This year has seen many of our travel plans and the way we do business with other countries, states and regions change dramatically. From the height of lockdown earlier this year, to phase four restrictions currently in place, we have all had to alter the way we interact, connect and, in relation to education, teach.
While our students transitioned to learning from home for several weeks, we were comforted knowing that they were close by in their own home. However, as I began to look beyond our own School community to the many students from regional areas, or abroad, it was painfully obvious that their regular way of life and learning had been turned upside down. This uncertain situation for many of these students became the catalyst for action about an initiative that St Stephen’s School Deputy Head (Duncraig Campus) Bennet Andrews had been discussing with the St Stephen’s School Executive; centred around an idea about offering anew kind of regional program.
The Home Away From Home (HAFH) program provides students from all over Western Australia with the opportunity to attend a metropolitan school while living with a Perth-based family rather than the traditional school boarding house.
We drew on our current partnerships with homestay companies,from our international student program, and have worked closely with some regional students and their families that are already enrolled at St Stephen’s School to structure a program that fosters a strong relationship between the student, their family in regional WA, their Perth based host family and the School.
Regional families are often seeking a wider range of educational opportunities for their children’s secondary schooling and our HAFH program provides something a little different to other types of residential student accommodation.
Thanks to our unique partnership with Talkabout Homestay,each regional student is matched with a local host family, according to a range of criteria, interviews and processes that centre on student safety. After this screening process, students are matched with their host family and begin their journey in their own ‘space’ in a home environment.
The students and their families are welcomed into the School community and encouraged to take part in the life of the School including the many extra-curricular activities and events that St Stephen’s School offers. They 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 will be guided through their Secondary schooling by the St Stephen’s School Care Team, Career Advisors and academic and vocational specialists.
For example, we may have 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 may be focused on achieving entry into one of Perth’s universities to obtain their degree.
We understand that this is a significant decision for families and want to ensure families feel that St Stephen’s School is the best place for their son or daughter. Therefore, St Stephen’s School’s HAFH program offers a short-term trial to all families spanning either a two week or four-week period.During this time students will experience all aspects of the HAFH program and can make informed decisions with their families as to whether St Stephen’s School is the best ‘fit’ for them.
Jesse Inall is an avid sports fan and is currently enrolled in Year 7 at St Stephen’s School. His family live in Pannawonica in WA’s Pilbara region but Jesse lives local to the School during the term and returns home in the holidays.
“Where I used to live there was nothing, there was only eight Year 6s and no sport there,” Jesse said. “We had an oval in Panna[wonica] but if we wanted to play proper sport we had to drive two hours to Karratha – at St Stephen’s there’s better sport,opportunities and more classes.”
Jesse admits he was nervous about coming to a new place so far from home but he settled in quickly with a group of friends who spend most lunchtimes kicking the footy or playing rugby on the oval.
Year 11 Ethan March was a big part of the family conversation about the possibility of coming down to St Stephen’s from Horrocks – a five-and-a-half-hour drive from the School.
“I think being down here [in Perth] benefits me more than up there [in Horrocks],” Ethan said.
“The biggest reason is probably travel time – at home it would take me an hour-and-a-half to get to school and then back again and as a Year 11 and 12 student; having that time to study is a big benefit, and seeing friends is a lot easier in Perth.
“It is very relaxed and friendly here – you form more of a bond, not just with your friends, but your teachers as well.
“I think I’m in my best place to become the person I that I want to be.”
Find more information about the Home Away From Home Program at https://www.ststephens.wa.edu.au/enrolments/ris/regional-students.
This article was featured as a Thought Leadership piece on Business News at https://www.businessnews.com.au/article/A-place-to-prosper.