Australia’s boarding schools are undergoing a resurgence as students increasingly embrace the advantages of living at school, particularly during the week.
The popularity of Monday to Friday boarding is strongest with “HSC boarders” — senior students who have chosen boarding to allow them to focus more intensely on their studies, free of the distractions of home and with tutoring readily available.
But many students, even when their families live locally, opt to board for the collegial atmosphere and to avoid commuting, especially if they have significant sporting or extracurricular commitments.
At The King’s School in Parramatta, where approximately 25% of its 360 boarders are Sydney-based, headmaster Dr Tim Hawkes says the rising popularity of weekly boarding rests on more than convenience; it’s a way of life. “We’re the Hogwarts of Sydney,” he enthuses. “Parents want to provide their sons the experience of living in our community.”
The Scots College in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs also stresses the social aspects of boarding as a unique benefit with lasting impact.
The college lists six long-term benefits of boarding:
- Stability: Daily routine and structure gives boarders stability, order and certainty.
- Relationships: Boarding develops positive, lifelong friendships
- Pastoral Care: Pastoral care promotes positive learning experiences, in and out of the boarding house
- Opportunity: Boarding offers easy access to academic tutorials, sports training and social gatherings
- Diversity: Local students benefit from living with students with a different heritage
- New Experiences: Boarders can try new and rewarding experiences such as rowing or playing cricket
Whether you’re a weekly or full-time boarder, living at school can be an enriching experience for children and parents.
A 2008 survey conducted by the Independent Schools Council of Australia found parents had overwhelmingly positive views of boarding with 92% saying that they would make the same choice again.
Parents told researchers that boarding helped their children grow into “well-rounded and well-balanced” young adults who are “independent, self-reliant, tolerant and compassionate.”
These laudable outcomes may be due to the supervision and support boarders enjoy with many parents expressing the view that the boarding environment protects students from negative external influences while helping to promote individual responsibility.
Domestic harmony is another upside. A 2013 study comparing educational attainment and personal well-being between day and boarding students found boarders enjoy a slight edge, including better family relationships.
Speaking to The Australian newspaper, lead researcher Andrew Martin, Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of NSW, attributed the results to two elements: “the removal of the daily battles about homework and technology from the family dynamic, as well as the classic adage of absence making the heart grow fonder.”
But despite its many quantifiable benefits, parents should not expect too much from boarding, Professor Martin cautioned.
“Boarding school is not a cure-all magic wand, but it is a positive educational alternative to consider.”