The Headteacher column with Mark Ronan

Pocklington School headmaster Mark Ronan.
Pocklington School headmaster Mark Ronan.

Harry Potter and the Hogwarts School “sorting hat” deserve credit for injecting fresh enthusiasm into the house system after it slipped out of fashion, and even existence in many schools.

The hat’s dispatching of new Hogwarts pupils to lifelong loyalty towards Gryffyndor, Slytherin or the like, and the hard-fought inter-house rivalries which followed, captured the imagination of a whole new generation of schoolchildren.

Hogwarts and Harry Potter should deserve some credit for the introduction of the house systems in many schools.

Hogwarts and Harry Potter should deserve some credit for the introduction of the house systems in many schools.

Many schools have reintroduced the house system as a result, recognising the benefits of a shared identity in a big school. At Pocklington School, our houses never went away. Since 1919, we’ve valued the sense of community they bring, along with the benefits of working as a team to overcome obstacles and celebrate achievements together.

Today, the house systems at both the Prep and Senior Schools anchor our pastoral care provision, preventing pupils from feeling lost in a “big” school by giving them a secure base and a sense of shared identity and belonging.

We don’t have a magic sorting hat, alas, but every child is allocated a house when they join us and will remain part of that community until they leave. They enjoy the support and guidance of a house tutor, who works closely with the housemaster/mistresses, and parents, to take an active interest in “their” pupils’ pastoral and academic progress.

Youngsters feel happy and secure in the knowledge they have a supportive network around them, and are empowered to develop their own skills and interests, both inside and outside the classroom.

This feeds into our aim of offering a rounded education which produces confident, resourceful and respectful young men and women who can fit usefully into any community or workplace. In Pocklington Prep, pupils collect rewards for their House Merit shield, which is presented each half term.

There are numerous opportunities to represent their house in sporting and non-sporting events.

Pocklington School stages challenges in music, drama, sport and various academic disciplines. All are enthusiastically fought, and have caused many a light to be revealed from under a bushel.

Our challenges are sixth form-led, with teachers stepping in to guide only when necessary. So as pupils progress through the school, they move from being brought on and encouraged by older pupils, to themselves taking on more responsibility and developing the sort of skills and attributes they’ll need as adults.

It’s great to see the pride, determination and sheer joy in pupils’ faces as they first strive towards, and then achieve, a joint goal.

Forget social media: the real magic begins when young people work together, face to face. As well as being a huge amount of fun, the house system and inter-house challenges help pupils develop the social skills and confidence which will serve them well for life.