Ethan March is used to the dry and windy conditions on the family farm in Horrocks, just north of Geraldton in WA’s Mid-West, but he has quickly adapted to the leafy, coastal environment of St Stephen’s School’s Duncraig campus.
“At home I helped my step brother build a half-pipe in the shed, I ride motorbikes around the farm and take quad bikes to check on the sheep and head down the beach,” Ethan said.
“Here, in Perth, it’s a nice space and quite relaxing – I do spend a lot of time in my room studying but I enjoy being close to home after a big day… and catching up with friends is a lot easier, we go running, to coffee shops, down the beach and you’re always close to the train station so it makes it really easy to get around.”
Ethan is in Year 11 and one of the first regional students to take up study at St Stephen’s School. While he said he was naturally nervous at first, he was surprised at how quickly he settled in with his group of friends, got to know his teachers and enjoyed his academic pursuits.
“I previously came from a big school where the teachers would roughly know who you were but I feel like it is very relaxed and friendly here; you form more of a bond, not just with your friends, but your teachers who take a lot of time to help out and answer your questions; they are really passionate.”
It is this relational nature that provided the motivation to create our new Home Away From Home (HAFH) program, which offers a fresh take on traditional boarding arrangements.
Partnering with established student accommodation provider Talk about Homestay, the HAFH program follows stringent processes to best match students with families in a home environment and conduct regular check-ins for all parties.
“Being a long way from home can be quite daunting for regional students and their families, so we structured our HAFH program with that in mind, ensuring it meets strict guidelines for peace of mind and fosters a strong relationship between the student, their family in regional WA, the host family and the School,” Principal Mrs Donella Beare said.
“Students have access to our holistic co-educational experience where learning and care go hand-in-hand at an affordable price in the comfort of a home environment.”
Students in the HAFH program have access to all School activities and opportunities and are guided through their Secondary schooling by the Care Team, Career Advisors and academic and vocational specialists, depending where their passion lies.
“For example, we may get a student who wants to qualify as a Heavy Diesel Mechanic or hone their business skills through Certificates in our Vocational Education and Training program before returning home to help run the family farm; or another who maybe focused on achieving entry into one of Perth’s universities,” Mrs Beare said.
Another distinctive is the offer of a short-term trial, which may be two or four weeks, that sees the student take on all aspects of the program to see if the arrangement will work for them and their families.
“Even though it is in the best interests for their child’s future, these families are undertaking a huge decision being so far from their loved ones, so we want to make sure we are the right fit for the families and that we can all work together to get the best outcome for all,” Mrs Beare said.
While Ethan is yet to decide what he wants to study after school, he is focused on doing well in Year 11 and 12 and believes attending St Stephen’s School gives him the best platform.
“At home it would take me an hour-and-a-half to get to school and then home again so that was a big factor in deciding to come here; I have more time to study, which is especially important in Year 11 and 12,” he said.
“I would think I’m in the best place to become the person that I want to be.”