Developing confident and independent young women

Boarding at St Catherine’s School provides our girls with a safe and comfortable living environment. Our boarders call Illawarra their home. They have the opportunity to make friends with girls from across Australia and around the world.

Year 10 student and boarder, Charlotte Rowe along with her parents Rosie and Mal Rowe share their experiences with us about boarding, online learning and the nurturing environment of St Catherine’s.

How long have you been a boarder at St Catherine’s?

Charlotte: 3 years now.

Why did you choose St Catherine’s School for your daughter?

Rosie & Mal: It is important to choose the school that is right for your child. We liked the small size of St Catherine’s, the many opportunities offered and Charlotte liked the beautiful Illawarra Boarding House with its country homestead feel. Above all else, our choice was around the leadership of the School. We had trust and confidence that Charlotte would gain greatly from being educated in a School with strong and inspiring role models – women of integrity, intellect and inspiration.

What is it about the boarding experience that you enjoy the most?

Charlotte: Coming from a small country town located three hours away, I was quite daunted by the change, however, was surprised at the ease which I settled and I felt comfortable in a completely different setting. The ability to gain many friendships throughout each year level due to the small size is amazing. There is a variety of backgrounds and personalities, no girl is the same, yet, we all get along so well. I feel as though I am an individual under the support of Mrs Collister and the Boarding staff.

How did you find the online learning experience last year?

Charlotte: My initial thoughts on the experience were not particularly positive nor negative, as I did not know what to expect from the outcome. However, I quite enjoyed learning via Microsoft Teams, from the comfort of my own home. This meant that I was able to learn at my own pace and develop an insight into what alternative schooling techniques such as ‘The School of the Air’ would find normal. Certainly, there were times where I felt isolated, as many would. Although, this taught me to remain resilient and persistent.

How you feel your daughter was supported in both her studies and her wellbeing during online learning?

Rosie & Mal: In our view, St Catherine’s did an amazing job with online learning. They kept on with much of the Co-curricular activities including individual music lessons, virtual music performances, physical activity sessions and even cross country. We felt the School showed a deep understanding of what the students were experiencing and how they might be feeling. The School had to adapt so quickly and you could tell there was a strong team behind the scenes helping teachers support all the girls. The IT team in particular was always so helpful and responsive to any questions and calls for support.

Whilst the girls will have missed the classroom interaction and connection with friends and with teachers, we welcomed the St Catherine’s approach to considering the benefits of continuing into the future with some component of blended learning in the senior years. We see great benefit in that for the girls learning independently.

How were you supported by the School in your academic learning as well as your wellbeing during online learning?

Charlotte: At the commencement of online learning, my teachers were very proactive, almost as if they had prepared months in advance. The School was considerate – short breaks between classes were introduced which was especially helpful when looking at a screen for most of the day. The ‘Blue Ribbon Activities’ was another great addition to a Wednesday afternoon where all four Houses would compete in virtual activities such as scavenger hunts and bake-offs. This brought the Houses together to compensate for the loss of in-person House events that would have usually gone ahead. Our frequent Boarding House catch-ups over ‘Teams’ to celebrate birthdays or just for some banter also brought us together from all over the world, which I loved as we were able to stay connected during those times.

How do you measure the true value of your daughter’s education?

Rosie and Mal: Seeing Charlotte flourish and grow into a confident, open minded and independent young woman reflects the true value of her education. We have been so impressed by the quality of the teachers and excited to see their approach to learning. Of course, school is also about opportunities beyond the classroom. We have valued the chance for Charlotte to meet girls from all kinds of backgrounds, from across Australia and the world, girls with a sense of curiosity, courage, fun and enthusiasm.

What do you value about a St Catherine’s education?

Charlotte: I am a strong believer that everyone should have access to an education that is best suited for them, and I am so fortunate to have that opportunity. I value that St Catherine’s caters for so many different girls with many different interests, whether it be Arts, Music, Sport, or Global programs. Throughout my experience, I have come to learn that St Catherine’s seeks to promote that no matter who you are or where you come from, you are welcomed into the St Cath’s community and deserve to achieve your greatest goals.

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