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Home away from home? Boarding in Australian schools.


Currently, Australian boarding schools undertake to provide a home away from home for around 20,000 adolescents. Research documenting the boarding school experience is scarce, and, with few exceptions, exists as a less significant aspect of more general research into private school education. Such school-based research focuses on the positive, character-building benefits of the boarding experience. However, case studies of former boarders paint quite a different picture. In order for boarding schools to best support boarders' development, it is vital that adults who fulfil a parenting role undertake appropriate training. This paper draws together available information to present a comprehensive picture of boarding in Australian schools, with a focus on the challenges faced by the in loco parentis role of staff. It is apparent that more skills-based training is vital to better equip staff in this very important role.

Keywords Boarding schools, non-government schools, boarding houses, private education, isolated students, residential care


The purpose of this review is to assemble a current picture of boarding in Australian schools, with a specific focus on the challenges presented by the in loco parentis role of staff in their undertaking to create a home away from home for the young people in their care (boarders). Acting in loco parentis, or in the place of a parent, refers to the legal responsibility of a boarding school to undertake a number of the responsibilities of a parent. This role is pivotal to boarders' developmental outcomes but is also a role that presents many challenges in an increasingly demanding and litigious world (Anderson, 2005; Hawkes, 2001). Available information and research on boarding schools is, in the main, of a theoretical, philosophical or a sociological nature (Anderson, 2005; Hawkes, 200l; White, 2004), with very few attempts (Bramston & Patrick, 2007; CSC, 1982; Cree, 2000; Papworth, Martin, & Ginns, 2011; Papworth, Martin, Ginns, & Liem, 2012) to quantify important aspects of this environment. There is a pressing need for data to inform the parenting role of boarding staff (Bramston & Patrick, 2007; Van Hoof & Holger, 1999), and this paper represents an initial investigation into the pastoral needs of adolescents who live in boarding school environments and the staff training required to respond to these needs. Information for the present review was gathered by searching catalogues and both education (ERIC) and psychology (psychinfo) databases, using the search words 'boarding', 'boarding schools', 'residential schools', 'private schools', 'private education', 'isolated students' and 'boarders'.

Boarding schools are regulated communities designed for the education and development of residential students (Cree, 2000; White, 2004). These institutions seem to hold a degree of fascination, particularly for those who have not had the 'privilege' of sharing this unique experience, and graduates are typically portrayed in promotional material as self-reliant young people well equipped to deal with the complexities of life beyond the school gates (Boarding Schools Association [BSA], 2007; Gerrard, 2001; Independent Schools Council Australia [ISCA], 2008). Famous Australian alumni of elite boarding schools include political leaders such as Robert Menzies, as well as business giants, Kerry Packer and Rupert Murdoch. While works of fiction paint a whimsical rather than a realistic picture of the life of a boarder, they nevertheless constitute a popular representation of this environment and its inhabitants. The few authors who have investigated Australian boarding schools (see Table 1) have commented on the scarcity of relevant boarding-school research, both in Australia and overseas, and have also noted that what is available is often dated and exists as a less significant aspect of more general research into private education. The desire to safeguard a school's public standing and to protect its residents appears to have resulted in a closed-door attitude to inquiries (Cree, 2000; Poynting & Donaldson, 2005), resulting in what might be considered a biased perspective of the boarding school experience.

Boarding in Australia--how does it compare?

Sociological studies of Australian boarding schools (Cree, 2000; White, 2004) have clearly differentiated these institutions from their British counterparts. While there is an assumption that Australian boarding schools are a colonial replication of those in the United Kingdom (UK), the dissimilarity of Australian boarding schools to their corresponding institutions, not only in the UK, but also in the United States (US), Europe and South Africa, has been highlighted (Cree, 2000; White, 2004). Overseas boarding schools cater primarily for boarding students rather than day students (Wakeford, 1969; Weinberg, 1967), such that, for an overseas school to be regarded as a boarding school, between 50% (Karlton, 1966) and 75% (Weinberg, 1967) of its enrolled students need to be boarders. Only 8 of a total of approximately 154 Australian boarding schools (Independent Schools Council Australia, 2010) met this definition (Cree, 2000; White, 2004). Australian boarding schools are more likely to be independent day schools with attached boarding houses, with only a small percentage of students defined as boarders (Cree, 2000; White, 2004). This renders research conducted on overseas boarding schools of limited relevance to the Australian context.

