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Things to Consider when Choosing a Boarding School

When we think of a boarding school, we may think that this is something that is only required by families who live in regional centres and away from suitable education facilities. However, when you scratch under the surface, you will find a wide range of families choose boarding for their family’s educational needs.

With over thirty years’ experience in caring for boarding students, Somerville House Head of Boarding, Mrs Pamela Hodgetts, shares her insight into making the right decision for your young person’s education, and helping them find the right fit in their ‘home away from home’.

Boarding school – when, why and where?

Planning for your child’s education is undoubtedly one of the most important endeavours, you, as a parent, will ever undertake. Finding the right ‘fit’ for your child will take time, but it will be time well spent.

When researching boarding options for your child there are a number of things to consider, such as: When is the right time to send them? What are the advantages of being a boarder? Where is the best place to send them to ensure they are given the best opportunities?

When is the right time to start boarding school?

Each child and each family is different; the ‘right’ time to start boarding school will most likely depend on personal circumstances. For many families living in isolated areas, there is very little choice other than Distance Education, which provides a wonderful education but offers minimal interaction with other students.

Boarding provides students with wonderful opportunities in academic, creative and co-curricular pursuits, but it is the friendships, sense of belonging and supportive environment which are of great benefit to young people.

What types of accommodation are offered?

Boarding school – when, why and where? Somerville House Boarding

Some schools will have boarders from as young as Prep, whilst others will take older students. Some schools offer boarders a dormitory-style arrangement, with multiple beds per room. Ask the school you are considering how their rooming is structured. Schools suggest that this style of accommodation helps with social interaction and managing homesickness. The younger students may feel less isolated in a small dorm, and can develop friendships slowly, without the overwhelming large dorm-style accommodation.

As the boarders progress into the their senior years of schooling, they may be offered the luxury and space of twin share bedrooms or even single bedrooms with shared or private ensuites. The natural progression of boarders as they reach these senior years requires greater privacy, and quiet space to meet the increased needs of their academic studies. For many Year 12 students, this privilege is considered a rite of passage.

What support do students need as boarders?

When living away from home, students will naturally require a warm and supportive environment, where they are cared for and nurtured. To assist in creating a strong, family-like community, ask the school if they have ‘Big Sister’ or ‘Big Brother’ programs and ask how they operate year-round.

Somerville House offers a Green Sisters program, where family tables are made up of boarders from each year level, and welcome a new boarder into their table each year.

While ‘Big Sister’ & ‘Big Brother’ programs can often leave younger boarders with a sense of loss and isolation when their big sister leaves at the end of the year, the family table ensures that boarders will always have a sense of family-support in the boarding house.

Somerville House Boarding 3

How does location play a role when choosing a boarding school?

Whilst regional schools offer the advantage of being geographically closer for some regional families, Brisbane boarding schools have many additional benefits which arise from boarding in a city location.

Brisbane boarding schools are just a stone’s throw away from the cultural heartland of Queensland, with easy access to the city, South Bank Parklands, the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, the Queensland State Library, Museum and Art Gallery, the Botanical Gardens and much more.

For students who are looking to pursue tertiary studies following their school education, boarding in Brisbane offers students a sense of familiarity with their surroundings, public transport and all that city-living offers. These students will also have the benefit of having set strong foundations for friendships and other support networks as they transition into tertiary studies.

There are many advantages of choosing boarding school for your child’s education. While academic, cultural and sporting programs provide the perfect scaffolding for boarders to explore their talents and interests, it is the friendships, support and shared commitment to the fullness of life and learning that are the heart of the boarding community.

There are other things to consider when choosing the right school. Check out our article on tips for choosing a school for your daughter.

Somerville House is a Prep to Year 12 day school for girls, with boarding available from Year 6 to Year 12 and a co-educational Pre-Prep program. For more information, please contact their Enrolments Office on 07 3248 9202, email enrolments@somerville.qld.edu.au or visit www.somerville.qld.edu.au

This article was published in Issue 23 of our print magazine, August/September 2017.

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Janine Mergler

Janine Mergler is a veteran Queensland teacher, graduating from QUT with a BEd majoring in Social Sciences. After many years in the classroom, Janine moved on to academia. She has proudly trained new generations of teachers in her role as a lecturer at Queensland University of Technology Faculty of Education. She has also worked in the Queensland Government as an education specialist, developing education resources and delivering community awareness programs to help families conserve water. Currently she is the owner and editor of Families Magazine, a publication specifically targeted at parents who value a quality education for children.  Janine leads a team of professionals who write about family lifestyle, early childhood, schools and education information and family-friendly events.

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