Dilworth’s new Director of Boarding

Date: 20 Jun 2023

From Term Three Gareth Hore will assume the role of Director of Boarding at Dilworth School, taking over from Ally Patterson.

Gareth has had a stellar teaching and boarding management career. Prior to his commencement at Dilworth in 2019, he studied at Otago University, spent 7 years teaching at South Otago High School, followed by 5 years at Dunedin’s King’s High School where he was Director of International Students. He credits his time as Director of International students with giving him a real window into the world of boarding.

“This (role) gave me so much experience in understanding boys away from home, on making students the priority and seeing their vulnerability. Alone on the other side of the world they are 24 hours in your care and have been sent overseas to study - you are dealing with language barriers, homesickness through to some complex issues with really  difficult students”

Growing up in Balclutha, Otago, a freezing works town, Gareth said there wasn’t much talk about going to university as he grew up. But he credits his high school geography teacher, Lennox Sharp, with giving him the encouragement to believe in himself - Lennox talked about university so often it just became part of the conversation. This has clearly given Gareth a driving motivation to do the same for other students in his care and he is firmly of the view that the right teacher can make the ultimate difference.

“On my toughest of days, this is my why and what I want to give back to the boys - give them the self-belief to know they can do whatever they set out to achieve and make university, and further education, part of the conversation as Lennox did for me. We have to break any culture of mediocrity and have our boys believing they can be amazing”.

In the years he has been at Dilworth, Gareth has been Head of Social Sciences and had an array of boarding management roles: Cotter House 2020, Conolly House 2021 and House Leader of Wilton from 2022.

With his extensive experience in boarding, Gareth can clearly see the benefits of boarding and the advantages for students. In terms of practical aspects he believes that being on-site during the week means the transitions between school, after-school sports and activities are so much easier for students with everything in one place. He also sees the 24/7 pastoral and health care services provided by Dilworth, as a real advantage, as well as the strong irreplaceable friendships that develop when students board. Life in boarding isn’t however always “a perfect kumbaya” and Gareth notes that staff need to be experienced to deal with the kinds of issues that inevitably crop up, things that can range from homesickness for younger students, struggles with balancing study with extracurricular activities, or the uncertainty faced by a Year 13 student about to go onto the next stage of their life journey. He believes it is up to the staff to make the difference and to make boarding an amazing experience for students.

“I know I have a huge responsibility to 500 boarders. It’s a big motivation”

The safety of staff and students in a boarding environment has also been much on his mind as he takes up his new role. He outlined that Dilworth’s comprehensive approach to child safeguarding includes technology as well as oversight by staff. Each house has a programme called REACH installed, which shows the location of all boys at all times and there are also security cameras everywhere (except the bathrooms and dorms for privacy), and these are checked daily. Gareth notes that this might sound like a lot, but there are clear advantages.

“This has provided a lot of insight for us – we can use them for troubleshooting but we can we also see if something’s up, if a student isn’t well, we can use the tool proactively”.

A House Assistant is resident in each house and a Housing Co-ordinator is on call. Dilworth has an outstanding staff-to-student ratio across the school and in boarding.  

Listening to students is a key part of student safety for Gareth. Beyond having staff available to talk to, students can also make an anonymous report through STYMIE. He says the main way boys will use STYMIE is if they think another student is low, or if they see someone being treated unkindly. There was even an incidence of a student telling the school when they saw a teacher upset.

Gareth believes that the Student Boarding Committee, introduced this year, has been a great step forward adding another window of insight for staff. This committee, with 6 students across the year levels, meet fortnightly. Committee members know the other boys and are across any boarding-related issues which can ultimately give the best feedback on what is working, and what isn’t.

In taking up his new role, Gareth wants to build on the huge legacy left by Ally Patterson and make Dilworth the best boarding school in the world.

“Dilworth is one of the most unique schools in the world – with the mission and legacy of James and Isabella Dilworth. It’s just such a cool thing and it should be the best in the world. We are on the way, we are going to get it there”.