Australian research--what we know

Research on Australian boarding schools is often a sub-focus of research into private education and data are often only accessible as part of larger studies of non-government schools (ABS, 2008; ABS, 2005). The exception is the Commonwealth Schools Commission (CSC, 1982) Study on Living Away From Home Facilities for Isolated Children; the only detailed quantitative study on Australian boarding that includes information from all states and territories. This study included a total of 26,588 boarders, a response rate of 95% (total of 28,133 boarders). The CSC study was commissioned due to an absence of national data for decision-making and, albeit dated, provides a benchmark for the current state of boarding in Australia. The paucity of current research in Australian boarding schools, particularly quantitative research, necessitated that data collection for the present paper be derived from a number of sources.

Boarding numbers 1982-2009

It is difficult to determine exactly how many boarders currently reside in Australian schools. Boarding school pupils have been excluded from the scope of the Australian Bureau of Statistics Schools Education and Work Study (SEW) since 2005; however, in May 2009, the ABS Labour Force Study (LFS) yielded an estimate of 19,200 boarding school pupils aged 15 years and over. Previous estimates of boarding numbers have included boarders younger than 15 years, rendering this recent figure an underestimate. The Independent Schools Council Australia (ISCA, 2008, 2010) recorded an increase in numbers of boarders between 2007 (16, 926) and 2009 (17, 097). These figures derive from 154 of the ISCA's 1022-member schools and, based on the comparison with 20,899 boarders estimated by the ABS (2008) and ABS LFS figures, also appear to underestimate current boarding numbers. Recent Australian data do not provide a detailed breakdown as was available in the CSC study (1982) and the ABS (2008).

Table 2 displays more detailed information on boarders attending non-government boarding schools between 1982 and 2009. These data were derived from four separate sources: Australian Bureau of Statistics ([ABS], 2005), ABS (2008), The Commonwealth Schools Commission (CSC, 1982) and the Independent Schools Council Australia (ISCA, 2008, 2009, 2010). The present review is focused only on non-government boarding schools, and the data (see Table 2) reveal noteworthy trends. Despite an overall decrease in non-government boarding numbers from 28,133 in 1982 (CSC, 1982) to 20,899 in 2007 (ABS, 2008), Queensland and New South Wales continue to support the country's largest boarding populations. The overall percentage of boarders who were male declined from 60% in 1982 to a relatively even split between males and females in 2007. Historical research has found the rural economy to be a primary influence on boarding numbers (CSC, 1982; Cree, 2000), and this remains a significant factor today (ISCA, 2008). Other factors that have influenced boarder numbers, albeit to a lesser extent, are increases in resource provision and support in local schools; improvements in technology, resulting in the improved accessibility and quality of distance education and upgraded roads and transport that have made daily travel to local schools a more viable option (ISCA, 2008).

Reasons for boarding

Empirical research on reasons for boarding is scarce; the exception is a survey of 3100 families from 68 boarding schools conducted by the Independent Schools Council of Australia (2008). Based on this snapshot, which represents a response rate of 51%, the current profile of Australian boarding school students is a diverse group of young people from a range of backgrounds and countries (ISCA, 2008). Currently, boarders come from cities, regional and remote areas and may board because their parents are employed overseas, or may board on a weekly basis in order to cope with their own sporting and academic commitments or as a way of coping with changed family circumstances (ISCA, 2008). Fifty-five percent of families surveyed indicated that there was little choice but to board their children, (ISCA, 2008). Parents from rural communities noted that while they would rather not send their children away to school, the decision was necessary in order to access a high-quality education important for their children's future success (Bramston & Patrick, 2007; ISCA, 2008). Mason's (1997) Australian study on the transition to boarding school also found that parents sought the increased options and opportunities afforded by boarding but were also concerned about the additional influences on their children and the decreased ability to keep an eye on their progress. Most parents who responded to the Independent Schooling in Australia 2006-2008 survey (ISCA, 2008) identified that being a boarder led to becoming a well-rounded, well-balanced person who was independent, self-reliant, tolerant and compassionate, with 92% indicating that they would choose boarding if they had to make the decision again. However, this very positive appraisal of boarding school graduates might also represent a rationalisation by parents (Duffell, 2006; Poynting & Donaldson, 2005; Schaverien, 2004).

