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Meet the Upper Prep Housemasters

16 January 2019

Emma Hambling – Head of Upper Prep

The house system has always existed in the Prep School but it has only been in the last few years that we have adopted the vertical system in line with the Senior School. This is our third year of the full house system, with our current year 8 pupils being the first year group to live the experience all the way from year 6. They are the true measure of our success, watching them take on roles of responsibility at the top of the Prep School this year and sharing everything they have learned with the younger pupils has been simply fantastic.  Over the last three years, the house system has changed dramatically as the houses have greatly expanded with each developing its own personality along the way. The housemasters do an incredible job of guiding the pupils and teaching them how to support, motivate and encourage each other. Not only do the pupils join together to celebrate their success in the classroom or on the sports field, they also know that they can rely on their housemates in times of need.

Chloe Deva – Hopetoun Housemaster

  What made you want to become a housemaster? As a drama teacher, I found myself handling a lot of pastoral questions and issues from pupils, which I found very rewarding and wanted to take on in a more formal way through the house system. It’s an amazing system, one where we get to see the benefits first-hand in terms of encouraging the pupils to be independent by giving them the space to mature and grow in a safe environment.   What do you enjoy most about being the Hopetoun Housemaster? This is my third year of being housemaster and I love just being there for the pupils through their highs and lows throughout three very formative years of their school life. I’ve learned so much about them in plenty of different contexts as they explore themselves, uncover hidden talents and take on new challenges. Do you have a favourite house competition? House swimming is always a blast, and not just because we’ve won it for the past three years! All of the competitions are important because the pupils get to step up and take responsibility for their own involvement. We let them figure out their own approach, in their own style and at their own pace, which is great preparation for later life as they have to take the initiative.   What’s next for the Hopetoun? I think that as a College we’ve really hit our stride with the house system but there’s always room to grow. For Hopetoun, I’d like to see more specialist competitions and more whole-house events involving pupils from all year groups, to make sure that they always remember that we are one house. What do you think is the Hopetoun’s greatest strength? The pride displayed by the pupils and their tutors. It’s not just about the number of trophies in the cabinet, it’s about taking stock of our aims and ambitions and being rightly proud when we achieve them. Everyone in the Hopetoun takes the right amount of pride in everything they do. I have an amazing tutor team who are always 100% committed and on board with everything we’re doing, and the pupils never fail to show that same level of commitment. Everyone gets involved in all the competitions, even indirectly by supporting, cheering housemates on, helping with preparations and so on.

James Dyson – Combermere Housemaster

  What made you want to become a housemaster? One of my biggest bugbears as year 8 form tutor in a previous school was not having enough time to spend with the pupils outside of lessons; too often the pastoral side of things was squeezed into break time or in other too-short timings. The way Wellington has set up its house system means that we do have the time to properly interact with the pupils in our houses, both in terms of giving them the pastoral care they need and getting to know and understand them in a more casual, informal manner. Similarly, the vertical integration is something that’s done extremely well here, and it’s a joy to see year 8s looking after those in the younger years. There’s always a great mix of children working together, forging friendships and enjoying being in the house together. It’s something I felt genuinely excited about supporting as a housemaster. What do you enjoy most about being housemaster? Being given the chance to bring out the best in both the pupils and the tutors. I’m certainly not the first and best person for the children to come to for everything, there will be tutors who are better suited for different situations, but a big part of the housemaster role is to make sure that pupils always know that they have people to open up to about anything that’s on their mind. What I really enjoy is seeing the incredible range of skills and perspectives our tutors employ to support the pupils, and the housemaster’s job is to facilitate that as much as possible. Being in the house is a great experience because it’s not just one teacher imposing their view, it’s much more collaborative with people bouncing off one another, teachers and pupils alike.   What would you say is the general atmosphere of the Combermere houseroom? There’s always plenty of energy bubbling up. It’s not exactly rowdy, but ‘nicely noisy’ is perhaps the best way to put it, I think! The pupils genuinely feel like the houseroom is their space to do whatever it is they need to do, whether that’s taking a bit of a break, catching up on prep, planning out upcoming projects or just having fun with their friends. Do you have a favourite house competition? Last year I got to do the house singing competition with Lynedoch which terrified the life out of me! It pushed me well out of my comfort zone, which is a good thing because that’s exactly what we teach the pupils so it really should apply to us teachers too. House art is another favourite of mine as it gives the children a chance to take complete ownership of their projects and shows them that they often need a whole range of skills to make a winning team; they discover that they need those with artistic ability but also those with excellent planning abilities and, crucially, those who are simply willing to show up and put in the necessary time and effort.   What’s next for the Combermere? I’ve only assumed the role of Combermere’s Housemaster this term and I’m very lucky to have inherited a fantastic team and house, both built up by Shane Hambling over the past four years, so the Combermere is already in great shape. I’m hoping to encourage more integration between the Combermere’s Prep and Senior School pupils, starting with the ‘Meet the Housemaster’ event on the 25th of January. Children and parents from both schools will be there, giving them a chance for them to mix, and the rest of the team and I are also working on a couple of different ideas for better integration in the near future. Another small but important change I’m looking forward to seeing is the putting up of new displays and decorations in the houseroom. This is going to be pupil-led because it’s primarily their room and we want them to genuinely feel that way whenever they’re using it.   What do you think is the Combermere’s greatest strength? Our keen sense of sportsmanship coupled with plenty of energy. Enthusiasm, positivity, a willingness to put themselves forward, these are things that the pupils and tutors of The Combermere certainly aren’t lacking!

