Boarding schools want more government money

Leaders of Toowoomba's world-renowned boarding schools have called for more government funding for parents in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and ongoing drought.

Education is one of the region's biggest employers and economic drivers, responsible for more than 8700 jobs, with schools injecting more than $440 million into the Toowoomba region economy.

Every year thousands of students from across the country and overseas travel to Toowoomba to call one of the region's boarding schools home.

Ruby Dyer and Josephine Crothers at The Glennie School, Toowoomba. Picture: Richard Walker
Ruby Dyer and Josephine Crothers at The Glennie School, Toowoomba. Picture: Richard Walker

For many of the families who send their children to one of the area's eight boarding schools, it is a multi-generational rite of passage.

Toowoomba Grammar School's director of boarding Jim Noble said it was crucial key government agencies developed a better understanding of the importance of boarding to thousands of families.

"The ongoing drought is placing many rural families, who rely so heavily on a boarding education, under severe financial stress," he said.

"For many of these families, a boarding school education is the only option for their children, so greater funding to assist with the cost would be very beneficial."

TGS has close to 280 boarders - about one-third of the school. It is a similar ratio at girls' school Fairholme College, with more than 200 boarders.

While the majority come via rural areas of Queensland and northern New South Wales, students from as far away as Port Headland or as close as Brisbane also call the college home for much of the year.

Principal Linda Evans said one of the biggest challenges for parents was travel costs and additional assistance, particularly for those who live remotely, would make a huge difference,

"The sector needs to be recognised and celebrated as an important education arm for students who live at untenable distance from local schools," she said.

The Glennie School, Toowoomba. Picture: Richard Walker
The Glennie School, Toowoomba. Picture: Richard Walker

Boarding offers students vast opportunities to participate in sport and extra-curricular activities - opportunities that can be a near-impossibility in the rural and remote areas their families reside.

"Boarding schools provide a great place for students to participate in a range of opportunities, without having to do all the travel - it's a one-stop shop," The Glennie School's head of boarding Donna Grant said.

"Sometimes people think it's a privileged life, but our young women work very hard to make the most of not only their lives, but the lives of their families."

The Glennie School houses about 150 boarders including Year 12 students Ruby Dyer and Josephine Crothers, who have been boarders for six and four years respectively.

Ms Dyer said being away from her rural home town of Aramac in Central Queensland had always been the plan heading into her senior years of school.

"Both places really feel like home," she said.

"My parents aren't able to come very often, which can be a little challenging, but it has really allowed me to gain independence and boost my confidence."

Originally published as Boarding schools want more government money