Brisbane Grammar School is a veritable haven for high achieving young men in the state of Queensland. Founded in 1868 and opening its doors a year later, it has an almost 150-year history of housing and educating generations of Australia’s future leaders and visionaries.
Underpinned by values of endeavour, learning, respect, leadership and community, the Brisbane Grammar School purpose is to educate boys by nurturing their intellectual, physical, and emotional wellbeing to become thoughtful, confident men of character who contribute to their communities. Through a longstanding commitment to providing “a broad liberal education”, the school seeks to ensure students are best prepared for life beyond the school gates.
Almost from its opening, Brisbane Grammar School has offered boarding to its students. With 1700 students and 100 boarders, the school combines development and educational innovation with a palpable sense of history and traditions. Its beautiful campus is a testament to this; striking a balance of historical structures with state-of the-art educational and sporting facilities.
2018 will be a momentous year for the school – it celebrates its 150-year anniversary. As a part of our 2017 ’Best Managed Schools’ series, we spoke with David Carroll and Berian Williams-Jones, Deputy Headmaster Students and Director of Boarding respectively. They helped us understand a little bit about what has made this institution so resilient, and also shed some light on the school’s enduring uniqueness and plans for the future.
“We have a terminology that we’ve embedded into our psyche. We are trying to encourage our boys to become all-rounders,” explains Carroll.
“What an all-rounder looks like for us is someone that works hard, but also participates in our sporting, cultural, and public purpose programs.”
In the boarding house it’s in the outstanding programs that the school prides itself on in terms of nurturing bright minds. Williams-Jones, in his role as Director of Boarding, focuses specifically on the school’s boarders as he explains the five strands of the school’s ‘enrichment’ programs.
Boarders are given specialist teaching over the course of the year, which in essence means that every boarder gets an extra week of teaching compared to that of their day boy cohort peer group.
“It offers further support for boarders in terms of supervision, routines, study habits and one-to-one assistance from in-house tutors,” adds Williams-Jones.
The activities enrichment program for boarders runs seven days a week. Students have quite a diverse pick of activities that go well beyond the classroom, including beach sports, bushwalking, paintballing, sporting competitions and on rare occasions, you may well see some young crooners singing their hearts out at a Saturday-night in-house X Factor competition.
The school recognises that its students’ talents will be of a diverse nature and believes in the importance of providing them with a specialised and assorted activities program to draw out these varying talents.
The life skills program gives boarders the skills they need to meet the challenges of everyday modern life. They’re graced with the teachings of first aid, cookery and basic household chores, like ironing and lawn mowing.
The school’s Public Purpose Program provides boys with a real sense of purpose and fulfilment. Boarders and day pupils help those that are homeless or in transition. At the same time, boys understand the fortunate position they are in to be able to make that difference.
The final strand of the school’s enrichment initiative is its leadership program. Across the school, leadership is crucial, demonstrated in the prefect structure of its class seniors. While in the boarding house, there are seven boys with similar status to the school prefects.
“We also have leaders within each of our 10 house families, all of whom set the all-important tone for the junior boarders,” Williams-Jones continues.
“We like to try to look for opportunities for each boy to be in charge. We feel it essential that each boy gains a meaningful understanding of what it is to be a leader.”
Connections and progress
While certainly a leading school in Queensland and Australia, it is clear that there is little egotism in its attitude. Carroll explains to us the school’s refreshing outlook, an outlook which inevitably spurs it on to continuing excellence:
“We are proud of what our students achieve at school and in their lives after graduation, but we are always working to do things better.”
Carroll clarifies that the school achieves this through a persistently collaborative atmosphere. By motivating its staff through professional development, the school always sees the positive trickledown effects befall its students.
The other side to this collaborative culture is that the school works closely with parents and students. Carroll is keen to emphasise that through such close relationships, the school can better itself in enriching its students’ education and lives: “A tripartite relationship that has the student at its focus, is at the core of who we are as a school.”
The school recognises the value people place on word of mouth, especially in boarding, with the satisfaction of its current parents playing an important role in continued growth.
Williams-Jones is quick to explain: “I believe that what sells boarding is satisfied students and parents. Putting our current parents at the heart of our development and ensuring top quality experiences, is why we continue to see families eager to join Brisbane Grammar School, and more specifically the school’s boarding community.”
In terms of physical developments, the constantly-evolving school is moving ahead with the exciting state-of-the-art STEAM – science, technology, engineering, art and maths – precinct. This will complement The Lilley Centre, completed in 2010, which was driven by a vision to create powerful new 21st century learning experiences for students.
The blessings of boarding
The nature of boarding has changed considerably over the past 30 years. While many boys continue to board for geographic reasons, others actually live near the school. In fact, the school’s closest boarder lives 250m away.
“We’re seeing the trend of students who live close by and could be day students, but instead attend the school as boarders to gain the many additional benefits. Now it’s a decision and an option parents are taking because of the programs that we offer,” affirmed Williams-Jones.
Certainly a significant shift in recent years has been the school’s decision to open its doors to international students. There are around half a dozen international students currently boarding alongside the more traditional country students. The school also offers temporary boarding places for families who may have to travel for their work for example, and so give their sons a home through the Brisbane Grammar School boarding facilities. In all, the school has rolled with the natural progression its boarding has taken, an attitude which has given life to the varied and diversified nature of its boarding house.
In the same breath, the school has a ‘closing-the-gap’ committee focused on enhancing reconciliation. It has three boarders who earned indigenous scholarships through the school’s Cape York Leadership Program, while another three indigenous boys are in the house through other bursary style programs.
A setting that inspires
What truly stood out when speaking to the pair, was the supportive, nurturing environment the school places around its students. The school takes its five values of learning, endeavour, respect, community and leadership, and translates them into expectations.
“House rules aren’t the way we want to run the boarding house; we think expectations bring a better result,” said Williams-Jones.
“Just this term we introduced a positive behaviour framework to the boys, and it will be a means by which we can recognise, acknowledge and reward behaviour which we think contributes positively to towards the development of the community.”
As our conversation comes to a close, it’s clear that it is in the values of the school, and passion the staff have for it that will bring out the best in its students. This is characterised beautifully in Carroll’s parting words to us:
“Student wellbeing is a key part of every Brisbane Grammar School boy’s journey. Supporting our students is really, really important here.”
AT A GLANCE
WHO: Brisbane Grammar School
WHAT: A non-denominational boys school for boarders and day students from Years 5 to 12
WHERE: 24 Gregory Terrace, Spring Hill QLD 4000, Australia