • Living with others in a smaller environment. Rather than being in a large boarding house, students in host families often with one or two other d’Overbroeck’s students and this makes it easier for them to make friends.
  • Host Families are visited by us at least once a year and student surveys carried out regularly so we ensure we only retain the best. There is ongoing communication with the host families throughout the academic year and they also provide regular feedback on their students which are then directed to their respective Directors of Study.


  • We ensure our host families provide a home cooked evening meal every day and should a student survey reveal that this is below standard, we will take it up with the family and check that the student is satisfied. We are lucky to have some excellent, experienced cooks within the host families. Students can make their food preferences known to the host family within reason.
  • Should the student decide the host family is not for them, they are under no obligation to remain there. Unlike the boarding houses, where a full term’s notice is required, we can move a student after seven days’ notice.
  • Both students and host families are given an emergency mobile number which is manned 24/7. Emma is based at 29 Harpes Road and happy to see students with any issues during the week.


  • The same curfew rules in the boarding houses are also applied in host families.
  • Emma (family boarding lead) contacts Lower Sixth students at the start of the Spring Term after they have returned a form with their boarding choices for Upper Sixth. Emma will then offer the student a choice of one or two host families she feels would suit them
  • If a student is the only one in the host family, they are very likely to have a friend in a family in the next door street.
  • Students are usually able to remain at their host families during half terms and for parts of the Christmas/Easter holidays should they desire. Boarding houses shut during this time.
  • If a student is close to 18 and chooses to self-cater, we have a few families who offer this.
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Read her answers to the most commonly asked questions below

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Emma Brett
Head of Non-Residential Boarding

Emma is Head of Non-Residential Boarding (Host Family Boarding) and has been at d’Overbroeck’s since 2014.

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Emma Brett

Emma is Head of Non-Residential Boarding (Host Family Boarding) and has been at d’Overbroeck’s since 2014. She tries to match the right student with the right host family each year either on their own or in small groupings, and she is always on the lookout for new quality host families. Emma is the first point of contact for both student and host family throughout the year and is on-hand to deal with the myriad issues which arise. Emma read History and Politics at SOAS, London University and has considerable experience of working with young people, both as a piano teacher, a literacy volunteer in her local school, and as a Special Needs teacher, having gained a Diploma in Teaching Learners with Dyslexia/SpLD. She also spent a year as a researcher to a journalist in Hong Kong and subsequently worked in a PR company after gaining a Diploma from the Institute of Marketing. She lives in Oxford with her husband and has three children, one of whom is working in London whilst the other two are doing PGCE teacher training courses. Emma used to be a d’Overbroeck’s host family.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  • Are the same rules applied in host families as in the boarding houses?

    Host families are fully aware of all the school rules and follow the same where possible. Curfew is the same time (10pm Sunday-Thursday and 11pm Friday and Saturday). Unlike the boarding house, there is no Study Period as we believe students in their second year will be able to manage their workload to suit them. Host families will report to me should this not be the case.

  • Is it as safe to live in a host family as in the boarding house?

    Our host families undertake the Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children Board course and we carry out regular police checks on the hosts and fire risk assessments on the properties. All our host families are located in North Oxford which is regarded as an extremely secure area.

  • Are host families able to continue hosting students over half terms and holidays?

    Very often, yes, but it is always wise to check with them in advance. They know that the majority of students will want to stay during the summer half term due to exams.

  • If a student has particular dietary needs, can these be accommodated?

    Students have the opportunity to let me know any dietary needs in a questionnaire prior to placing and these can usually be met if I know in advance. We are lucky to have some very highly rated cooks and students will always rate their meals higher than the school meals they had in the boarding house.

  • Are host families able to offer academic/pastoral advice if required?

    Yes, our host families are all parents themselves and professional people (currently we have three professors from Oxford University) and always glad to help.

  • Can the student leave their luggage during the holidays?

    Yes, this is included for the Christmas and Easter holidays and usually offered for the Summer holidays before they move in for a small extra fee.

  • Do students in host families have the same access to healthcare as in the boarding house?

    Exactly the same. Our school nurse is available in the same way to students in host families. All students are registered at the Summertown Health Centre in Banbury Road. If a student needs to go to A&E, their host family will usually volunteer to drive them if they are available.

  • Are students able to choose who they live with in a host family?

    Yes, and they are given the opportunity to name them in the questionnaire I send over Christmas.

  • What happens if a student has complaints about their host family?

    At least once a term, the student’s Director of Studies will check in with the student and highlight any issues to me which I will follow up. We also carry out direct and more detailed student surveys which allows us to only retain the very best.

  • Who would a student contact in an emergency?

    All our students in host families, together with the host families themselves, are given the Boarding Emergency Mobile. If it is in working hours, they can also call Emma Brett on her mobile.

  • What would happen if a student wanted to move out?

    Students only have to give seven days’ notice if for some reason they believe they should move out.

  • What if a student wants to change host family?

    In the unlikely event a student wants to move families, we will speak to the student to understand the reasons for this and if required we will find them a more suitable host family within seven days (whereas in the boarding house there is one term’s notice).

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