We recently sat down for a chat with Liz Morris (LM), the new Matron for Raymond House and Mandi Matthews (MM), the new Matron for Seymour House, to find out how well they have settled into Bloxham during their first term and to discover more about the busy lives of matrons.

How are you finding your first term?

MM: It’s amazing how quickly it’s gone. On about the third day of the very first week I suddenly felt overwhelmed, but it was just one day where it was really busy. It’s funny how quickly you pick it all up and then it all slots in and you remember it. I’m really lucky that my assistant Avril has been here for years, so she’s been really good at mentoring me and showing me how to do things. I start by doing things the way they have been done previously, and then if I can see any way of improving on that I will. Everyone has been really supportive.

LM: I feel the same because Dianne, my assistant matron, has been here for years. When I first started, she was with me all the time and showed me what we needed to do. She explained that there are lots of different tasks on different days and lots of jobs that you wouldn’t necessarily think of. Every matron’s job is slightly different because every matron takes on different roles or tasks depending on what their Housemistress or master is like and what they want. It depends too on what the students are like in your house. This term has been good – I’ve enjoyed it. I really like our Housemistress and assistant. I like the House team and the girls are brilliant. They’re hilarious. They’re really good girls. They’ve got a very clear view on life; they’re very feisty and interesting to be around.

What does a typical day look like in the life of a matron?

MM: The first thing is getting everyone up by 8.00am. We make sure the rooms are relatively tidy, beds made, windows open for the Domestic Assistants to come in and do their job, and then we have specific tasks for specific days. In our house, for example, Monday is a laundry day, so we get the boarders’ laundry in and sorted and then it comes back Monday afternoon or early Tuesday and we organise it. Each day, we have to do administrative work like boarding attendance, which I tend to do daily so that I keep on top of it. I also keep a daily running total for catering because we then have to submit numbers on a Thursday for the following week with any provisions that we need; we fill up kitchens making sure provisions are there, do snacks for break time and liaising with Catering for the snacks. Other days it’s lots of tick-ins as we’re responsible for three of those through the day.

LM: We have to make sure they’ve found their books, found their shoes, got a hair tie, they’ve rolled their skirts down! It’s like being a parent to 60 children because it’s the same thing you do with the kids at home. It’s like being a mum to them and you deal with all the dramas that go on: when they fall out with their friends, when they’ve got things to tell you and so on.

What has been a highlight from your first term here?

MM: That’s a difficult question. I did enjoy it when they were practicing the House Shout. I enjoyed listening to them rehearse. I liked the run up to the House Rugby – all the excitement of it! Who was chosen for the team and handing out the house shirts – it’s quite a thing in the boys’ houses to be given a house shirt, so they were all quite excited by that.

LM: Half Term? No, I’m joking! I think for me, more than individual things, it has been getting to know so many different people, both the girls and the staff. Finding my place in that community has been really nice and I’ve enjoyed that.

MM: Yes, I’ve enjoyed getting to know the boys. Some are still not very keen to come forward and are a bit quieter. At first, you can’t imagine being able to know that many, but you do. You get to know their quirks and that’s been nice.

Have either of you been a matron before?

Both: No.

MM: I worked in a primary school before. I’ve come from teaching Year 4, so it’s very different.

LM: I’ve never worked with kids before. I was a nurse and then I worked for a management consultancy firm, then I worked for the ambulance service, so this is the first time I’ve actually worked with teenagers.

Is the job how you expected it to be?

LM: Yes and no. I had forgotten how much everything affects teenage girls, especially the younger ones. It’s all or nothing. If they have a falling out with their friends, it’s the end of the world. It’s all-encompassing.

MM: Boys are slightly different. They’re a bit more likely to wind each other up and might have a falling out but then it’s done and dusted.

LM: It’s a balancing act. You have to put a line in the sand sometimes and be there to support the Housemistress, but also act in that pastoral role where you’re supporting the girls and being there for the girls as well.

Thank you very much to both Liz and Mandi for sharing their insights from the first term so far. We also caught up with the House Captains of Seymour and Raymond to see how they felt about their new matrons. Hamish K., from Seymour, shared his thoughts about Mandi:

“I think Matron has settled in perfectly and is doing very well with helping everyone in the house. I think everyone really likes the calmness she brings which is reflected in how calm everyone is. I think all the boys have enjoyed the introduction of the noticeboard outside Matron’s room in keeping them up-to-date on things going on!”

Annabel T. was similarly full of praise for Liz:

“Our new Matron Liz has settled extremely well into the busy lifestyle of Raymond House, knowing all the girls’ names early on. Already, Liz is part of the family and is always there with a smile on her face in our locker room. She acts like a second mum to us all, due to her approachable, kind and problem-fixing nature, as well as being a popular and trusted member of staff. It is lovely knowing she is always there for a quick chat or a long conversation with excellent advice and a positive outlook. She loves a list and a tidy locker room and is a whizz with anything administrative. Matron Liz brings extra warmth to Raymond whenever she is around, and we are all very grateful she has joined our House.”

We wish Mandi and Liz all the best in their new roles and look forward to hearing about their further successes in their Houses.