Toorak girls’ school replicates comfort of home

BOARDING schools have certainly come a long way over the years.

St Catherine’s School director of boarding Sue Collister would know. She has been at the helm of the Toorak school’s National Trust-listed boarding house, Illawarra, for more than a decade and before that raised four children of her own.

“The major difference in boarding today is that we try to create an environment that’s as close as possible to a home environment,” she said.

For St Catherine’s School students boarding in Illawarra, a homelike atmosphere that supports their emotional and academic wellbeing is at the core of the boarding experience.

“We talk about returning home after school, and create an atmosphere that encourages girls to participate in activities that they would do at home,” Mrs Collister said.

“Because of our smaller size, we often have girls in different year levels who make friends for life.

“There are lots of intercultural friendships and also inter-age friendships.”

For regional families from NSW and Victoria, these benefits can help seal the decision to send children to Melbourne’s inner-city boarding schools.

Year 9 boarder Jemima Wilcox made the move to St Catherine’s from Woodend and has not looked back.

After she had an interview with principal Michelle Carroll and a tour of the school and boarding house, which are located on the same campus, Jemima and her family decided St Catherine’s was the perfect fit.

Jemima has thrown herself into all that St Catherine’s has to offer. “I am involved in water polo, boot camp and the Girls Sport Victoria weekly sport, which changes each term. I now have friends from across Australia and the world thanks to the boarding house at St Catherine’s. No matter what age or background, everyone is friendly, encouraging and there to help,” she said.

Mrs Collister reiterated wellbeing was central to the school philosophy. “Whether it is through academics, sport or the student’s development as an individual in the wider community,” she said, “boarding at St Catherine’s is all about developing independence, tolerance, resilience and the confidence to try different things, all the while learning basic life skills.”

Applications for 2021 boarding scholarships close on February 3.

Prospective students and families can arrange a tour of St Catherine’s School and meet boarders and staff.


The Weekly Times - 22 January 2020

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