As someone who has spent a large proportion of their adult life working and living in boarding school communities, I would like to offer you some of my own personal views and advice. Here are three areas where I think you would be well advised to slow down and think through your options before choosing a boarding school for your child.
1. Blindly following family tradition
Boarding has changed greatly in recent history and what may have been suitable for some family members in the past, may not be so for the next generation. Without doubt, having different generations of a family go through the same school is a very special thing. However, if this loyalty becomes blind and overrides what is right for your child, then it may do more harm than good and therefore should be thought through carefully. It is important to weigh up tradition with factors such as the ethos of the school and boarding house, as well as what is important for your child. You need to make sure that the values of the school reflect your own so that you know you will work together when you face an obstacle.
2. Only visiting one school
It is really important that you can make comparisons. Whilst the first boarding house you consider may be the best you see, you won’t actually know that for sure until you compare them. This will leave you feeling more comfortable with the final decision that you make. Whilst you may have heard amazing things about a school and boarding house from others, this is their experience and they will hold different things. You need to make the decision based on your own judgment.
3. Not visiting the school and the boarding house when students are around
This is a must. When you walk through a school during the holiday period, it is quite difficult to obtain a feel for the environment. However, visiting a campus and boarding house facilities when people are there will immediately give you a sense of the community and the feel of the place. You will be able to observe several key things. Are students only interacting with those their age, or is there vertical interaction between year levels? I would advise that you watch the staff closely and see how present and engaged they are with the students in their care. Finally, hopefully you will notice that the boarding house is busy. You want your child to be engaged and active in their time there.
I want to finish by wishing you all the best with your search for the perfect boarding school for you, your family and your child. It truly must be a decision that satisfies all three aspects. As a Head of Boarding, I am continually inspired by the journey that boarders take. Seeing them arrive as nervous children and watching them transform into fine young men and women is truly a privilege. Boarding opens wonderful opportunities, you have a lot to look forward to, both you and your child!
Rodney Steer (Head of Boarding at Wesley College)
Taking on the position of Head of Boarding at Wesley College at the beginning of the year has been a life changing event for Mr. Rodney Steer. Taking the plunge and moving to Perth from Geelong with his young family was a major decision for him and his wife, but they are extremely happy that they have made the move.
For Rod, the two most important things in boarding are community and relationships, and he has been busy building strong relationships with our boarding community by spending as much time as he can with the boarders, their families and boarding staff.