Friday 16 August 2019

The Role of a Head of Boarding

I regularly get asked what the role of Head of Boarding is like, and can honestly say that it is impossible to explain to someone who hasn’t ever done it. However, it has got me thinking - what should a modern day Head of Boarding be doing?

First and foremost, I believe the role is one of Leadership not Management. Too often in the busy-ness of life those running a boarding house can get bogged down in management tasks - approving leave, answering emails, writing reports, and the myriad of paperwork tasks which come across their desk every day. I can clearly recall how difficult it was to get on top of this all and still do the job I was meant to be doing - actually leading my staff and my boarders and the community as a whole. It is the place of the leader to develop the strategy of the boarding house and put together an action plan for this strategy, not just be doing the actions!

My thoughts are that a Head of Boarding needs to step away from their desk and provide the boarders with the life skills they will need for their future. With the boarders spending 40 weeks of their year under our care they miss out on so many opportunities to learn the important things in life - about money, about health, about sex and relationships, and about living independently, just to name a few. Our boarding houses are being challenged more and more to fill these gaps, and we should all be reaching out to grab this opportunity with both hands. However, I am surprised and concerned that so many of those leading our boarding houses don’t see this as a critical part of their role, or say that they don’t have time for this. If we do not provide these life skills for those under our care, who will? The answer is actually quite simple - no-one - and this is very obvious when you talk with some of those ex-boarders who can’t budget and are always running out of money, don’t know anything about the options of where they might live when they leave the boarding house, of how to sign a lease and find the bond payments necessary, of how to cook simple meals, change the tyres on their car or even sew on a button or iron their clothes. It is the boarding houses job to teach these - not the schools, and we can’t rely on their parents as they are not at home long enough to do this. We need to develop a Residential Curriculum for our boarders, and put the time and effort into ensuring age specific skills are learnt by every boarder, and it is the job of the leader of the boarding house - the Head of Boarding - to do this.

So, when anyone working in boarding feels snowed under with the administration needs, it is time for them to step aside and re-analyse the way they are working. Our Leaders Conference in Adelaide in August will help with these skills - email ninja which teaches you how to be on top of your emails every day, the skills of turning strategy into action, balancing work and life and ensuring the important things are done well, all of the time. We all need to read more on leadership (have you read ‘Leaders Eat Last’ by Simon Sinek?), to spend time being the role model for whom your boarders are looking, and to see strategy as the way forward, not just busy work.

I was once told you should never answer a question with ‘I didn’t have time’ as time is a choice - you choose whether to do something or not to - and I believe all those leading our boarding communities need to make the choice to lead, to develop their own Residential Curriculum, and to make sure that when their boarders leave school they are fully equipped for the challenges they face.

Richard Stokes

Chief Executive Officer

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