The importance of the House system in a school’s pastoral care tool kit

By Sarah Hobby, Head, Crown House

The critical role of the House system in a school’s pastoral care tool kit was brought to life for me recently when Crown House pupils went for their first all school walk around the Rye as part of our celebration of Big Green Week. Children walked around in their Houses holding hands with their house buddies and chatting animatedly. The hour-long walk strengthened bonds across year groups – house buddies must have at least one or two years between them – and has led to some of our quieter more reserved children open up to their older buddies which has been wonderful to see.

This way in which the House system allows younger children to develop relationships with and learn from older children and the older children to develop leadership skills and empathy in their relationships with the younger children, is just one of the positives of the House system. Houses also create a sense of belonging, feeling of camaraderie and ensure children have the opportunity to develop teamwork skills that will stay with them for life. Houses are about more that the academic side of school and help develop the whole child, which is so important for overall wellbeing.

When I was Housemistress of the Junior Girls Boarding House at Marlborough College in Malaysia, I saw first-hand the important role of Houses in first class pastoral care and indeed the House system stems from boarding schools, where children live in their ‘House’. However, I firmly believe that Houses are just as important for day schools as for boarding schools and should be a core part of any school’s pastoral care tool kit.

Whatever age and stage children join a new school, they very quickly identify with their House and that sense of belonging is really important to all of us, but particularly to children who are changing, growing and learning the whole time. Collaboration is an important part of this and we often run inter house competitions at Crown House to develop this further.  We recently had a charity school fair where each of our 3 Houses had to create and market 3 stalls in order to raise funds for their chosen charities. The event raised over £600 and was a real example of teamwork and collaboration at its best with children from reception to Year 6 working together to deliver on their stalls. Other recent inter House events have included art competitions and singing competitions which have seen older and younger pupils working together towards a common goal.

Another important aspect of Houses is the opportunity for pupils to get to see their teachers in a different light, outside the classroom. This develops relationships and dialogue between pupils and staff which both helps in the classroom and outside it by creating new bonds so pupils have other adults – in addition to their form teachers – they feel comfortable talking to about whatever may be on their mind at that time. Strong and positive relations between pupils and staff leads to a happier school which is good for everyone.

For older children, the House system presents leadership opportunities and at Crown House our Year 6 pupils are given areas of responsibility that help them develop leadership skills which they can develop further at secondary school.

The House system supports pupil development and wellbeing, setting our children up with skills for life, which is why I believe it should be integral to the pastoral care of all schools.

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