This information, while limited in scope, provides boarder demographics not notably different from those published in the more comprehensive CSC (1982) study. Consistent themes have emerged from research on recent and historical reasons for boarding, including boarders' perceptions of the benefits of boarding (Bramston & Patrick, 2007; CSC, 1982; ISCA, 2008; White, 2004). These include geographical isolation, specialised courses, parents' employment, family disruption, overseas students and character building. All are worthy of further exploration.

Geographical isolation and access to specialised courses

The major reason cited by CSC (1982) for students to board was geographic isolation. The CSC study noted that of geographically isolated parents who chose to send their adolescents to boarding schools, 19.5% cited access to specialist courses, staff and resources as a reason. Today, many rural students still do not have reasonable daily access to a school that can provide a variety of senior courses; indeed, many high schools in country areas can only offer specialised courses through distance education (Bramston & Patrick, 2007; McGibbon, 2011). Recent research suggests that the decision to send children to boarding schools is still motivated by a desire to access courses that are prerequisites to tertiary education (Bramston & Patrick, 2007; Fisher, Frazer, & Murray, 1984; ISCA, 2008; Mason, 1997; McGibbon, 2011; Stevens, 1995).

Parents' employment

The globalisation of society has resulted in greater mobility of the work force in general; this, along with the continuing mobility of certain professions (e.g. armed forces), means that boarding is a feasible alternative for such families (Cree, 2000). When parents' employment means that they spend periods of time away from the family home, or that they must live interstate or overseas, rather than cause disruption to their child's education, boarding school is often a practical choice (McGibbon, 2011). This is particularly so if the young person is completing their senior schooling or the adolescent does not manage change well.

Disrupted family circumstances

Historically, relatively few students (9.9%) cited disrupted family circumstances as a reason for boarding (CSC, 1982). However, in more recent times divorce, separation and parental re-marriage are all reasons for choosing boarding as a substitute family (Anderson, 2005; Cree, 2000). While for many young people boarding is a carefully considered decision, lack of stability at home and exposure to traumatic and potentially damaging experiences motivated some families to seek a place in a well-ordered and secure environment (Anderson, 2005; Gerrard, 2001). The pressures of parenting may be enough to motivate parents to remove children from the confusion of a chaotic home and send them to a safe, controlled environment, where professionals can do the job instead (Cree, 2000; Gerrard, 2001; Hawkes, 2001). The social support, security and group standards of the boarding community may also be important during times of ill health or when families experience relationship breakdowns (Hawkes, 2001).

Overseas students

Most Australian boarding schools cater for some students from Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong (Cree, 2000). However, rather than the boarding system itself, access to the Australian tertiary education system, perceived as a cheaper alternative to university courses in the United Kingdom or the United States, is the proposed attraction for boarders (Cree, 2000; Han, Jamieson, & Young, 2000). ISCA (2010) data indicate that of the 483,330 students attending independent schools, 10,124 are from overseas. However, current data are unavailable for the proportion of overseas students who actually reside in Australian boarding schools.

Structure and character-building

Parents perceived boarding schools as desirable for building character and developing self-reliance (BSA, 2007; CSC, 1982; ISCA, 2008). In support of this perspective, students' responses in White's (2004) sociological study of an Australian co-educational boarding school also maintain a character-building perspective. Such self-reliance is promoted as one of the benefits of being a boarder but has also been interpreted as ruptured attachment or a boarder's inability to rely on anyone but themselves (Duffell, 2006; Gerrard, 2001; Schaverien, 2004, 2011).

