Wednesday 5 April 2023

Are We Doing Our Job?

Imagine you are a new boarding parent and the idea of sending your child to boarding had never crossed you mind until your circumstances changed a few months before the school year started. Where would you start? How do you know what boarding school can best serve your needs? What thoughts might go through your mind?

My first thoughts would be - how do I know they will look after my child properly? How can they prove this to me? Do they measure themselves against anything? How can they get help when something goes wrong?

Now, I do know I’m a little biased when I look at these ideas - but I would be very confident that many of your new parents would have been thinking the same thing. So how do you know

you’ve got it right for the moment and kept up with all the rapid changes occurring in our industry? Do you measure yourself? Is there anything you can do to ensure you can answer their questions with real confidence? Of course there is......

Many boarding schools over the last few years have reached out to see if we could help them by reviewing their boarding operation and sharing ideas garnered over many hundreds of visits to schools and a deep understanding of the one thing we have to measure our success: AS5725:2015 Boarding Standard for Australian Schools and Residences. I must admit this is one of the great joys of my work, getting the chance to talk with all boarding and many key school staff, parents and the boarders themselves about how things are operating, and then producing a detailed report on the strengths and weaknesses of the program being reviewed. 

These are not only asked for by schools who feel they are struggling - quite the opposite in fact, as strong boarding programs are often very keen to become even stronger, and ‘outside eyes’, especially those with a good deal of boarding experience, provide this opportunity.

Other schools are very keen to get detailed responses from well designed surveys of boarders and boarding parents, and use these questionnaires to gauge how well their boarding programs are working. Parents need to be asked regularly about how they view a school’s boarding program, and requested to provide responses which can guide the development and expansion of key programs to assist the boarders. Those within our care, too, need to be able to voice their opinion on how boarding is going, and be respected for their opinions and advice. Surveys such as this satisfy a number of the sections of the Boarding Standard which expects regular feedback from parents and boarders.

And the exciting development is the completion of our Certification Scheme. With the lockdowns and border closures of Covid behind us we have been able to finalise the scheme we began putting together back in 2017 which includes two levels of self-assessment to ensure all items within the Standard are covered, and now a Certification inspection and the ability to happily be a Certified Boarding School. Two trial schools have helped us ensure the program is robust and workable, and given us an understanding of the work involved and the time it takes, and we will roll out the option to all schools in the next few weeks.

But why would you do any of these - as they all cost money, and we all know money is tight in our schools? The simple answer is because they satisfy the one and only Standard which exists to ensure our boarding schools and their programs are up-to-scratch. The longer answer is because if we don’t continually appraise ourselves, measure ourselves and ensure we are providing an appropriate standard of care for our boarders we will start to fall behind and struggle for enrolments as the boarders will be going elsewhere - where the School is meeting the Standard.

Food for thought - I’m more than happy to chat in greater depth if you are interested.