Home away from home delivers more academic appeal to senior students

The most common postcode of boarding school students at St Joseph's College in Hunters Hill is 2110 - Hunters Hill.

The reason, the school says, is partly due to a trend towards ''HSC boarders'' or the migration of students into the boarding house in senior years to maximise academic performance by enforcing structure and eliminating distractions.

A long-term study of more than 5000 boarding and day students across 13 Australian boarding schools has found boarders have slightly better academic motivation and are more likely to pursue personal goals.

Unsurprisingly, they are also absent from school less, says the researcher, Professor Andrew Martin from the University of Sydney.

Just over one third of year 7 boys at St Joseph's College are boarders. By year 12, this number jumps to 93 per cent. Of these boarders, three out of five are weekly boarders, meaning they go home on the weekend.

Many of the weekly boarders live in the nearby suburbs of Woolwich, Lane Cove, Gladesville and Ryde. The most popular is Hunters Hill.

St Joseph's headmaster Ross Tarlinton said the structure and routine provided by boarding encourages good learning results for the students.

''They respond well to the structure and discipline that comes from setting up a quality study framework,'' he said.

''It assists them to become really independent learners.''

The head of boarding at the college, John Reading, said this structure was particularly beneficial during HSC years.

''The boy who is interested in getting the most out of his schooling years will say, 'I'm not sitting on a bus, I'm not going to be interrupted, I'll go to bed at 10.30pm and, at 6 o'clock in the morning, I'll be back at my desk,''' he said.

Even day students at St Joseph's have a desk and locker in the boarding house. At least 75 per cent stay until 8pm, during which time they can eat meals, shower and study.

The executive director of the Australian Boarding Schools Association, Richard Stokes, said there has been an increase in students enrolling in boarding school for academic benefit.

''Less distractions, I reckon, is the key part. They can focus because they're made to.''

Samuel Costigan, from Drummoyne, started boarding at St Joseph's in year 10, partly to focus on his studies.

''If I need to see a teacher, I can run up and see them and ask questions,'' the year 12 student said.

''And I can do night classes and early morning classes.''

Samuel's father, Damian Costigan, says his wife, Cheryl, was initially hesitant about sending their son to board at the college.

''She didn't see the point in sending him across the Gladesville Bridge when we live in Drummoyne,'' he said.

''But she met mothers who had had boys go there from our area and they discussed the benefits and outcomes that they'd got, so she came around.''

The head of boarding at Knox Grammar, Brian Sullivan, has worked in boarding schools for about 25 years and has noticed the increased academic appeal in recent times.

''We do take quite a big number of new boys into year 11 with a focus of doing well academically,'' he said.

Boarding students not lacking

Boarding school students are no worse off than day students when it comes to emotional wellbeing and quality of life, a national study found.

The long-term study of more than 5000 boarding and day students across 13 boarding schools also found little difference in academic outcomes including motivation, engagement, achievement and academic resilience.

''Historically, the concern was that students are not well served in boarding settings and that there might be harm associated with those,'' the researcher, Professor Andrew Martin from the University of Sydney, said. ''So it suggests the sector has modernised and moved on from some dark days.

''It's also significant because there is a lot of anxiety associated with parents sending their kids away, so it's important for them to know their child won't be denied things or fall behind.''

There are almost 20,000 students in more than 150 boarding schools across Australia, according to enrolment data collected by the Australian Boarding School Association. More than 5000 of those students are enrolled in NSW.

The largest boarding schools in the state are among some of Sydney's most elite independent boys schools, such as St Joseph's College at Hunters Hill, The King's School at North Parramatta and Saint Ignatius' College at Riverview.

Taking into account factors such as socio-demographics, ability and personality, the study found no major differences between boarding and day students on 23 out of 25 measures, which included homework completion, class participation, valuing school and enjoyment of school. But boarding students scored slightly higher on fear of failure and uncertain control.

NAPLAN scores were also used to measure academic achievement.

The Boarding School Association's executive director Richard Stokes said the study was evidence the industry has moved on from days when boarding schools were understaffed and unpleasant places.

''Back then it was really just baby sitting in many ways,'' he said.

Why boarders have better relationships with their parents -Monday's Herald.

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