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Meet the Housemasters | Senior School

25 October 2018
  Adam Shaw: Deputy Head of Senior School It’s an exciting time for the house system, which is, in essence, over 160 years in the making and plays such an integral role in our daily lives at Wellington. From the day the College opened, every pupil in the Senior School has had a special place to call their own, to celebrate their successes and discuss their worries, to find any kind of support they need, to forge new friendships with pupils in and outside of their own year group. Now, in our fifth year, the house system is better defined and supported than ever. Each of the five houses has an identity that only gets stronger with each passing term, as pupils, tutors and Housemasters come together to add their ideas and experiences to each evolving house. Not only are the houses gaining more personality, they’re also giving pupils greater opportunities to find and challenge themselves in a widening range of house competitions and events. However, “better” doesn’t just mean “bigger”. Improving the house system is also about ensuring that both teachers and pupils have the time and resources to do justice to all the great things we want to provide for every Wellingtonian. As you’ll see from the following snapshots of the five current Senior School Housemasters, we are fortunate to have such a dedicated team who have the breadth of experience, vision and ability to give every pupil at Wellington the house that they deserve.   Abigail Beastall – Housemaster of The Lynedoch   Why did you want to become a Housemaster? This is my fifth term as Lynedoch’s Housemaster, but before I came here I was working at Wellington College in the UK where I was an assistant housemaster in The Combermere, so I was already very familiar with how important the house system is. I’ve found that the opportunity to work with teenagers and guide them through this formative part of their life – good times and tough times – is a real privilege. When I first started teaching, I had a lot of passion for my subject but I found the idea of pastoral leadership quite alien. Very quickly, however, I discovered that I get so much enjoyment out of working with teenagers regarding every part of their school careers. What makes Wellington’s house system a success? It encourages the pupils to take a leap of faith and try something new. I always love to see a glimmer of interest that I might not have expected from certain pupils when they get the opportunity to try something different. For me, helping student find their niche, discovering what makes them tick, and growing their passions is very important. The pupils are always surprising me. Do you have a favourite house competition or event? It’s not my all-time favourite but I really enjoyed how all the houses got involved in Roald Dahl Day last year. Each house had to decorate the Houseroom and prepare a short activity for the year 3 pupils. Ours was letting them hunt for the golden ticket from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Seeing all the seniors doing something for another part of school was lovely, and they got a lot more out of it than they originally thought they might. What’s the atmosphere like in The Lynedoch Houseroom? What I really like is how frequently I walk in and see pupils from different year groups helping each other with their studies. That’s not unique to Lynedoch of course, but it’s always a pleasure to see so much support and friendliness expressed between the year groups. There’s also always music playing and a lot of laughter. What’s next for The Lynedoch? We’re looking to give pupils the chance to take greater ownership in areas that they think are underrepresented by becoming house representatives. Pupil leadership is an important part of the pastoral side of education, because it can play a very positive role in the rest of their school lives. What do you think is The Lynedoch’s greatest strength? An appreciation of having a good sense of humour. No matter what happens, even if things aren’t going perfectly in house competitions for example, they have the resilience to not take themselves too seriously. They’re reflective and they absolutely put the effort in, but they are also very good at keeping things light-hearted rather than being knocked down by setbacks.   Madeline Lamour – Housemaster of The Hopetoun   What made you want to become a Housemaster? I was a tutor during my first year here, and I became involved in the development of not just my tutees but everyone in the house. The following year the previous HM encouraged me to apply for the job and I really wanted to challenge myself and become more hands-on with the pastoral side of education. What do you enjoy most about the role? I love building relationships with pupils who I don’t actually teach. The MFL department has a relatively small number of pupils so being HM allows me to get to know much more of the student body across the different year groups. They all have such great personalities and I wouldn’t get to discover that in such depth without this role. It’s also a privilege to witness their development throughout the years. I remember seeing some of them arrive in year 7 when they were crying their eyes out and now they’re in year 11 preparing to take their IGCSEs! I may not have taught them but I’ve hugely enjoyed being part of their journey. What do you think is the most important part of the house system for the pupils? It’s the sense of community. They get to know pupils they wouldn’t have otherwise. It’s very heartening to see them help each other, lend support during tricky times, cheer each other on, and get to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Do you have a personal favourite among the various house competitions and events? Sports Day, for sure! Everyone has to push themselves to try something and everyone gets a chance to shine. My favourite part is seeing how much the pupils care for one another; I often see them bring each other water and some even run alongside the track when they see their friends struggling. It’s just lovely to see and it genuinely lifts them up. What’s the atmosphere like in The Hopetoun Houseroom? In a word: homey! That’s how we like it and that’s how I like to set it up, with plants, welcoming lighting and colourful couches helping to create that atmosphere. I also ask pupils what they want to see in the Houseroom. That’s what led to us putting in an area for tea, coffee and biscuits for the older ones. Essentially, the Houseroom is a bit of a haven from their academic pressures. What’s next for The Hopetoun? Hopefully, there will be more whole-house events happening over the course of each term. It would be great to have more opportunities to gather everyone together, like previous events when we’ve all played dodgeball, or spent the night at The Hill. I’m also looking to reintroduce the system of Hopetoun parents providing snacks for the pupils on a Friday, again to reinforce that homey vibe. What do you think is The Hopetoun’s greatest strength? Our greatest strength is probably how caring all of the pupils are. We talk a lot about not being overly competitive. It’s not about winning, it’s about having fun and considering the feelings of everyone from all the houses. They are always so inclusive, they never exclude anyone from other houses, instead they always remain kind, caring and approachable.   