For the first time ever, TACAPS is offering schooling from prep through to Year 12.

Story Ken Eastwood  

Five years ago, Toowoomba Anglican College and Preparatory School (TACAPS) began a radical transition. For over a century it had served prep, infants and primary school-aged children. Then, when the Queensland Government changed the definition of high school to include year 7, it made the bold decision to grow the school to cover all years.

“It was a natural progression,” says principal Simon Lees. “The main reason was to create an Anglican co-ed school that catered for primary and secondary children. It’s now Australia’s only co-ed boarding school to cater for primary and secondary aged children.”

Each year from 2014 TACAPS added an extra year group as its older students matured, culminating this year when its 12 oldest students reached year 12.  

At the forefront of this change since year 8 is current year 12 boarder, and the school’s first prefect, Georgia Gleeson. Her family come from Goondiwindi, a couple of hours away, and her two younger brothers are now also attending the school. 

Georgia says the school has had to adapt to older children as they have come through, with everything from renovating the boys’ boarding house in order to accommodate much larger boys, to getting bigger beds, uniform changes and adjusting leave conditions for the boarders. “Primary school boarders have to leave and come back to school in full uniform when they go away for a weekend, but as years have gone on we can go off to town in our civvies for a quick Maccas run or something as long as we tell a member of staff,” she says. 

Simon says that the gradual changes have had to be managed carefully. “It hasn’t been without its challenges,” he says. “The community has generally been very positive, but change isn’t always popular. We’re delighted with how the school has progressed and parents tell me that even though it’s had all these changes it’s still got such a family feel.”

Georgia’s mother Vanessa says the fact they could send their daughters and sons to the same school, combined with the school’s great reputation, made it an easy choice to send their children to TACAPS.

“It was important to us that they grow up with their siblings,” Vanessa says. “I also felt if the staff knew Georgia’s siblings they’d understand all the things that motivate her, and the things that influence her. They can get to know us now as a family unit, rather than us having girls at one school and boys at another.”

The school is 2.5 hours’ drive from Goondiwindi, and Vanessa says many families in town are connected with the school. “We’d heard so many good things,” she says. “People our age had gone there, and only ever talked fondly of the school. We were really excited about what the school could become.”

“We want to remain a small school,” Simon says. “We take pride that we know all the students well. Even at full capacity we will only have 650 students. We have 560 now.” In 2014, when the decision was made to start adding years, there were 380 students.

Vanessa says that sometimes smaller cohorts means students might not be competing against as many students in sport or occasionally some classes are combined with other years, such as Georgia’s Chinese class, in which three year 11s join the two year 12 students, but overall the smaller classes add to the friendly atmosphere. “They receive a lot of attention and access to teacher help that maybe you wouldn’t have in bigger cohorts,” she says. “It really does have a strong family environment. We really have been very happy.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #119

Outback Magazine: June/July 2018