Edward steals hearts in Ascham Boarding

Mrs Allysia Heness-Pugh joined Ascham this year as our new Head of Boarding. Now a few weeks into the term, Allysia has settled into life on campus with her husband, daughter and pooch Edward who is soon to start his guide dog training!

Allysia is strongly committed to service learning, establishing the first boarding school partnership with Guide Dogs Australia to raise a guide dog puppy in an educational institution. The sense of home that an animal brings to a boarding setting is invaluable but the program also helps bridge divides between boarding students and the wider community. Mid-year, we must say goodbye to the beautiful black Labrador, Edward, who Allysia and her family have raised for the last 12 months, as he goes into his training. A new puppy will replace him here on campus for the next year—much to the delight of our boarders and staff who will no doubt be lining up for cuddles!

We are delighted to welcome Allysia to Ascham. Already with 16 years’ experience in boarding schools, she brings to the role a strong focus on pastoral care and wellbeing, to deliver positive residential experiences for young women who live away from home.

Having grown up in the Central West of NSW, Allysia has a passionate connection to rural Australia. She says, ‘As a former boarder, I have a unique insight into the life of boarding students. I was fortunate enough to experience a dual lifestyle, growing up on an Angora goat stud while boarding at All Saints College, Bathurst. It instilled independence, resilience and self-motivation in me. These three values have equipped me to be resourceful and creative in adulthood, and I’ve carried them close to my heart throughout my career.

‘Although I have lived in cities for the last 20 years, the call of regional NSW has never been too far away. My husband and I own a property in Dungog in the Upper Hunter and manage a small herd of black Angus cattle. This ongoing connection to a rural community provides a contemporary perspective on the challenges faced by boarding families and helps build authentic relationships with parents who entrust their daughters into my care.’

Allysia feels that any successful boarding environment must centre on building meaningful relationships. ‘It is a place where students should be nurtured by engaged staff to thrive academically, socially and emotionally,’ she says. ‘My vision of boarding is that of authenticity and connectedness. With positive boarding connections, students feel respected and valued so as to contribute meaningfully to the wider community. I think often of Geoffrey Blainey’s classic 1966 text The Tyranny of Distance when I consider how remoteness and opportunity has shaped the course of thousands of boarders’ lives in Australia, including my own.’

We look forward to all that 2021 holds for Ascham Boarding… as well as many more cuddles with Edward before he departs for his guide dog training!

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