Options for boarding

Boarding schools offer a structured environment with controlled periods of private study, the constant presence and assistance of teachers and specialised staff, as well as use of the school's facilities including libraries and computers outside school hours. This may be particularly important for those students who are heavily involved in academic commitments and extra-curricular commitments, including sport, music, debating and drama (Anderson, 2005; Hawkes, 2001; ISCA, 2008). While five-day (weekly) boarding numbers were included in the 1982 CSC study, only 3.9% of boys and 7.0% of girls who lived relatively close to school boarded. However, in more recent times, boarding has become an attractive option for families who live in close proximity to the school (Hawkes, 2001; McGibbon, 2011). Two boarder categories not included in the CSC study but incorporated in more recent boarding literature (Hawkes, 2001) are 'occasional' and 'day boarders'. Occasional boarders are those who generally do not board but may require accommodation for short periods of time, for example, when academic and extracurricular demands might be particularly high or during family crises. Day boarders are those who, perhaps due to parental commitments, use the boarding facilities during the day and early evening and then return home to sleep. Demand for these options is increasing (Hawkes, 2001), as is evidenced by the current marketing of prominent Australian boarding schools that note day boarding to be 'the best of both worlds' (Geelong Grammar School, 2011; The King's School, 2011; The Southport School, 2011). Anderson (2005) concurs and in support notes that the number of schools that currently cater for only full (versus weekly) boarding is declining. Reasons mentioned for weekly boarding included the additional academic support offered by boarding staff and extra time available, which otherwise would have been spent commuting.

The aforementioned reasons for boarding highlight the importance of the in loco parentis role of boarding school staff. It should be noted that the available information generally represents parents' opinions while the boarders' perspectives on their own experiences are rarely represented.

Boarders' perspectives

The literature on boarding presents a somewhat polarised view of the boarding experience, from a very positive, character-building perspective (BSA, 2007; Hawkes, 2001; ISCA, 2008) to one of socially condoned child abuse (Duffell, 2000, 2006; Poynting & Donaldson, 2005; Schaverien, 2004, 2011). Key themes that have emerged from boarders' perspectives (Bramston & Patrick, 2007; Gerrard, 200l; White, 2004) include: the positive impact of boarding school on a student's ability to 'get ahead'; 'independence' from the primary social system of the home; tolerance of others and individuality, empowerment and opportunity. However, case studies of former male boarders paint a very different picture of the traumatised child who, while outwardly successful, struggled to reconcile the sacrifices made for him to attend the 'best schools', with his own experience of emotional deprivation, feeling abandoned and even being bullied or possibly abused (Duffell, 2006; Schaverien, 2004, 2011). This perspective is consistent with historical, biographical and anecdotal accounts of the boarding experience and raises questions about supervision in the boarding environment (Duffell, 2000; Lambert, 1968). Responsibility for the care of students 24 hours a day is a heavy responsibility and increased scrutiny and retrospective accounts of boarders' experiences (Duffell, 2000; Lambert, 1968; Poynting & Donaldson, 2005; Schaverien, 2011) have highlighted the legal risk and duty of care in boarding schools (Anderson, 2005; Hawkes, 2001).

Changing responsibilities of Australian boarding schools

Boarding schools are busy and complex places, required by the courts to minimise risk and prevent reasonably foreseeable harm (Anderson, 2005; Boyd, 2000). The law is imposing increasingly higher standards of care on boarding institutions, which must demonstrate, to the satisfaction of the courts, appropriate handling of situations involving risk (Anderson, 2005; Hawkes, 2001). Boarding schools are also bound by child protection legislation to safeguard children from harm (Anderson, 2005: Boyd, 2000; Hawkes, 2001) and to prevent physical, emotional or psychological abuse (Hawkes, 2001). To this end, staff members who come into unsupervised contact with boarders are obliged to have criminal background clearance (Anderson, 2005). The risk of bullying is a constant challenge in a boarding environment, with harsh tales of overt bullying part of boarding's historical inheritance (Duffell, 2000; Lambert, 1968; Poynting & Donaldson, 2005). While it is imperative that the day-to-day running of a boarding school is governed by clear policies and guidelines and informed by relevant laws, this can also be counterproductive to cultivating an environment that is nurturing, supportive, as well as safe and transparent (Anderson, 2005; Holgate, 2007; White, 2004). This conundrum presents a significant challenge for boarding staff who must walk the boundaries between the legal and parental responsibilities.

