Putting our Heart and Soul into TGS Boarding

“If students are educated the right way, they will make a difference in whatever community they live and work in.” That is the philosophy of Toowoomba Grammar School’s new Head of House, Stephens Boarding, Mr Phil Kefford.

Phil grew up in Warrington, in the north west of England and realised early on that he came from a place where “I had just one shot to get out and I had to focus and work hard to do that.”

He was accepted into university in London where he fell in love with History, was suddenly surrounded by people who shared his passion for academia and he flourished, taking advantage of every opportunity that was now before him, both sporting and academic.

“My educational and life experience has taught me that if you furnish children with good values, skills and attributes, they will go far and will have every opportunity,” stated Phil.

“There is a whole world out there that children need to be aware of and exposed to so that they are better people when they grow up.”

Phil brings this theory into his classroom, encouraging his History students to never trust a source but to read and research extensively, and to question and debate ideas, even those you fundamentally believe in. Outside the classroom, Phil believes it’s important for children to step outside their comfort zone and try everything, from performing arts to sport and community service.

Phil has had a diverse experience as a History and sports teacher and as a coach in cricket, football, and tennis. He started his career at an all-boys’ boarding school in Warwick, England from 1993-2000 before moving to an all-boys’ state school then returning to boarding at Gordon’s School, Surrey which was steeped in history, tradition, and good values.

A decision to spend more time with his wife, Kate and their two young sons took the family to the Service Childrens’ Education (SCE) in Germany, teaching the children of British service men and women. Kate taught in the primary school and Phil in the secondary school, and they were Boarding Masters for seven years, during the height of the war in Afghanistan.

“It was a wonderful experience but a huge learning curve,” said Phil.

“We had to deal with a lot of mental health and wellbeing issues with the children. The issues they were facing were so different to those that ‘normal’ children are exposed to, the stress of their parents in the war, the separation anxiety associated with that.”

The school was also a terrorist risk, so soldiers were based on campus and the staff were provided with large mirrors to scan their vehicles for bombs before driving anywhere.

Phil said the experience took his understanding of youth mental health issues and his pastoral care skills to a whole new level, but he enjoyed his time there and the opportunities and life skills that were presented to him and Kate.

In 2010, searching for a change of scenery and with their sons approaching high school age, the family moved to Australia, unemployed, with the intent of exploring the country. That plan quickly changed, when the first day of school for their boys at Springfield Lakes State School, Phil was approached by the Headmaster and asked to teach Year 7. He started work the next day. Kate took up a position at St Hilda’s School, Southport a short time later where she remained until now. Phil worked at Springfield Anglican College for seven years and then St Mary’s College in Ipswich before taking up his latest role here at TGS.

“I was very excited when this position became available,” said Phil.

“Our boys went to Brisbane State High School, so we’d come to TGS on many occasions for GPS sport and we always loved the community feeling here, that you were well looked after as a visiting parent and the TGS boys were always courteous and respectful.”

Phil said those warm views of the good values and sense of community at TGS have been 150% reinforced during his short time on staff here.

“I’m so excited about the future, the experiences I can share with the boys and the support I can give them academically and in the boarding house,” stated Phil.

“My sons have grown up and moved away so I can really focus on the boys here and their needs, it’s a great time for Kate and me to come and put our heart and soul into the boarding community.”

Discover more about the TGS boarding experience here Boarding - Toowoomba Grammar School (twgs.qld.edu.au)


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