Boarding staff are a special breed! For so much of your time your focus is on other people, and you play such a critical role looking after other people’s children. You walk the floor in the boarding house, stop to chat, help with homework, encourage the boarders to give things a go, teach them about sensible technology use, help with tough decisions, ensure you know where they are, eat your meals with them and hopefully get them enough sleep - just to name a few of the daily chores.
But isn’t it a challenge to explain to those not in our industry just what you do? No-one really understands the demands you actually face, the time pressures you are under, and the challenges you come across. Imagine describing to a stranger the extra workload the coronavirus has meant to so many of our schools. One Head of Boarding recently said to me - “I thought I was pretty good at handling stress, but this coronavirus nearly broke me”. And all of this happened on top of the induction of new students, the homesickness, the new staff, and all the other administrative tasks which can dominate the work day.
So this year, we in ABSA are working extra hard to help others understand just how important your work is for our society. We are working to get our profession recognised, not only by those who are doing the work, but by all those who are affected by it - and those who aren’t. The focus of all our media contacts for the year will be about the professionalisation of the industry - no longer is the boarding staff member just a teacher who wanted a free house to live in, or a person who thought it might be a good job for a while - the boarding staff member of today is a professional, trained in their important work, continually looking for professional learning opportunities, and who is working toward not only having an excellent standard of boarding provision in the school but also becoming accredited themselves.
ABSA will launch the Certification Scheme for Boarding Schools, using AS5725-2015, the Boarding Standard for Australian Schools and Residences, in coming months and believe it will be critical to see all of our schools become certified against this standard. The Accredited Boarding Practitioner Scheme, jointly developed with the UK Boarding Schools Association, is growing steadily, giving staff a real opportunity to celebrate their professional standing within the industry. National Boarding Week from 17 to 23 May will help schools to focus on what makes their boarding school programs special. The ABSA Training Academy will soon launch, offering base level training (as we do at present), and further options including on-line courses and specified workshops, right up to a Masters in conjunction with Buckingham University in the UK - again sharing in the good work of our sister organisation in the UK. And we are working on a complete re-write and re-design of the Duty of Care Certificate Course to launch in 2021.
So how can you be involved? Get along to the many and varied activities ABSA is running across Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and shortly in Malaysia. Our aim is to provide a wide range of activities to suit every level of staff - from ‘A Look Inside’ where you get to see how others run their boarding program, to ‘nuts-and-bolts’ sessions for those at the coalface, from user workshops in boarding software to boarding-specialised Youth Mental Health First Aid qualifications, from First-Aid training which is targeted to boarding schools to personalised workshops run by ABSA personnel to address those issues faced in your specific school. And of course if you haven’t undertaken the Duty of Care Certificate Course during the last four years your qualification is out-of-date - time to come along again!
Let’s all work together to get our professional recognised, not only in our schools but by the wider community as a whole. The work everyone in this sector does is exceptional - keep it up!
Until next time - Signing Out