A question and answer session with Cathy Hall, matron at the Swiss International Scientific School Dubai
13 September 2022| Last updated on 13 September 2022
1.) How did you get into your career? Where and what did you study?
"I began my career as a nursery nurse, where my love of working with children really grew. I gained valuable experience working at a nursery on a naval base where I also completed NVQ levels 2 & 3 in Early Years Education. I continued to learn while working, including training in child protection and safeguarding. The wonderful thing about childcare is you can always learn something new."
2.) Do you have a medical hero or heroine?
"He might not be known as a medical hero, but for me, he definitely is, when you have seen the remote areas, he has help provide medical care for.
Sir Edmund Hillary who built a hospital in the Himalayas in Nepal and a runway to help the poorest mountain villages get supplies. He also built and set up schools so the children could receive their education locally. He was the first to conquer Everest."
3.) Have you been to Dubai before? Is there anything you look forward to seeing or doing off work hours?
"This is my first time in Dubai, and I am really looking forward to discovering the local culture and history. I am also keen to find out about life for local women, see the dunes and attend some camel races."
4.) Is this your first time as an expat?
"I have not lived abroad, but have travelled and trekked extensively around the world including Nepal to Everest base camp and the Annapurna, India, Morrocco, Bavaria , South America, and the American national parks."
5.) Have you worked in a boarding school before and if so, where?
"My first matron role was at Lockers Park boys prep school, I loved working and living with the students and being involved with all aspects of their lives. I progressed my career with older students at Christ’s Hospital School which was set up by London merchants to help the poor and train for the Navy. I worked in a girls boarding house looking after 82 students from the ages of 11 years to 17 years.
I joined Swiss International School Dubai from Harrow, the famous British institution where Winston Churchill attended. I worked at Harrow for seven years and was responsible for the welfare of 70 boys from 13 years to 18 years. I enjoy the bonds you make with the students and their families when you live as boarding family."
6.) What attributes do you think make a good matron?
- "Kindness and patience
- Being firm but fair
- Warm and approachable, confidential
- Fun energetic enthusiastic
- Good communication skills
7.) Could you describe a typical day for you as a boarding matron?
"There isn’t really a typical day when you’re a boarding Matron, a key skill to the role is to be adaptable to situations as they arise. I currently wake the Zurich Boarders in the morning 6.40am with a waking bell, followed by an announcement at 6.45am. I take a register and check uniforms, that they have their belongings needed for school day and collected a snack for breaktime.
My main responsibility in the mornings is to give the students taking medication their morning doses and to record it accurately. If any student has reported feeling unwell overnight, I would arrange to take them to the clinic for a medical review before attending lessons. Depending on the outcome, they might return to house to be looked after by me or need a follow-up with a consultant. I would check medical insurance details, book an appropriate consultant, and accompany the student to the appointment.
The most important requirement is recording the details and outcome of the appointments, updating the pupil`s school records and accurately communicating the information to parents. This may entail spending time addressing their concerns or queries about ongoing or future treatments and appointments.
I consider this a vital part of my role, because parents need to be fully informed, confident, and reassured that they are able to trust, the schoolhouse staff are providing the highest standard of care for their child.
When I am not looking after poorly students, I spend time over in the Secondary building, helping to support the teachers and students during their school day. We have a designated Boarding Office so the students have the reassurance that a member of boarding is on hand, should they need anything. Lunch is a really good time to catch-up with the students and find out how they are and what they are looking forward to for the remainder of the day.
Students normally arrive back at the boarding houses at around 15.30pm after lessons. I greet the students as they arrive and then have a lovely catch-up over tasty sandwiches and snacks in the pantries. They are then getting ready for after school activities followed by homework and dinner. The weekends are always fun with exciting trips planned and sports activities on a Sunday. There is always something to get involved with, for the staff and students to really enjoy."
8.) Why did you choose the Swiss International Scientific School Dubai?
"I like the school ethos of adapting to support children as individuals, in a way that works for them and the school is willing to adapt to support the pupil needs."
9.) Your role is integral to the wellbeing of the children, will you be working closely with the well-being co-ordinator?
"I am going to be working closely with all my colleagues in Secondary. It’s very important that all staff in boarding have a complete understanding of how the students in our care are doing, overall.
We need to know when they need extra support or understanding if it’s been a difficult day. This is what helps to building trusting long lasting relationships and give that extra level of care to fully get to know all the students you are looking after."
10.) How do you encourage students to come and see you when they're feeling ill?
"I endeavour to build trusting relationships with the students, so that they feel confident in my care when they are unwell. Understandably, they often don’t want everyone to know what is wrong, so it is vital I only communicate with colleagues, what is essential information for their role to provide the correct individual care for every student.
The students must feel they will be listened too in the first instance. The growing of a healthy student adult relationship is key and mental health is also important.
When students are unwell, they really miss home and this is why it’s so important in boarding that when students are poorly they feel loved and cared for. They need to know they are not alone, and that Matron is there for reassurance as well as to give medication. It’s a major part of the role that all the students know they can come to you when they need to."