I am writing this at the end of National Boarding Week, a week which saw so many of our boarding schools celebrate the fact that they have boarders. Too often in the busy-ness of life at school the little things get missed - the girls enjoying the chance to cook together on a Sunday afternoon, the boys helping each other with their assignment work, the boarders getting in and assisting with school events - the list is endless. But this week has given us the chance to highlight those things which make our boarding communities special. Special assemblies which mentioned the challenges many of our rural and remote boarders face at home, videos produced which have allowed our boarders to talk about what boarding means to them, photos of the community having fun together and above all the chance to remind all students in our schools that there is a boarding house (or more than one) on campus, and that it’s a fun place to live. It was great to watch boarding school celebrate the work of their boarding staff - special cupcakes, flowers, cards of thanks from the boarders and special words from the Principals to name a few.
ABSA proudly produced the first of a series of videos. Entitled ‘Why Boarding?’ this video, which is available for all member schools to use, is aimed toward parents and those interested in what boarding schools are all about.
However, there is an underlying theme in the video which is important to remember. It highlights how important it is for all schools to be at the highest standard. It is easy for those leading our boarding schools, and staff working in them, to be satisfied with what they are doing, and have been doing for a number of years. It is easy to be satisfied that they meet the minimum standard required by different State Governments, even though these are not at the same level as the National Minimum Standard. It is easy to be satisfied with staff who are undertrained, or haven’t undergone any specific boarding training for some time, or at all. These are the boarding houses which put us all at risk. I still hear stories of where young staff let the older boys bully the younger boys and turn a blind eye (yes, this was reported to me this year!), where staff are content that their Duty of Care training completed in 2011 means they know what is expected of them in 2021, where staff are rostered on long duties covering the whole weekend without any breaks or support, where schools will not spend money to help improve their boarding school by introducing Boarding School Management software or improve their staff by encouraging them to undertake the free online training offered and where those who are teachers and work in boarding believe they don’t need to undertake any boarding training as they already do enough Professional Learning.
So what can schools do to really celebrate boarding? We can ensure our boarders get the best support from their well-trained staff, we can spend time talking with our boarders about current issues such as consent, pornography, social media and bullying, and why it is important for them to develop a balanced, well-rounded view on this rather than just leaving it for the day school to handle. We can make our boarders feel special by actually listening to what they are saying and reading their body language, we can ensure all our boarding staff understand that they hold an incredibly important position, one which is professional in its own right.
Thanks for all that you are doing to make events such as National Boarding Week so special - keep up the good work!