Independent schools offer support for busy parents

At The King’s School in Parramatta, an after-hours program that sees boys staying at school as late as 9pm every evening is proving increasingly popular with parents and students alike.

As part of the school’s “flexible boarding” policy, the Extended Day program offers relief to busy parents by allowing day boys access to boarding facilities after school.

In this safe, supervised environment, students can pursue extra-curricular activities, play sport and get their homework done with the help of overseer teachers. They even have access to shower facilities. With the day’s work accomplished and afternoon tea and a hot dinner provided, the boys are relaxed and well-fed by the time parents collect them in the early evening.

Commuting difficulties on top of long working hours can be very stressful for parents trying to fit everything into overloaded days, particularly when both are working full-time. Flexibility around school pick-up times is a welcome perk for King’s School families. Student participation in the Extended Day program has doubled since its introduction.

King’s School headmaster Dr Timothy Hawkes told the Sydney Morning Herald that growing demand for the program is due to the changing nature of family life.

“The boundaries between that which traditionally operated at home and that which traditionally operated at school are now being dissolved,” Dr Hawkes said.

“Most parents are in a dual income situation. Many might be asset rich, but they are time poor – we can help out in that regard.”

The upside for the boys, said Dr Hawkes, is the opportunity to access extra academic support while developing life skills and independence.

While extensive after-hours supervision of students, especially at the high school level, is still a rarity in Sydney, Kincoppal-Rose Bay, The Scots College in Bellevue Hill and St Joseph’s College at Hunters Hill run similar programs to that at The King’s School.

Another solution for overstretched parents is weekly or casual boarding. Many of Sydney’s boarding schools offer casual and short-stay accommodation to day students.

For older students, occasional boarding offers a number of advantages. It can help them focus harder on their studies free of the distractions of home, allow them to participate more easily in early morning and late evening extra-curricular activities, and help them forge a deeper bond with their fellow students.

Indeed, the demand for weekly boarding is driving a resurgence in boarding numbers throughout the country.

As Australian Boarding Schools’ Association executive director Richard Stokes explained to the Australian Financial Review, the trend for city kids to board during the week is partially a response to the time pressure on families and but also recognition that commuting time can be better spent.

“One of the things that is contributing to more urban boarders is the fact that in our big cities – Melbourne and Sydney and, to a lesser extent, Brisbane – families are really struggling with travel. For a child actively involved in a school’s extra-curricular program, parents might question why their child might spend an hour or more on public transport, travelling to and from school when, in fact, they could live at the school and use that time wisely.”

For more information on out of school care and residential options, parents should contact their school registrar.

Read more:

The private schools where students aren’t picked up until 8pm – Cosima Marriner, Sydney Morning Herald, January 24, 2016–the-new-school-day-20160122-gmc05s.html

Boarding schools appealing to the city as much as the country – Emily Parkinson, Australian Financial Review, May 6, 2016