Staff roles and responsibilities

Boarding staff are not only facilitators and guarantors of security (Anderson, 2005; Hawkes, 2001), but just as importantly, they are in loco parentis models for young people. The literature is somewhat silent on the demographics of staff in boarding schools, however, given the diverse backgrounds of boarders, heterogeneity of life experiences and age is an advantage (Anderson, 2005). This is consistent with observations of many boarding establishments that yield a picture of staff across a continuum on age, experience and formal qualifications. The variety of experiences that staff bring to the boarding environment is important, but so is their ability to function as a team that is consistent and fair, and acts in the best interests of the young people in their care (Anderson, 2005; Cree, 2000; Hawkes, 2001; Holgate, 2007). Boarding schools generally employ teachers as part of their boarding staff. However, the number of teachers employed and their designated roles differ according to the school's organisational structure. There are ample descriptions of the skills, qualities and knowledge that all staff should possess, including personal qualities such as kindness, empathy and respect, emotional regulation, communication and knowledge of first aid, crisis management and legal issues (Anderson, 2005; Hawkes, 2001, 2010; Turner, 2008). This mixture of skills and personal qualities required by staff who assume this important role would appear to require extensive preparation and training.

Regardless of the specific roles assumed by staff members, each person has the vital responsibility for the nurture and welfare of the boarders (Hawkes, 2001; Holgate, 2007). This is a difficult assignment for young boarding staff members who are, in some cases, not very far removed from being students in such establishments. Staff have an obligation to model the behaviours, values, skills and attitudes (Hawkes, 2008) young people require in order to lead meaningful lives and become productive members of society (Peterson, 1996; Sanders, 2004). The boarding environment, like the family environment, is an ideal setting for promoting the development of young people by teaching a range of skills including practical skills such as ironing a shirt, cooking and mending, to skills that focus on social and emotional competence such as communicating, controlling emotions and impulses and handling responsibilities (Anderson, 2005; Hawkes, 2001; Holgate, 2007; White, 2004).

Staff and student interactions in the boarding environment are an important part of the young person's social and emotional development (Anderson, 2005; Hawkes, 2001; Holgate, 2007; Sanders, 2004). However, members of a boarding community occupy challenging boundaries between the need to develop empathetic relationships and the need to maintain an appropriate 'distance" befitting the power differential between students and teachers (Anderson, 2005: Hawkes, 2001; White, 2004). While the ideal age and qualifications of potential staff are not prescribed, numbers of staff required are usually expressed as a staffing ratio and included in the school's legal documents, with ratios of 1 staff to 15 or more young people being common in a boarding environment (Anderson, 2005; Hawkes, 2001). This proposed ratio (Anderson, 2005) presents a significant challenge for staff who assume a parental role for boarders (Peterson, 1996; Sanders, 2004).

Staff training

In addition to their parenting role, the need for knowledge of occupational health and safety requirements, physical and mental health, first aid and child protection legislation make training and continuing professional development essential for boarding staff (Anderson, 2005; Hawkes, 2001). Duty of Care- A Certificate Course in Residential Care (Hawkes, 2001, 2010), the Australian Boarding Schools Association's (ABSA) base-level training for all boarding staff, is promoted as the gold standard in staff training and is intended to contribute basic knowledge and skills for staff to perform their boarding duties (Hawkes, 2001, 2010). This course addresses topics such as: the philosophy of residential care; meeting boarders' pastoral needs; occupational health and safety and emergency procedures based around written tasks that require staff to reflect on their own practice (Hawkes, 2001,2010). In January 2013, 382 of the estimated 1500 boarding staff across all Australian states and territories had completed this course (Australian Boarding Schools Association [ABSA], personal communication, June 6, 2011).

