ON BOARD: Benjamin, Michael, Joseph and Samuel Fletcher ready to start the boarding year.
ON BOARD: Benjamin, Michael, Joseph and Samuel Fletcher ready to start the boarding year. Contributed

Bush kids off to boarding school

THE car ride home from Brisbane to Rolleston at the weekend was a quiet one for Yvonne and Jack Fletcher, after dropping their four sons at boarding school.

Today Samuel, the youngest of the Fletcher clan, will start at Anglican Church Grammar School, joining his older brothers Joseph (Year 8), Michael (Year 11) and Benjamin (Year 12).

Samuel is Jack's and Yvonne's last son to start boarding school. Yvonne said that while it got easier to see them off in some respects, it was harder in others.

FAMILY AFFAIR: Sam, Joseph, dad Jack, Benjamin and Michael Fletcher get ready for a day's mustering on their family property Serecold.
FAMILY AFFAIR: Sam, Joseph, dad Jack, Benjamin and Michael Fletcher get ready for a day's mustering on their family property Serecold.

"I'm more relaxed now I'm on my fourth but I do often think back about how hard it must have been for our first chap," she said.

"Growing up the boys knew they would eventually go to boarding school. There was no other option for us.

"Serecold (the family's cattle property) is our home, and splitting the family up or distance education wasn't an option."

The Fletcher family's story is not unusual.

Families right across Central Queensland and regional Australia have this week sent children off from all corners of the bush to boarding schools.

Yvonne said that along with providing a place for bush kids to pursue a secondary education, boarding school also offered the opportunity to experience life outside of Rolleston.

"We would have liked to keep them closer, but my husband, who grew up in Brisbane, and I thought it was important for the boys to experience city life. Most of our boys will probably return home but we wanted them to know there were other options, and if they did decide to come home, to feel comfortable that it was their choice."

But for now the countdown is on till the next school holidays when, Yvonne says, she and Jack will have a to-do list for the boys to tackle at home.

"I'm looking forward to getting to do a bit more outside. I definitely won't have as much laundry or cooking to do."

On the other side of town, Chris and Robyn Priddle have just sent off their eldest daughter, Zara, to start Year 7 at Rockhampton Girls Grammar.

Chris is a fifth-generation Rolleston cattle producer and the family has lived on Adair for 16 years.

SISTERS: Heidi, Zara and Georgia Priddle on their last day of school for 2015.
SISTERS: Heidi, Zara and Georgia Priddle on their last day of school for 2015.

While it was sad to wave goodbye to their daughter for the first time, Robyn said she was looking forward to the opportunities boarding school opened up.

"Socially, academically, sporting, there is so much there for her to explore, there is nothing more here for her. My husband and I both went to boarding school so we know that it teaches them independence and social skills."

While the family had always known Zara would one day head off to boarding school, Robyn said just this week she was reminded of "the little things".

"We don't have an ATM in Rolleston so she's never had to use one before, and I had to give her a crash course in ironing.

"There's also child safety. Here we know everyone and we all watch out for each other's children, she won't have that safety net now, and road safety - kids from the country don't typically have a lot of traffic sense."

The Priddles went overseas last year in an effort to expose their girls to "life outside of Rolleston".

"We love Rolleston but its important that they see there's a big world out there."

Despite feeling nervous about the year ahead, Zara, who also starts her first day of classes today, says she is looking forward to "trying new things".

Zara says she will miss her family, seeing her friends every day and riding her horse, Chevy.


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