St Margaret’s College: A warm, nurturing college boarding environment

Students relax together in the senior boarding house

BY Brenda Webb  |  PHOTO Janine Hutton


Well-adjusted, independent thinking, responsible with amazing friendships formed. That is how girls leave St Margaret’s College boarding house after their formative education years.

Director of Boarding Nicky Langley says the boarding environment offers a safe and homely environment and a real home away from home for the girls,  from rural backgrounds.

“All teenagers need structure and we provide that,” she says. “Breakfast is at a set time, then there is the school day and after school prep time or sport, dinner, some free time and then lights out,” she says. “At weekends there are activities organised as well as sports. There is a lot of structure but it is a very warm and nurturing environment.”

A high ratio of staff to students at St Margaret’s and emphasis on pastoral care, leadership, compassion and an internationally focussed education make sure students have the best start in life.

St Margaret’s was severely damaged in the earthquake with much of the school rebuilt and the boarding houses renovated.

“We have one of the most modern campuses in the city since the earthquake,” says Nicky. “We future-proofed in terms of technology and it is an amazing place to work and study.”

With a roll of 820 students, 130 of those are boarders who come from all over New Zealand, including a large number from the Nelson and Marlborough regions, and further afield.

Some international students come due to a parental connection but most come for St Margaret’s College reputation as one of New Zealand’s leading girls’ schools with its academic, sporting and cultural excellence.

Houses are split into age groups to ensure inclusiveness and while the younger girls live dormitory style, the older girls go into motel-styled units which give them the independence and confidence to work towards life as a tertiary student or a flatting situation.

Even in the dormitories, each girl has her own cubicle to ensure privacy, but each is open at the top so girls can pop their heads over to their neighbour.

Meals are provided in the school café with boarders having choices including a hot meal. Food is designed by All Blacks nutritionist Katrina Darry who has designed a nutrient-dense, healthy menu with food teenagers like eating.  Alongside basics like salads, wraps and sushi there are treats like tacos and wedges.

“We need to keep it balanced and interesting,” says Nicky who regularly eats at the café because the food is so good.

While meals are provided, the girls take responsibility for cleaning their rooms and changing their sheets – another step towards independence. The girls put out their clothes for washing but if they are regular sports participants then they may have to wash their gear themselves – all of which teaches them to be self- sufficient.

“They don’t have the luxury of mum doing these things for them so it teaches them to be independent and encourages time management skills,” says Nicky.

Well-rounded students

These days communicating is easier than ever and girls can speak to their parents whenever they choose to. Devices are handed in at night to ensure the girls’ safety and to encourage healthy sleep patterns.

St Margaret’s supports and encourages its students to become well-rounded, confident, resilient, lifelong learners, critical thinkers, flexible, responsible, compassionate, collaborative and self-managers.

All of that applies in the boarding house where the girls are supported and encouraged towards independence so they leave with valuable life skills and lifelong friendships.

St Margaret’s College Open Day is on Monday March 23, 2020 with the SMC Sleepover taking place the night before (Sunday March 22).


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