The Boarding Schools’ Association (BSA) held its Annual Conference for Heads last week to “inspire and empower” headteachers after a year of disruption.
The two-day virtual event was chaired by Rebecca Tear, headmistress at Badminton School in Bristol and BSA chair.
Tear told IE: “The whole theme of our conference was to understand what world-class looks like for our sector post-Covid. Pre-Covid model A is over, and we must not just try to slip back into it and lose all that we have learnt as we iterated through mid-Covid model B.
“We feel that the all-important moment for any and every business and organisation would be to seize the moment post-Covid to reignite all that was essential and valuable from model A and couple it with lessons and skills learnt from model B to create a new and exciting model C.
“Furthermore, the needs of our pupils, their families and those who work in our sector have changed and so we must ensure we are responsive to that too.”
Conversations over the two days centred around the values that drive boarding schools, ideas to positively change education, and tools for rebuilding, strategic planning and wellbeing.
“The take home was make time: reflect, review and refocus. I hope the delegates left with a virtual workbook full of ideas and methods for practical application and feeling like they have permission to find space to act on them,” said Tear.
Tear also said boarding schools provided “stability” to young people during the pandemic.
“The conference illuminated that the stability provided by boarding during the pandemic had a positive impact on young people and that the ‘soft skills’ boarding life naturally develops in the young have never been more highly valued.
“Boarders are naturally enabled by the myriad benefits which seem all the more relevant as we talk of the needs for a skills-based education to enable the citizens of the future. There are few greater skills than getting along with people different from yourself, being at ease with others, taking up opportunities, problem-solving and communicating effectively.”
“I am in no doubt that boarding has a significant role to play now and in the future. We have information on tap in the virtual world and AI is used increasingly; thinking creatively, having diversity of understanding and being able to employ soft skills is where the future is at. Boarding schools can deliver this.”
Making schools safer
The BSA’s chief executive, Robin Fletcher, recently wrote a letter to The Sunday Times calling for the Government to introduce mandatory abuse reporting.
This follows thousands of testimonies on the website Everyone’s Invited of young people’s experiences of sexual harassment, abuse and assault in educational institutions.
Fletcher said: “The abuse suffered by some former pupils in the past at some boarding schools is shocking and unforgivable. The Boarding Schools’ Association stands with all victims of abuse and we admire their courage in speaking out. We encourage anyone who has experienced abuse to report it to the appropriate bodies.
“Safeguarding today is the chief priority for all our 600 member schools worldwide and boarding remains a popular choice for more than 70,000 young people in the UK alone. On behalf of the sector, we repeat our call for the UK government to introduce mandatory abuse reporting. This would be an important step to make schools even safer.”