An Associate Degree in Social Science (Residential Care) which was offered as a part-time option (2-4 years) through the Australian Catholic University (ACU) has more recently been discontinued. While staff training is available, it is currently not compulsory for employment in boarding schools.

Do boarding schools provide a home away from home?

Generally a young person's social systems are divided into a primary personal system, represented by the home or family, and a secondary personal system, the school or university (White, 2004). Through analysis of boarders' memoirs, White (2004) found that boarders formed not one but two kinds of primary bonds, one with their family and the other with their boarding house, and that boarders' personal values were drawn from both the family and from the boarding house. This research provides significant support for the importance of the parenting role of boarding staff. There is also considerable theoretical support for the primary nature of the boarding house and its staff in the social, emotional and intellectual development of boarders (Anderson, 2005; Cree, 2000; Hawkes, 2001). Boarding staff, boarders and their parents all recognise that boarding institutions need to provide a home away from home (Anderson, 2005; Hawkes, 2001; Holgate, 2007; ISCA, 2008). The success of the boarding school depends on its capacity to fulfill this role (Anderson, 2005; Hawkes, 2001, 2008; Holgate, 2007; ISCA, 2008). There is no denying that for students who make boarding schools their home for more than 38 of 52 weeks each year, boarding staff acting in loco parentis must accept the vital responsibility of the nurture and welfare of the boarders.

The future of boarding

Due to the vast size of Australia, there will be an ongoing demand for places in boarding schools. However, the boarding schools that will endure are those that offer warmth, security and a strong sense of community and can cater for the physical, social, emotional, spiritual and academic needs of the adolescent (Hawkes, 2001; ISCA, 2008). Many parents indicated that boarding schools provided some sanctuary from outside influences and as such would increase in popularity (ISCA, 2008). However, what is not clear is the way forward to practical, empirically supported training that will empower staff to fulfil their brief to provide a safe, secure, positive learning environment where adolescents can develop not only in a physical and academic capacity but just as importantly, socially, emotionally and spiritually.

Conclusions and implications

As most boarding research is of a theoretical rather than empirical nature (Anderson, 2005; Bramston & Patrick, 2007; CSC, 1982; Cree, 2000; Hawkes, 2001; White, 2004), there is a pressing need for data to inform the in loco parentis role of staff in boarding schools (Bramston & Patrick, 2007; Van Hoof & Holger, 1999). The purpose of the current review was to draw together the available literature and to present a comprehensive picture of the Australian boarding situation with a specific focus on the challenges of the role of boarding school staff and their undertaking to create a home away from home for boarders. It is apparent that, while boarding numbers fluctuate, boarding schools are an important and, it appears, an enduring feature of Australia's schooling landscape. It is also abundantly clear that the expectations of boarding schools are far in excess of the provision of a safe, secure environment, but extend to what are generally thought of as parental responsibilities; that is, the social, emotional and spiritual development of each child. Boarding staff vary greatly in age and level of experience, yet all have the responsibility for the nurture and welfare of the young people in their care. The implications of these expectations are that all boarding staff require a comprehensive range of skills, and training must not be limited to information or knowledge but also involve skill development.

In drawing together available information, this paper has exposed some shortcomings, the most important of which is that staff performing a parenting role in boarding schools do not have access to adequate skills-based training to support the developmental outcomes of the young people for whom boarding schools are a home away from home. Evidence-based parenting programs for adolescents are available and may represent a potential solution for the abovementioned problem. Modifications of existing parenting programs for adolescents may well provide a workable solution for improving the competence, confidence and self-efficacy of boarding staff in working with the young people in their care.


This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for--profit sectors.

Declaration of conflicting interests

None declared.

DOI: 10.1177/0004944112472789


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Julie Hodges

Post Doctoral Research Fellow, School of Psychology, University of Queensland, Australia

Jeanie Sheffield

Lecturer, School of Psychology, University of Queensland, Australia

Alan Ralph

Head of Training, Triple P International, Australia

Corresponding author:

Julie Hodges, Parenting and Family Support Centre, School of Psychology, University of Queensland, St Lucia, QLD, Australia.

Table 1. Australian research on boarding schools.