Kelly Edwards – Lynedoch Housemaster

  What made you want to become a housemaster? I’ve always enjoyed being involved with pastoral care since I started teaching, and the housemaster role lets me provide my pupils with both academic and emotional support. I love talking things through with them, encouraging them and just generally helping them with whatever they may be experiencing. What do you enjoy most about being the Lynedoch Housemaster? I love seeing pupils achieve something that they didn’t originally think they could do. Recently we awarded various roles of responsibility to pupils who, six months ago, you wouldn’t have thought they would even consider applying. Now I know that they’ll do a great job of it.   What is the atmosphere like in the Lynedoch houseroom? It’s generally relaxed and fun. Every morning I’m excited to get in there, chat to them and see what they’re hoping to achieve next. There’s usually a good spirit of adventure; they’re always keen to try something new. Do you have a favourite house competition? I’m a huge fan of house athletics! Everyone gets involved and tries their hardest without getting overly concerned with the results. The last one had an amazing atmosphere, there’s always this lovely mix of pupils wanting their own house to do well but at the same time they’re clearly enjoying seeing others succeed.   What’s next for the Lynedoch? Lynedoch’s pupils are reliably excellent on the academic and performing arts side of things, which is something I and my tutor team are very proud of. However, we’re looking forward to seeing them getting more involved on the sporting side. We’re already seeing that happen, with many more Lynedoch pupils getting stuck into swimming that I originally anticipated. We also improved dramatically in house football this year, coming second and third in the boys and girls competitions. Like the house system in general, it’s all about getting them to identify what they want to do to stretch themselves and supporting them in that goal.   What do you think is the Lynedoch’s greatest strength? The pupils have such strong personalities that mesh together so well. They’re always so keen to help one another too. They need little to no encouragement from us teachers to mentor each other and just generally be there to lend a friendly ear.

Craig Northedge – Wellesley Housemaster

  What made you want to become a Housemaster? It stems from my own experiences of school. My tutors and housemasters had a profoundly positive influence on me throughout my education. This was an especially big help when things got tough, as they sometimes can at school. I distinctly remember the teachers who guided me through school and made it a lot easier, so I knew early on in my career that I wanted to provide the same kind of guidance that I was fortunate enough to receive.   What do you enjoy most about being the Wellesley Housemaster? It’s just great to see the confidence of the pupils grow each day. I love how well the pupil mentoring system works without us actually having to do very much, since the pupils are naturally very good at working together across the different year groups. What is the atmosphere like in the Wellesley houseroom? In a word: vibrant, just like the colour of our pink house! It’s a great feeling to watch them come in each morning, ready for anything. They’re excited to be here, they’re eager and attentive, they want to find out about what’s happening with competitions and events, how year groups are doing and how they can get involved.   As a newcomer to Wellington this year, what is your impression of the house competitions? The houses’ involvement in the film festival and house art were an amazing introduction for me to the house competitions. It took a bit of getting used to, but I really like how relatively “hands-off” the process is, with us teachers stepping back and letting the pupils step up to the challenge and tackle it in their own way. They really impressed me and I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do in the sporting competitions with house football coming up. What’s next for the Wellesley? The key role of the housemaster is ensuring the emotional, mental and physical wellbeing of the children but I also want pupils to progress academically as well. Last year, we were lowest out of the five houses in terms of pupil progress and attainment, which is something I want to change. This is a very high attaining school, so it’s pupils’ effort and progress that I want to see improve more than anything. I want pupils to understand and seize the opportunities they have to progress, and my vision is to support them as much as possible through various means like increased mentorship, house point recording, academic intervention sessions and so on. I want them to enjoy seeing the positive results of their heightened efforts and improve together as a whole house.   What do you think is the Wellesley’s greatest strength? The pupils’ kindness, commitment, boundless energy and their will to get stuck in and do their best. There’s a great sense of healthy competition which keeps things lively and helps the pupils keep their focus and energy up, while instilling an equally healthy sense of pride. Everyone loves to win of course, but they’re naturally very good at understanding the deeper meaning of competition, which is to have fun, challenge themselves and respect everyone involved no matter the outcome.

Victoria Doamekpor – Stanley Housemaster

  What made you want to become a housemaster? I feel that all pupils should feel comfortable and safe at school, so if there are ever any problems, concerns or questions, they are more likely to open up and talk about it. I wanted to become an housemaster to be an active part of creating this kind of safe and comfortable environment for all pupils. What do you enjoy most about being the Stanley Housemaster? The best part of my day is definitely the morning when I’m chatting with the pupils and finding out what they have been up to. The biggest pleasure of being a housemaster is properly getting to know the pupils in my house, while finding out their strengths and passions. I thoroughly enjoy watching them perform in musical productions, giving it their all in sports competitions and generally challenging themselves.   What is the atmosphere like in the Stanley houseroom? One pupil, who has now moved to the Senior School, used to describe the houseroom as “a second home”. That’s the feeling I try to create for every pupil, not just those in the Stanley. Do you have a favourite house competition? I have two, in fact. Firstly, house swimming, because it’s my favourite sport and I love cheering the swimmers on. Last year’s competition was extremely close with Hopetoun clinching it by a single point! What a fantastic competition! My second favourite has to be house singing. I think if I wasn’t an ICT teacher, I would love to be a drama teacher instead! I thoroughly enjoyed watching the Stanley come up with their incredible dance ideas, song choices and movements during the previous competition practice sessions. I am always amazed at how the house bonds in moments like these.   What do you think is the Stanley’s greatest strength? The courage and kindness of its pupils. We have a great sense of “big brother/big sister” where the older pupils are very good at looking after their younger peers. The Stanley is also a very theatrical house, as our unicorn onesie dances will attest! The pupils love to express themselves and will not hesitate to try something different and have fun with it.