How has the Australian Boarding School Community Evolved?

Credit: Freshnam School

Boarding schools are an option for parents looking to enrol in independent schooling. They enable students to make social improvements whilst living with different people. Australian boarding schools have evolved in many ways over the years.

In NSW, 53 of 490 independent schools offer boarding. There are 29 independent boarding schools in Victoria.

Why do parents send their child to a boarding school?

There is a variety of reasons why parents wish to send their child to boarding school. This may include:

  • Fosters student’s responsibility and independence by living on their own;
  • Students will have a community;
  • Provides their child with structure and routine;
  • Their child is free from distractions that may arise at home; or
  • Parents may have difficulties travelling to and from school.

Richard Stokes, CEO of the Australian Boarding Schools Association has described “homesickness” as a common issue for kids.

“Homesickness is an issue and something that we celebrate. You want them to miss home. But you also want them to see the opportunities that are worth missing home”.

Mr Stokes explains that boarding schools can provide a big family for children.

“If they are the only child, what they are going into is learning to deal with people their own age, younger or older. They get those wonderful communication skills.”

What does modern boarding look like?

Modern boarding is varied and widespread in all of its ways of approach.

Mr Stokes who started working in boarding 40 years ago said there are many good freedoms now.

Many schools now offer programs which help families of boarding students connect with one another.

Caulfield Grammar School offers a ‘Boarders Parents & Friends group’.

Tim Gallop, Caulfield’s head of boarding says it “helps communicate boarding-specific information and provide family network-building opportunities.”

The McDonald College, North Strathfield, connects to parents with apps.

“We have apps which allow the parents and staff know where the kids are at all times. The app requires permission from the parents for each outing the children request.”

Rebecca Rogers, Boarding Department

Who is attending boarding schools?

Boarding schools are attended by a diverse range of students including 7-8% international students from non-English speaking backgrounds and 10% indigenous kids.

They mostly include local students from rural or remote areas making up  approximately 75%.

The trend for children who live closer to school attending boarding is also increasing.

Local parents may choose boarding where their child is involved in school extra-curricular activities. This may assist the children who are required to travel an hour or more.

Headmaster Dr Timothy Hawkes, from The King’s School Parramatta told the Australian Financial Review “an increasing number of (boarders) are from families who live quite close to the school”.


boarders. male and female boarders. students at boarding school. boarding school dinner table.
Credit: Assumption College, Kilmore

What are the Types of Boarding?

Different schools provide different kinds of boarding. Boarding may include:

Short-stay Boarding

Short stay boarding, also known as ‘flexi’ boarding provides the opportunity to board 2-3 nights a week.

Schools may also allow for parents to select any boarding nights at the beginning of each term.

Weekly or ‘Metro’ Boarding

Weekly boarders leave school during the weekend. They may go home on Friday or Saturday afternoons. Students return on Sunday evenings or Monday mornings.

“Sydney kids go home weekends. Others go home on school holidays.”

Rebecca Rogers, The McDonald College

This option is suitable for children who live far from school or parents who work long hours or travel frequently.

Full Boarding

Full boarding schools take place 7 days a week during the term. Students are provided with extensive leave opportunities.

Different schools provide either single-sex or coeducational options with clear boundaries in place.

Boarding and Technology

Mr Stokes says boarding schools are conscious of the negative aspects around social media and technology.

Schools are restricting kids access to technology when they should be sleeping.

boarders. boarding school in nsw. male boarders in dorm.
Credit: The McDonald College

“There are also really strong education programs in boarding schools to help kids with problems around the dangers of sexting and on social media” he said.

Choosing a school for your child can be difficult, if you wish to receive further information please see Choosing a School NSW 37 or Choosing a School VIC 34.


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