Author(s)            Topic

Papworth, Martin,    Measurement of academic outcomes, non-academic
and Ginns (2011)     outcomes, background characteristics and
                     personality in day students and boarders.

Martin, Ginns, and   The effects of boarding school on students'
Papworth (2009)      academic and non-academic outcomes.

Bramston and         Rural adolescents experiencing an urban
Patrick (2007)       transition. The aim was to determine whether
                     rural adolescents experienced distress when
                     making the transition to an urban boarding

Anderson (2005)      A model for good practice in residential and
                     boarding education for adolescents.

White (2004)         The attitudes of Anglo-Australian and overseas
                     students in an Australian co-educational
                     boarding school from their own memoirs.

Schaverien (2004)    An exploration of the psychological consequences
                     of living away from home from a psychodynamic

Hawkes (2001)        A course designed for completion by any personnel
                     employed in the boarding environment.

Cree (2000)          Identification of distinctive aspects of
                     boarding schools in Victoria, Australia.

Mason (1997)         The emotional transition of twelve-yea- olds
                     from their rural Australian homes to
                     boarding school.

Cookson and          The role of elite boarding schools in
Persell (1986)       maintaining upper class cohesion in the
                     United States

Fisher, Frazer,      A diary-style analysis of the problems and
and Murray (1984)    worries of boarding school pupils as they make
                     the transition from home to boarding school

CSC (1982)           A detailed examination of living away from home
                     facilities for isolated children in Australia.

Author(s)            Summary

Papworth, Martin,    Preliminary findings indicate that there were no
and Ginns (2011)     significant differences between boarders and day
                     students on 16 of 19 academic and non-academic
                     variables. The authors note that this
                     demonstrates educational parity and equity
                     between day and boarding students. On the
                     remaining variables, boarders demonstrated
                     significantly more positive outcomes on purpose
                     in life and relationships with parents; however,
                     the data indicated that boarders worried more
                     about failing.

Martin, Ginns, and   The expressed aims were to assist policy,
Papworth (2009)      pedagogy and the direction of pastoral care and
                     to position the Australian Boarding School
                     Association as a leading researcher in boarding

Bramston and         The aim was to determine whether rural
Patrick (2007)       adolescents experienced distress when making the
                     transition to an urban boarding school.
                     Adolescents (mean age 14.6 years) living in rural
                     Queensland completed questionnaires to determine
                     stress levels experienced by those who made the
                     transition to boarding school. It was found that
                     rural adolescents who leave to board in the city
                     managed the transition well and also regarded it
                     as having a number of advantages. Boarders coped
                     by talking to others, making an effort to get to
                     know others and getting involved with organised
                     activities. Boarders who made the transition
                     cited a better education and access to greater
                     opportunities and more contacts as advantages of
                     the move. Focus group feedback suggested that
                     being 'buddied' with someone older and having
                     more contact with parents assisted with

Anderson (2005)      I identified key elements of good management and
                     practice common to all residential child care
                     settings including boarding schools. The main
                     components of a proposed model are the
                     environment; the legal framework, developmental
                     issues and time-related issues.

White (2004)         A sociological analysis of the aspirations and
                     attitudes of a group of 45 students at a
                     co-educational boarding school in Victoria. It
                     was found that relationships among students and
                     staff were personal and informal and involved
                     the whole personality. The boarding house was
                     found to be the primary personal system and this
                     system co-existed with the family. Analyses
                     revealed that students believed that boarding
                     school was significant in fostering independence
                     and an attitudinal shift towards embracing

Schaverien (2004)    Questions the notion that the socially condoned
                     and unquestioned practice of sending children to
                     boarding school is good for them, or 'the making
                     of them'. This author explores the psychological
                     impact (from a psychoanalytic perspective) of
                     boarding schools, noting that while boarding
                     schools may have improved in present times,
                     bullying and sexual abuse still continue in 'the
                     best of schools'.

