House system

House system

The house system is a traditional feature of British schools, and schools in ex-British colonies, similar to the collegiate system of a university. Historically it was associated with established public schools (the British definition of "public schools", rather than the American), where a 'house' refers to a boarding house or dormitory of a boarding school. In the case of a day school, however, the word 'house' refers only to a grouping of pupils, rather than to a particular building. The house system has been common in the state sector for many years. It is attracting increasing attention in public and parochial secondary schools in the United States. [ House Systems in Schools and Universities] ]


Pupils are likely to be divided into a number of houses, which are often named after saints, famous historical alumni or notable regional landmarks (at international schools, for example, houses may be named after famous local people). Other more arbitrary names – animal names or colours, for example – may be used where the house system is adopted by a primary school.

Today, outside of boarding schools, the house system exists largely for the purpose of competition. The traditional school sports day is usually an inter-house competition. Debating competitions and charity drives are also often organised along inter-house lines. Merit points for behaviour and academic achievement may also be totalled up for comparison between houses.

Pupils may be assigned to houses randomly, on their first or last names or based on ability, with the aim of balancing the houses in order to increase competition. Traditionally, however, once a pupil has been assigned to a house, any younger siblings he or she has will automatically become members of that house when they arrive at the school. (This tradition sometimes extends to the children of former pupils.)

One notable feature of the house system is the nomination and election, or appointment, of house captains for the junior and senior school, whose job it is to rally fellow house-members and to pick individuals for team events. Large schools may have a house captain for each year group (with vice-captains in the largest schools).

In boarding schools the term housemaster is held by the member of staff responsible for pupils living in a particular dormitory. In state schools, members of staff are appointed as (or volunteer to become) head of house. However, both terms can be used at either style of school for the sake of formality.

Other uses

The term "house system" is also used to refer to the residential college systems found in some colleges and universities, such as Yale University and Harvard College. These systems are based on the college systems of Oxford and Cambridge Universities in Great Britain, which in turn share many similarities with the house systems of British secondary schools.

ee also

* Harvard House system
* House System at the California Institute of Technology
* Hogwarts houses


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