Turning minimum standards into excellence

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by Dale Wilkins, Director of Safeguarding, Professional Development and Accreditation (BSA)
Turning minimum standards

ThBoarding Schools’ Association (BSA) is committed to supporting everyone involved in boarding – adults and children – offering high quality guidance and training that benefits schools, their staff and, perhaps most importantly, the children and young people who board. Our primary objective is to raise professional standards and we have an extensive and diverse continuing professional development (CPD) and training programme through the BSA Academy for all staff working in boarding environments throughout the UK and beyond. 

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At the heart of the Academy offer are the core skills for all practitioners, especially those who are new to boarding, through ‘Essentials for Boarding’ for teachers, matrons, nurses, gap and graduate assistants and secretaries, as well as ‘Leading a Boarding Team’, ‘Updates for Governors’, ‘Prep School Issues’ and ‘Preparation for Inspection’. In addition, we offer more specialised seminars on a wide range of specific issues. Large day conferences cover Tier 4, Safeguarding, Sports Injuries and Resilience Issues and we offer these alongside other regular day seminars covering topics such as mental health, gender, behaviour, international students as well as specific training designed to meet the needs of prep schools, senior schools, state schools, sixth-form boarding and international colleges. All this content is currently online, and is supplemented by an extensive and popular webinar programme. We anticipate moving some of our content back to face-to-face at some point, but there will always be a place for training run digitally.

Our work is centred on the requirements of the relevant National Minimum Standards, but these are only a starting point, with member schools aiming for excellence across a range of key areas relating to the day-to-day experiences of the boarders, and also including important considerations such as policies, procedures and premises. By working together with colleagues from a wide range of schools we are better able to help them benchmark their boarding against the expectations across the wider boarding sector, both in the UK and internationally.

Alongside our day conferences and seminars, we run an accredited training programme, offering certification to boarding practitioners. At its core is the BSA Advanced Certificate Course. Based over two years, this course looks more deeply into Pastoral Care (Part 1) and then Boarding Management (Part 2) or Health & Development (Part 2), including specialised courses for school nurses and school matrons. The 16 courses each year are led by the BSA team, supported by very experienced tutors from member schools and specialist presenters who cover online safety, mental health, strategic management and other issues critical to working in boarding. 

We also run the BSA Diploma Course twice a year for experienced boarding staff, offering further steps towards senior leadership, and the very popular Certificate in International Boarding. There is also a Masters in Residential Education in conjunction with the University of Buckingham. An expanding INSET and consultancy programme enables further spread around the UK and into Europe and beyond. 

We are constantly seeking new areas of interest and responding to the needs of the sector. Our safeguarding portfolio continues to grow, and we deliver bespoke content focused on the boarding environment through webinars and day seminars. In 2021 we are launching a Safeguarding Certificate in conjunction with our sister organisation SACPA (Safeguarding and Child Protection Association).

We also run a guidance helpline, receiving calls and emails on a wide variety of topics from member schools, and helping them deal with compliance issues and move towards best practice. A Member Services team focuses on ensuring that we are best placed to support the whole range of members, from schools which are exclusively boarding to schools with just a few boarders. This is enhanced by our regional Forum meetings in all parts of the UK and internationally, which have been particularly popular while schools have been working remotely. BSA Chief Executive Robin Fletcher and I are frequent visitors to member schools, either for visits, forum meetings, training or consultancy, with the latter increasingly including elements related to the development of boarding facilities. Visits to member schools are likely to resume once COVID-19 allows.

View a full list of boarding schools here

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