Michael Brennan – Housemaster of The Wellesley   What made you want to become a Housemaster? I wanted to have an impact on the whole development of pupils, especially at this formative age. For many of them, they will be making their first big life decisions – what subjects to study at IB, followed by the university and possibly career path they want to go down. Being involved in guiding and supporting them through this stage is incredibly rewarding. What do you enjoy most about being The Wellesley Housemaster? The day-to-day contact with pupils. Having meaningful conversations with every one of the pupils in the house over past seven weeks has been a real privilege. It has definitely helped me understand them as well as the identity of the house as a whole. What is the atmosphere like in The Wellesley Houseroom? There’s almost always music playing for starters! It’s a genuinely open and inviting place for pupils from all houses. It gives them the opportunity to have a laugh and blow off a little steam in constructive way, by socialising and relaxing. These are challenging times with their IGCSE and IB studies, so having a space where they can just sit and be teenagers is important. As a newcomer to Wellington this year, what is your impression of the house competitions? I’ve been astounded by the depth and range of volunteers who want to take part in various house competitions. The whole house was involved in house drama in some role, and the house baking and art competitions got a similarly enthusiastic response. The general willingness of Wellesley pupils to get stuck in is really exciting and heartening. What’s next for The Wellesley? I want to keep building on the sense of community as the house continues to grow. Every pupil should always have a place and a voice in the house, no matter how many of us there are. I’m looking forward to working with the newly appointed Head and Deputy Head of House for ways to do that. They, along with many of the other pupils, have very clear ideas of what they want The Wellesley to be, so I just want to help them get on with it! What do you think is The Wellesley’s greatest strength? Its pupils are what define the house and make it special. It’s been great to see their capacity to be so independently minded, caring, enthusiastic and ambitious to just the right degree. While I’ve been getting settled as Housemaster, they’ve been bringing me up to speed about the house that clearly means so much to them.   Martin O’Brien – Housemaster of The Combermere   As a newcomer to Wellington this year, what are your first impressions of the house system? I think that the pastoral role is clearly highly valued here by everyone, parents as well as pupils and staff. The house system is a huge part of that, and its biggest strength is how it allows us to be proactive in giving pastoral care. Pupils have so many people that they feel comfortable talking to, which means we can catch and address smaller problems before they become bigger ones. The sense of identity is also really well established. I love how each house has its own logo and colours, as well as a Houseroom with a unique look and feel. Every pupil is really proud to be associated with their particular house. What is the atmosphere like in The Combermere Houseroom? It has a real family feel to it; pupils bond not along year group lines but over all manner of interests, like music, sport, language and so on. It feels very natural too, which is what we want! Have you enjoyed this term’s house competitions so far?  Absolutely. I loved seeing The Combermere perform in house drama. To be completely honest I thought that rehearsals were a little bit dicey but the pupils totally pulled it out of the bag when they went on stage! Of course, it’s been a big boost to win two house competitions early on in the year, but more importantly it’s been great to see this atmosphere of peer support. There’s such a mix of events that everyone can get involved, have fun and be connected to house but without feeling unduly pressured. What’s next for The Combermere? We will definitely be focusing on what we can do to prepare for further house competitions. I’m also very keen to organise more formal mentoring opportunities in the house. Most of all, I want to help to keep developing the sense of The Combermere identity which is already in place. What do you think is The Combermere’s greatest strength? It’s just so welcoming. That goes for everyone, from the pupils to the parents and of course the tutors, who are simply amazing. Half of things I wanted to set up wouldn’t have happened yet if not for their incredible support and drive to make The Combermere the best it can be.   Danielle Hawkins – Housemaster of The Stanley   Why did you want to become a Housemaster? I wanted to take the opportunity to build deeper relationships with pupils, to move beyond the classroom and get a better idea of how things were going for them in other subjects and other parts of their lives. What do you enjoy most about being an HM? I love to see everyone in The Stanley creating something that’s uniquely ours. The house isn’t just my ideas and vision for what we should be doing, it’s the pupils’ vision too. My other great source of pride and enjoyment comes from seeing the pupils develop over the years. We’ve been on a real journey together during the past three years. During that time I’ve seen the current year 12s start their IGCSEs and now they’re deep into their IBDP studies. I saw them during highs and lows of exam revision and successes, and it has been so meaningful to support them emotionally and academically throughout their school career. What makes Wellington’s house system a success? I would say that its ability to give pupils the reassurance that they can turn to multiple people whenever there’s any kind of problem is one of the system’s biggest acheivements. The vertical integration of year groups is another great strength, as it happens very naturally through the house system. This is reinforced by the academic peer mentoring system; the younger ones see the older pupils as good role models and both sides really seem to enjoy spending dedicated time with one another, which helps us all feel part of a single community. Do you have a favourite house competition or event? It’s got to be Sports Day! Each year, everyone gets hugely involved and nicely competitive within the spirit of the day. There’s always so much energy, with all of the flags, music and face paint! I love it! What is atmosphere like in The Stanley Houseroom? Relaxed but with a purposeful hum, as there tends to be prep or studying going on. The pupils are very dedicated to their studies but they definitely know the importance of a good bit of chilling out as well. What’s next for The Stanley? We’re keen to keep growing peer academic mentorship, as I think that there’s a real opportunity for it to become even more helpful for everyone in the house. What do you think is The Stanley’s greatest strength? We have such an eclectic group of pupils but when the time comes they always pull together so effortlessly. Everyone supports each other in a very unforced and natural way, there’s a sense of easy camaraderie that is immediately obvious.