Boarders at Ballarat schools are getting younger and enjoying more modern facilities than ever before.
Ballarat’s three boarding schools – St Patrick’s College, Ballarat Grammar and Ballarat and Clarendon College – have seen strong demand for places in their rooming houses for 2018.
Ballarat Grammar will welcome a record of almost 250 boarders next year while Ballarat and Clarendon College has waiting lists for its 150 beds.
St Patrick’s will open a new purpose-built boarding house at the start of next year and and is expecting to welcome almost 40 new boarders to take the total up to just under 70 for the year.
St Patrick’s director of boarding Mike Silcock expects the new facility to be operating at its 100-student capacity by 2020.
All three schools said growth was surprisingly strong in their youngest students, those in year seven and eight – a big change from the more traditional boarding entry point of year 11.
Ballarat Grammar has seen particularly strong growth in the demand for boarding for year seven to nine girls, and has responded by rebuilding half of the boarding house to add capacity and improve living standards.
“In 2015 we had 25 junior girls, 35 this year and we are looking at 45 to 47 next year,” said director of boarding Chris Van Styn.
“Particularly over the past 12 months we’ve really strengthened the junior boarding program, developing more programs for the kids themselves and more support in the house,” he said.
Junior students will share a large room with four other students, but rooms are zoned using natural lines to offer privacy and break up the space so it doesn’t feel like a big dormitory.
“We try to make sure the environment they come in to is as homely as possible,” he said.
Ballarat and Clarendon College spokesman Denis Moneghetti said boarders traditionally came in to the school in year 11, but the trend has changed.
“We now have them coming in at year seven and eight and we are seeing many start at year nine with our King Island program,” he said.
Most of Ballarat’s boarders are from Victoria’s western districts and southern New South Wales, with a handful from overseas and a few from Melbourne.
Mr Silcock said St Patrick’s decided about two years ago that a new boarding house was important for the welfare of its students.
“Every component from sleeping routines, study habits, downtime, quiet space, meal times, how staff monitor them, every gamut of a boy’s boarding experience has been at the forefront of my mind when designing this new facility,” he said.
St Patrick’s offers not just traditional full-time and weekly boarding, but boarding for as little as two nights a week to cater for families needing a more flexible approach.
St Patrick’s College Old Collegians Association is celebrating 125 years of boarding at St Pat’s on Saturday with a big boarder’s reunion, which will include tours of the new boarding precinct.