Is the house system a wizard idea?

Posted on: 12 Oct 2016

Following recent news about schools reintroducing the house system, Sarah Palframan, Deputy Head of Sixth Form and Head of Psychology at Queen's Gate School, argues that the system promotes a sense of heritage and pride.

This blog is in response to a Times article 'Schools find bringing back houses is a wizard idea'.

The first House Meeting this term at Queen’s Gate School saw new pupils welcomed into their Houses in a ceremony in which they are presented with a much coveted House T-shirt and swimming cap. Sixth Form House Officers gave informal speeches promoting their Houses which were humorous and got increasingly competitive. Indeed, amongst other attributes, the House System provides an opportunity for Sixth Form students to act as role models to younger students in a less formal setting, whist also gaining a position of responsibility themselves.

The House System promotes a sense of heritage within the school; the houses are named after past Principals and the events, such as House Debating, House Music and House Drama are well established traditions of the School. But perhaps even more vitally, the House System offers opportunities for pupils to lead or take part in activities independently and without too much direction from adults. This sense of autonomy promotes student voice within the school, which further promotes a strong sense of pupil identity. The opportunity for vertical mixing means that students from all year groups work together as a team allowing natural opportunities for mentoring and role modelling.

The House events are rich and varied in terms of the pupil talent they promote but all require an end performance, be it a summary speech in assembly for a house debate or running the 100 metres at Sports Day. House Music last year awarded extra points for creativity and originality which resulted in bespoke compositions, face-painted performers, party poppers and cameo appearances from members of staff. Such performances allow pupils opportunity to take risks in a relatively safe environment. It is often in these events that unlikely students come out of their shell and the confidence gained is tremendous.

Next on the agenda for Queen’s Gate House System are House Debates. Pupils will be using the Half Term break to build arguments for the motion ‘This house believes that all Grammar Schools should be banned’. Sixth Form pupils will help younger speakers to construct arguments and practice their public speaking whilst they themselves take the more daunting role of Summary Speaker.

It is not surprising that the House System is being revived by many institutions; we have found that it provides several opportunities for self-growth whilst also engendering camaraderie and team spirit which fosters pride in the school. The excitement at the end of each term when the Principal announces the House positions is palpable throughout the school.

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About Sarah Palframan

Sarah Palframan is Deputy Head of Sixth Form and Head of Psychology at Queen's Gate School, a girls' school in London.