Boarding Report – May 11, 2017

May 10, 2017

A few weeks ago I was contacted by a journalist who had been tasked with writing a series of articles on various aspects of a boarding education. I was invited to pass comment, make observations and provide an informed insight into the different topics for discussion. These articles were published in the Australian Financial Review on Saturday and I would highly recommend reading them. However, I thought I would share some of them with you over the next couple of Crest reports from Boarding.

-‘Boarding school offers academic support and all kinds of extras’

-Much more than just a place to eat and sleep, the modern boarding school comes with a list of educational extras that go well beyond classroom learning.

Nightly prep sessions and access to specialist tutors are the norm in boarding schools, as are personal enrichment programs focusing on life skills and healthy living habits.

“The academic support provided now at boarding school is huge and unmatched by what most parents can provide at home,” says Tina Campbell, head of boarding at St- Mary’s Anglican Girls’ School in Perth.

Of the many reasons families choose boarding, academic considerations are still top of the list, particularly for rural and remote families, says Richard Stokes, executive director of The Australian Boarding Schools Association.

“A good education is founded upon academia so the pull of boarding as an academic discipline is always going to be a strong selling point for parents,” says Mike Silcock, director of boarding at St- Patrick’s College, Ballarat, adding that “it wouldn’t be how I would sell boarding, having been a boarder myself for 11 years. We will never shy away from the fact academic reasons are a driving factor but my view is it shouldn’t be the only one.”

At Pymble Ladies’ College on Sydney’s North Shore, the routine of nightly prep gives students two hours of supervised tuition a night in which they can enlist the help of teachers specialising in their subjects.

Year 11 Pymble student, Georgia Laurie, credits “prep”- for making her a more confident student and says she misses the extra support when it is not there:

“There’s a lot help available for boarders and I think that makes a big difference,” she explains. “I really enjoy prep. It makes you get on and do your work because you’ve got the opportunity to rather than sitting in your room procrastinating or not knowing what to do.”

Extended care option

The chance to continue classroom learning into the evening hours with extra tuition is a big drawcard for inner-city families too, says principal Vicki Waters. An increasing number of families are opting for weekday or extended boarding for the additional academic support, she says.

Since 2011, the school has offered day girls an optional Extended Day Program which allows them to stay at school for afternoon tea and supervised homework time, go to their sport practice or music lessons, and stay and dine with the boarders before going home with their parents at 9pm.

“Many parents couldn’t be without this extended care in the afternoons and evenings as it takes the stress out of co-ordinating parents’ busy working lives and their childrens’ equally busy after-hours activities,” she says.

At Tara Anglican School for Girls in Parramatta, a majority of boarders are from country families wanting a “city experience” for their daughter, and the academic opportunities that go with that, says principal Susan Middlebrook.

“We’ve got children here from all sorts of different academic backgrounds -“ country and city. We’ve got girls that don’t live that far away and come in to board because they want that structure around their nights that they are not going to get at home and also access to the school’s resources on a longer basis. They can work in the art rooms or study in the senior learning centre after school or use the library and not have to worry about getting home.”

“We are a fairly ‘academically aspirational’ school, meaning that the girls and their families are looking for strong outcomes. The kids work hard for that and they need support. That is relevant particularly for rural families.”

Teaching life skills

A good boarding school will not only provide academic support but should also take care of a pupil’s social, emotional, spiritual and physical needs, says Stokes. Wellbeing programs to ensure all these extra qualities develop equally well alongside classroom learning are a priority offering for many boarding schools, he says.

At Tara in Parramatta, additional academic support is available but it is part of a broader focus on personal development, directed at the girl’s acquiring important life skills, says Middlebrook.

The school’s 55 boarders take part in weekly “Life Prep” classes to teach them everyday skills they would otherwise be learning in their home environment, she says.

“It’s about making sure they have all those skills- -“- how to open a bank account, time management, how to set a table -“- all that stuff that organically happens with a family.”

Recent activities have included preparing for mock job interviews, where girls dress appropriately and are interviewed by teaching staff after preparing for tricky job interview questions. They also have a community service program for girls in Years 10 to 12 in which they offer weekly homework assistance to children at Ronald McDonald House.

“It’s about investing in them as people, not just learners, and making sure they are prepared for the challenges of life once they leave boarding school,” says Middlebrook.

Although the pull of boarding as an academic discipline is always going to be a strong selling point for parents, St Patrick’s Silcock- believes a good boarding school goes further to develop the “whole person”.

“Schooling is very much results driven but the reality is there must be more to boarding school than simply the grade the boarder, he or she, leaves the school with. There has to be more to a future, your future, than simply your academic ability.”

