St Peter's School
Our new Head of Boarding will be a familiar face to many. Art teacher Chris Hall has been at the school since 1989, working as a resident tutor in one of our boys’ boarding houses, before becoming House Master at one of our girls’ boarding houses with his wife, Judith, a teacher at Clifton School and Nursery.
“When I started, as a resident tutor at Manor, I knew nothing about boarding, other than having the same misconceptions that many have – that it is Dickenisan! I quickly changed my mind, and if you visit any of our boarding houses you can feel how homely, modern and friendly the atmosphere is. I had a brilliant time and far from it being an institutional experience for the children, it’s a privilege and joy for them to board.”
“Also, as a school which runs lessons six days a week and activities across the full seven days, where children will be busy with a whole host of activities from French to fencing, boarding is a very practical way to ensure that they have the time to make the most of all the opportunities on offer as well as the rest and care that they need.”
Chris’ own daughters, Izzy and Phoebe, both schooled at St Peter’s, grew up in a boarding house as Chris and Judith were House Parents at The Rise for 11 years. Izzy has recently graduated from Newcastle University with a first-class journalism degree, and Phoebe is about to begin a degree in Philosophy at Edinburgh, after trekking and working on volunteer projects in Nepal.
Chris’ role is to work with house parents in The Rise, The Manor, Linton, Dronfield and Wentworth to maintain and develop a community where the pupil experience is put first.
“The boarding community at Peter’s is strong. Our team is large: the 10 House Parents, the matrons at each house, who are responsible for the practical running of the house, but who also get to know each child individually, their likes and dislikes, and offer a sympathetic ear.
“Our system of resident and non-resident tutors mean that there is a consistent but varied range of teachers who are part of each house. Academically and pastorally, this system is so important in supporting children in our care. “
“The house parents are the most tremendous colleagues and we get along famously. We have been working together for many years. Our house parents are teachers, so they know the children, and relate to and understand their academic challenges and contexts. And they all run activities as part of our co-curricular programme, be it music or sport. Jon Whitehouse at Dronfield is in charge of D of E, for example, Duncan Gillies at The Rise plays the violin in our Orchestra, and Ed Noy-Scott at The Manor is a runner and rugby referee. The relationships between house parents and the children in their care is multi-textured in this way, and that enables meaningful interaction and a real insight into the needs and preferences of each child.
“There is no blueprint for a St Peter’s house parent, but what they share is enthusiasm for boarding and a huge personal investment in making the houses a homely, lively yet relaxing place to live, for the boarders and for their own families.”
It’s the balance of flexibility and structure which characterises boarding at St Peter’s. “Trust is essential,” Chris says. “It is what enables everything and the children and staff all understand this.”
St Peter’s location as a city boarding school, and the way children are encouraged to visit the cinemas, shops and cafes of York with their friends, means St Peter’s boarding offers independence and opportunity.
It is the best of both worlds, Chris says, “we have this huge, green campus with really everything you could want…gym, swimming pool, library, art studios, music rooms, a boat house…but then we are a ten-minute walk from this fantastic, friendly, safe city.”
The only frustration for Chris is that the very misconceptions about boarding that he himself had before arriving at The Manor as a 23-year old are still so prevalent. “It is not Harry Potter. Nor is it one long sleepover. It is something very enabling, very supportive and thoroughly enjoyable.
“We believe in boarding. We believe in the opportunities it gives children, in the support it gives busy families, in the experience. You can see how much our boarders get out of being part of this community. Of course the holidays and the exeat weekends are much anticipated and give families precious, quality time together. But equally, you can see the children’s excitement to be back with their friends at the start of each half term. Our boarders learn independence, they develop their own personalities and they get very, very good at building and maintaining relationships: things that will help them succeed and be happy in their personal and professional lives. They learn, and they thrive.”