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.
There is a variety of reasons why parents wish to send their child to boarding school. This may include:
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.”
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
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”.
Different schools provide different kinds of boarding. Boarding may include:
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 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 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.
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.
“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.