Mr Bryan Hillock will be Jeppe’s Director of Boarding from the beginning of next year. The current director, Mr Bechet, retires at the end of the year and although he will remain at the school, he is stepping down from that role.
Mr Hillock said that he is excited about the new challenge. “It’s going to be a big change for me, and I can’t wait to get going. Boarding plays a crucial role at Jeppe and I look forward to being part of developing it further, creating a product that is attractive to parents and which allows the boys to grow to their full potential,” he said.
Senior management at the school held a boarding Indaba recently at which plans for next year, and beyond, were discussed. “We asked how we can provide an even better experience for the hostel boys at Jeppe,” Mr Hillock explained. “We accept that the hostel will never be home, but we want every boarder to achieve the best he can. At the same time, our hostel population is very diverse and so there cannot be any one-size-fits-all solutions.”
As teenagers, some of the boys in boarding have issues, and some come from difficult family circumstances. “It’s our role to provide a safe, caring environment for them, in the first instance, and then to try to help them overcome the challenges they face.”
Many of the boys don’t have father figures in their lives, Mr Hillock said, and that responsibility falls on the masters in whose care they are placed. “We have found that the little things that we take for granted, for example: shaving for the first time, or applying for a learner’s license etc are part of what we have to teach them.”
Jeppe is very lucky to have committed, caring people working in the hostels. “Or hostel masters have the best interests of the boys at heart,” Mr Hillock said. “We need to give them the tools, via training and example, to fulfill their roles in the best interests of the boys.”
Among the plans formulated at the Indaba is the introduction of a structured academic reinforcement programme. “The boarders are generally so invested in the school’s extra-mural programmes that in some cases their academic work suffers. We want to have support structures in place that go beyond the usual extra lessons at exam time. So, using the services of the teachers who live on the school campus there will be year-around academic reinforcement in all the subjects,” Mr Hillock explained. “It’s all part of helping the boys to manage their time effectively.”
It was also decided to continue looking for opportunities to involve the termly boarders, in particular, with experiences and opportunities off-campus. “We want them to be normal teenagers, so it’s important that they get to socialise with people outside of school, and that they see things in the world outside of Jeppe,” Mr Hillock said.
There will also be an increased focus on establishing effective communication channels. “The Covid-19 situation reminded us how important it is to keep everyone fully informed. We will build on that, using the online channels that were developed during the lockdown. There’s no doubt that parents appreciate being kept fully informed on what is going on with their boys. The communication chain between school, boarding and parents must be maintained at all times.”
“2020 was a difficult year,” Mr Hillock said. “Our first goal for next year has to be getting parents to re-commit to the idea of boarding school, and then to make sure we offer a good product and that we help the boys to settle back into the routines of hostel life, which may be different in the future. Our programme of upgrading and refurbishment of the buildings will continue and we will be working on getting the mix of our staff teams right in terms of blending youth and experience.”
Mr Hillock will continue as senior housemaster at Sable until a replacement for him is found. “It’s going to be difficult to distance myself from Sable and wear a neutral hat,” he said, “but playing a wider role and interacting with the school management in making Jeppe boarding better is exactly what I want to be doing. I can’t wait,” he concluded.