Friday 14 July 2023

What Makes Boarding Staff Training Different?

During the last six months I have been in discussion with a number of professional learning providers about what they are offering and, without fail, they are intrigued when I talk about the incredible role our boarding staff play looking after other people’s children for that other 18 hours a day - when they are not in class.

Most recently we have been working with a provider to put together some online Child Protection training which is aimed at the specific needs of boarding staff - concentrating on areas such as grooming, careful supervision around bedroom and bathroom spaces and developing protocols which ensure both the boarders themselves and the staff working with them are comfortable and safe. This was highlighted even more to me recently when I met up with one of my ex-boarders from the early 1990s and he talked about how when training to become a counsellor it brought back to him his experience as a Year Eight boarder when one of the staff clearly was grooming him - thankfully for him nothing more happened, whilst

for others this was not the case.

Our Duty of Care Level Two - Essential Knowledge workshop highlights these issues specifically, but it is clear to me that one training in this area is nowhere near enough - it must be re-visited annually and mention the specific situation that boarding is, so that it is completely relevant and the perfect reminder of our need to take care and watch. So we are looking forward to being able to provide this for our members later this year.

However, child safety is not the only issue in which our staff need continual training - it is every aspect of their boarding journey. This term we have provided Certificate Courses in both Risk and Academic Performance Improvement, the Online Boarding Conference had some great speakers once again, and the ongoing webinars provide deep learning in specific topics relevant to the work of the boarding house staff member. However sometimes I wonder why these online activities are not oversubscribed - especially

given we have over 3,900 boarding staff in Australia. I have heard all sorts of excuses - we don’t have a budget for that, our teachers do heaps of professional development, we don’t have enough time in the day, just to name a few but I challenge you to consider it with your legal glasses on - what will that day in court be like if the only training boarding staff have undertaken was a Duty of Care workbook

completed six years ago?

For too long the boarding section of the school has been treated like the poor cousin, the one who gets the spoils of PD money once all the important people in the school have spent theirs. For too long those boarding staff who work part-time in boarding and also work elsewhere have used the excuse that they don’t have time.

For too long those who are also teachers in the school treat boarding as an add-on and therefore not one which requires any level of training. And for too long those running our boarding houses have thought they have all the answers and there is nothing more they can learn. As the lucky one who gets to see most of our training options as part of my work I can’t believe how much better I would have been at my job running a boarding school if I had had the opportunity to up-skill like we do today. 

So here are ten quick ways you might consider expanding yours and your boarding team’s learning:

1. if you have subscribed to the webinar bundle (and for those of you who haven’t this is by far the cheapest online training available for your staff) structure your staff meetings around getting

staff to report back on a webinar they found useful and/or interesting over the last term.

2. closely follow your PD certificates (your Head of Boarding gets a listing each term and every staff member can request one from our office) to ensure you undertake at least 15 hours

of training each year.

3. if you are new to boarding, complete the Duty of Care Level 1 - Induction course online which is free for all members

4. complete the free online courses ‘Active Duty’ and ‘Top Tips for Boarding Staff’

5. check the range of Certificate Courses offered each term and subscribe to at least one every year

6. send in a request to our office if you have a topic which is pressing in your work and you would like us to teach out learning on

7. if your work includes handing out medication to boarders, complete the online 'Administer Medications’ course

8. spend time watching the free online boarding house tours - they are a fantastic way to pick up new ideas and learn how others have solved the same problems you face

9. whilst you will have missed the 2023 Online Boarding Conference, make this a priority for future years. Where else can you get access to fabulous international keynote speakers for such a reasonable price and without leaving your staffroom or office?

10. Register for the International Boarding Conference in September to be held in Hobart - the program entitled ‘Keeping Boarders’ Lives Safer’ is quite exciting.

Good luck on your professional journey in this wonderful profession and don’t forget that ABSA is here to help you at every step along the way.

Richard Stokes

Chief Executive Officer