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Hidden gems

26/5/17: This week our Head of Boarding, Claire Miller, takes a look at the crucial role matrons play in a boarding school.

When your child heads off to boarding school there are many members of staff you, as a parent, will get to know quickly: housemaster/housemistress (known as hsm at Bryanston), tutor, subject teachers, the Head, the list goes on. However, there is one key member of staff who will be central to your child’s life at school and who you will also get to know well: their matron. 

Matrons at Bryanston are at the heart of the school and at the core of the pastoral care of the pupils. They are key to the smooth running of any boarding school and at Bryanston, we feel we have one of the very best team of matrons a school could ask for. The essential role of a boarding house matron has not changed a great deal over the years, however, it has certainly become more complex as the pressures of growing up have changed.

Our matrons are dedicated to their role in the school and devoted to the pupils in their house. At Bryanston, their day begins by 8.15am and by the time pupils have left the house, their matron has registered them, made sure they have made their bed, tidied their room, packed their books and departed for Main School in time for their first commitment of the day. This might be assembly, Chapel or lessons. During the morning, while pupils are in lessons, matrons work with the domestic team to ensure the boarding house is shipshape. In the afternoon, while the hsm may be teaching or coaching, matrons are with the pupils to offer advice and support and, when needed, the motivation to try harder. They are also masters of baking and many of our matrons will do a variety of activities with a small group of pupils in their house during the afternoon before they leave at 6pm to return to their own families and enjoy a well deserved rest before starting again at 8.15am the next morning. 

Matrons are often the first port of call for pupils for everything from mending clothes to providing a friendly ear and a shoulder to lean on, and pupils are more likely to notice if matron isn’t there than if their hsm isn’t. The matron is somebody who the pupils know they can depend on and they play a big part in the lives of our pupils. As one hsm once noted of a departing matron:

On the many occasions that Matron has taken a boy to hospital and I cover break, I sit in her office and boys come in, look, pause and leave. When I ask if I can help, they say, “I’ll wait for Matron.”

It isn’t only the pupils who rely on matrons, they also provide essential support to hsms, especially as they have a keen eye for the early warning signs of potential problems and often see pupils when they’re off guard. The partnership between matrons and hsms helps to ensure no pupil slips through the net.

While matrons come with different personalities and approaches, they share certain key characteristics that make them stand out: kindness, patience, understanding, wisdom, fairness, organisation, approachability and an open and honest communication style. Above all, they are committed to the wellbeing of all pupils in their house. Unassuming and always there for your child, boarding house matrons are hidden gems.