Programs to support pupil’s social and emotional needs are important, says Silcock, but believes the best education in life remains boarding itself:

“I wouldn’t be in the position I am today were it not for my positive experiences as a boarder,” says Silcock who at St- Patrick’s is director of a boarding house of 45 male boarders. “For me, my ability to converse with people of all ages and walks of life are all things I learnt through my own boarding. I learnt resilience, I learnt about a sense of community and all those things you don’t necessarily see in a boarding prospectus but those are the things that make boarding so unique and so special, and it’s something that no ‘day education’ is ever going to give you.” Emily Parkinson, Australian Financial Review.

As always please do not hesitate to contact us if there is anything we can do to improve your son’s boarding experience -“ and support them in any way.

Look after yourselves.

Mike Silcock

Director of Boarding

Term 2 and all of a sudden we are already into week 4. As you are all aware, Kenny House was slightly revamped to welcome all our boarders into it and it has been extremely pleasing to see all of the boys getting along with each other and the new arrangement. It is wonderful to now operate as a single identity and we know that the students are enjoying all of the new friendships that are forming across the whole house.

The Year 12 boys are all studying hard and have increased their focus with the finish line creeping ever closer. Developing better study habits now will certainly help them in the later parts of the year.

It is also now more important than ever that the boys look after themselves, both physically and mentally. This includes making sure that they are staying warm, well and that they are getting enough rest. A timely reminder for all that we can only assist with the needs of our boarders if we are aware that there is an issue. It is imperative that we know if a boarding student is feeling unwell or needs any help in navigating their pathways at this time especially.

We have been exceptionally proud of many of our boarders who have donated their time, money and even blood, to different community services and events. Such events include the recent -Walk Off the War Within-, where a number of our boarders spent the morning handing out water to Emergency Service Personnel, Defence Force Personnel and members of the public who were walking 20kms around Victoria Park to raise awareness for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Five boys recently rolled up their sleeves and donated blood at the Australian Red Cross Blood Service, others have been visiting residents at -‘Talbot Place’, an Aged Care Facility close to the College and many are tutoring refugee children on a Wednesday night. Many of the boys also donated money to support the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation by purchasing wrist bands with the words -You Can Sit With Me.- When our boarders grasp these opportunities it enriches the lives of others and their own boarding experience.

We have many wonderful events happening this term including our Mother’s Day Mass and Bake Off, attending the opening night of the College production, -‘West Side Story’, the annual -Bring A Friend to Boarding Night- and the Year 10 Night of Homelessness to name just a few.

Our Kenny (boarding) students continue to amaze us with their positive attitude and comradery in the boarding community and we are looking forward to another enjoyable and busy term within the walls of Kenny House.

Tamara Westwood

Senior Housemaster

There have many great opportunities already this term for the boarders to engage in the wider Ballarat community. Recently we have been assisting Ballarat’s growing Chinese ex-pat community. Over the night we go through a series of activities designed to improve their day to day English skills while also welcoming new comers to our Ballarat community. The boarders are often full of stories on the way back to College, chatting about how their group did this or how Chinese New Year is different; perhaps not noticing how over a simple conversation on recipes for ANZAC biscuits they have been teaching their own and learning a new culture. Personally, I like to see how the boys have grown to being able to take their own groups, running mini lessons and encouraging understanding. While there are definitely lessons being learnt about leadership, there are also equally important lessons on empathy hopefully being learnt as well.

Daniel Willey

Weekend Housemaster

Returning to the College that has given and afforded me so much to date has been an over whelming, joyful and rewarding experience, and while I return in a different capacity to what I had first arrived in, the place still has the same level of comfortability that was built in my time here as a St. Patrick’s College student. I return now as a member of the boarding staff, one of the many opportunities afforded to me by the College, and whilst it has been strange going from student to staff I have thoroughly enjoyed and treasured both experiences in that they have helped me in the most formative stages of my life to date, just as the College had set out to do when I walked through the gates some six years ago. I was challenged in my role as Boarding Captain, as 1st XV rugby captain and now as a staff member. I am ultimately hoping to actively increase the all-around quality of experiences that is boarding for our students. Re-joining the College in the way I have has given me an insight into why these changes that have taken place are for the greater good of our boarders’ experiences in boarding, while things have changed and are ultimately different to how I perceived them to be while I was a boarder they have vastly improved, from the food served, the time allocated to study and the general care for the boys from the staff involved in boarding. This for me has been aided this term by the introduction of all boarding students into one house area within the College. The accessibility to the College for the students who were not on sight previously has been an advantage and from a staffing point of view it’s allowed me to be able to create more meaningful and strong relationships with each boy due to the fact I am not just interacting with the one house. I anticipate these advantages will only be enhanced for all by the completion of the new boarding facility at the end of the year, fully ready for the start of the 2018 school year.

Daniel Briggs

Boarding Assistant