One of Sydney’s top Catholic schools is set to open a new state-of-the-art boarding school that it says will meet the diverse needs of the contemporary boarding community for the next 125 years.
The new purpose-built Boarding School, which begins construction in 2023, will deliver increased student accommodation, flexible communal spaces and reflect the school’s vision to create a modern, ecologically sustainable home for boarding students.
Loreto Normanhurst Principal, Marina Ugonotti said the new Boarding School “is testament to Loreto Normanhurst’s commitment to remain at the edge of innovation.”
TE: You said the new boarding school is testament to Loreto Normanhurst’s commitment to remain at the edge of innovation. What does innovation mean to you?
Despite how difficult it is to predict the future, in education we must anticipate what the future of the world will be in order to best prepare our students, arming them with the skills and attributes necessary to live flourishing lives. At Loreto Normanhurst, our educators meet this challenge and attempt to take it one step further. Instead of envisioning what the world may be, we aim to craft the future of the world into what it should be by forming students as “compassionate warriors” – independent, articulate, compassionate women who are seekers of truth and doers of justice. The education of women is fundamental to achieving peace and justice in our families, in our society and in our world. The multi-disciplinary approach to learning that we have here assists our students in developing the skills and the disposition of heart they will need to go on and serve the world, making it a better place while leading long and flourishing lives.
TE: I understand the new boarding school will include flexible communal spaces. What will these look like, and what practical and educational benefits will they offer students?
As we finalise the design for the Boarding School prior to construction commencing in 2023, we are factoring in a range of flexible communal spaces. A large dining room will allow boarders to eat together and, during the day, will also welcome day students to the cafeteria. Large tiered seating will be a perfect location for group chats, quiet reading or studying, or school choir rehearsals. A family lounge will allow for families to visit their daughter, and will give them a comfortable and inviting space to sit together. Multiple common rooms on each floor will have lounge and TV areas, games areas and some cooking facilities to allow boarders to prepare a quick snack, or cook a batch of biscuits together after school. We will have quiet spaces including a study hub, outdoor teaching areas and music rehearsal rooms.
TE: With Loreto Normanhurst education delivered to rural, and Indigenous girls through the school’s boarding program, what do you see as the most significant long-term benefits of this being delivered?
The vision of our foundress, Mary Ward, was that a holistic education be made available to all girls, so as to grow young women who are “seekers of truth and doers of justice.” Our mission as a Loreto school calls us to meaningfully address the challenges we face as a society, including the barriers to education for young women. It is through our Boarding Program that we can expand the accessibility of the holistic education that Mary Ward envisioned for all young women. Rural and regional girls face the equivalent of a 1.5-year gap in Maths and Science learning compared to students in metropolitan areas. This gap in schooling increases long-term economic disadvantage for rural girls. The disadvantage is even more pronounced for Indigenous students, particularly young women. Despite the Australian government’s Close the Gap campaign, these students continue to face disparity in educational achievement, employment opportunities and life expectancy. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students who complete Year 12 or equivalent are more likely to go on to further education and training, have better academic thinking skills, better employment options, and have improved economic, social and emotional wellbeing. For these reasons, the opportunity to enrol in a boarding program, such as the one we offer at Loreto Normanhurst, is vitally important to these girls.
TE: You said: “What has been right for boarding for the last 125 years, may not be for the next 125 years”. What are some key trends you see shaping boarding education in the 21st Century, and what are some important implications of these trends for boarding school leaders?
The Loreto Normanhurst Boarding School is a tight knit community, and it always has been since it was founded as a country boarding school in 1897. In the modern era, technology presents challenges to the sense of community for our teens. There are many temptations that keep them in their rooms or at their desks, rather than interacting face-to-face. The new Boarding School will provide a myriad of flexible communal spaces to allow our boarders to spend time together; eating, cooking, playing and working. The integration of technology into the new build will be essential. While we have upgraded our heritage facilities to meet our requirements, the heavy reliance on the technology we have for communication, entertainment, education and climate control, was not a required consideration at the time of building our current Boarding School. Furthermore, the pressure on the environment and the need for a sustainable approach to living has emerged. As part of the school’s commitment to ecology, the new Boarding School will be designed to reduce the environmental footprint of those who live in it. An ecological approach to the use of water, climate control, waste management and the use of environmentally friendly building materials has been a key design principle for the new Boarding School.
The Loreto Normanhurst Boarding School will be completed to welcome boarding students to their new home for the 2025 school year.