Hawkes (2001)        Duty of Care is a base-level course, designed by
                     the Australian Residential Schools Association
                     (TARSA), which has been designed to be completed
                     by residential boarding staff including boarding
                     supervisors, matrons, tutors, house-parents and
                     teachers. The author notes that the course is
                     designed to be practical rather than academic and
                     is reportedly structured to contribute to the
                     basic knowledge and skills necessary to perform
                     boarding duties. The course is divided into II
                     units including such diverse topics as philosophy
                     through to bullying, child development,
                     discipline and guiding students in play, each of
                     which, it is proposed, will take between one and
                     four hours to complete.

Cree (2000)          Reports a study of boarding schools in Victoria,
                     Australia. Quantitative data were used to provide
                     an overall view of boarding education in the
                     State of Victoria. Qualitative data were used to
                     elicit boarders' attitudes to family, peers and
                     their teachers. The author notes that the
                     Australian boarding school is unique and separate
                     from its British counterpart on which it is
                     thought to be modelled. He also comments on the
                     paucity of research on boarding in this country
                     and the difficulties accessing boarding schools.

Mason (1997)         Found that self-confidence, self-esteem and the
                     ability to make friends contributed to an easier
                     transition to the boarding environment. Factors
                     emphasised as important in the transition were
                     a high quality of care; the facilitation of
                     close staff/student relationships; opportunities
                     to meet others and effective communication.

Cookson and          Reports questionnaire data, open-ended essays,
Persell (1986)       academic outcomes and interviews from 2475
                     freshmen and senior students at 20 selected
                     schools. The authors note that the 'prep' school
                     experience facilitates class cohesion and that
                     surviving the experience creates in the graduates
                     feelings of legitimacy of power and position.

Fisher, Frazer,      Examined the characteristics of problems and
and Murray (1984)    worries reported by 50 male and female students
                     aged 11-16 years experiencing the impact of a new
                     boarding school environment. Predominant concerns
                     of students were related to school routines,
                     school work (58%) and homework (34%), with only
                     16% reporting homesickness. No demographic
                     factors were found to influence levels of

CSC (1982)           Report by a working party that examined the
                     living away-from-home facilities of 188 boarding
                     schools throughout Australia. It was found that
                     standards of accommodation varied among and
                     within states, with many reporting overcrowding.
                     Boarding schools were found to provide for the
                     accommodation needs of the majority of isolated
                     students who live away from home to complete
                     their schooling. It was reported that some
                     parents see boarding schools as providing
                     opportunities for learning, challenge,
                     heightened aspirations, spiritual guidance and
                     additional opportunities not available in the
                     local area. The study also notes the difficulty
                     of attracting and retaining appropriate
                     supervisory staff.

Table 2. Fulltime boarding students at nongovernment schools
by state.

Year    NSW     VIC     QLD     SA      WA

1982    7860    3986    8132    2410    3512
1996    7524    3030    8497    3201    1182
1997    7343    3049    8706    1191    3142
1998    6946    2893    8066    1151    3029
1999    6962    2892    7648    1081    2907
2000    6545    2939    7654    1077    2801
2001    6538    2966    7306    1105    2716
2002    6401    3021    6986    1133    2801
2003    6506    3118    6969    1188    2914
2004    6293    3059    6673    1197    2911
2005    6218    3016    6444    1171    2820
2006    6226    3022    6364    1169    2744
2007    6241    3027    6345    1129    2741

Year    TAS    NT     ACT    Total

1982    373    46     296    26,588
1996    305    844    225    24,808
1997    322    852    196    24,801
1998    303    852    191    23,431
1999    261    874    177    22,802
2000    245    857    178    22,296
2001    250    817    186    21,884
2002    255    872    185    21,654
2003    268    907    182    21,952
2004    262    873    169    21,437
2005    271    943    166    21,049
2006    281    953    176    20,935
2007    285    971    160    20,899
2008                         * 17,181
2009                         * 17,097

Sources: CSC (1982); ABS (2009; and ISCA (2009, 2010).

* From 2008 onwards, ISCA provides the only available data;
this probably represents an underestimate of total Australian
boarding numbers.
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Author:Hodges, Julie; Sheffield, Jeanie; Ralph, Alan
Publication:Australian Journal of Education
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Apr 1, 2013
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