House System at the BSN
If you are new to British education, the House System might be completely foreign to you. Perhaps your only cultural reference to school Houses has been thanks to a certain school-aged wizard and his incredibly popular book series (if so, you’re certainly not alone).
However, House Systems within schools are on the rise even within an international context. Many British Schools Overseas introduce Houses to their student population. But what are the benefits of this typically British educational institution in a modern, international school?
We spoke with teachers, students and senior leaders about their view of houses at The British School in The Netherlands (BSN). Two words that kept coming up in these conversations were community and participation.
Houses at the BSN
When a student joins the BSN, they are placed in one of our four Houses. These houses are named Amsterdam, Delft, Leiden, and Gouda, after four nearby Dutch cities. From Junior School through to Senior School, students will remain in the same House throughout their entire time at the BSN.
Over the year, students can gain points for their Houses for achievements in a wide range of competitions, contexts, and other merit-based activities. These activities may be related to sport, academics, community service and more. Students of all ages are encouraged to get involved and earn points for their House, helping them win the House Cup at the end of the year.
Houses at the BSN build communities that reach beyond year groups. House activities call for collaboration between students of different ages. This allows students to expand their networks beyond their tutor group while also allowing for opportunities for mentorship between younger and older students.
Having positive role models within Houses is essential for younger students. It helps them in their development and growth, both academically and personally. The Houses are led by Student Leaders who work with students in each year group and are role models for the younger House members.
Remaining in the same House throughout their schooling creates a real sense of identity for students. It helps Year 7 students integrate into the Senior Schools. It gives new students in all years a community in which they are immediately welcomed. For international schools, this sense of community is perhaps even more crucial than anywhere else.
The BSN strives to foster a sense of community and strengthen the bond within Houses. We do this by giving students many opportunities to use their strengths to earn points for their House. The competitive aspect helps to motivate students, but the true spirit is one of collaboration. Working together is more important than winning points.
At the BSN, it is essential that students with all different strengths and interests can win points for their houses. Hard work and dedication are rewarded. While Sports Days are a much-loved tradition among the Houses, an ever-expanding catalogue of programmes helps students gain points for their houses. These include a House MasterChef competition, entries for National Poetry Day, collections for World Food Day, a House challenge at the European Day of Languages and many more. In addition, teachers can reward students for an outstanding effort on academic work with House points. This system challenges students to get involved with activities and academics by awarding both effort and achievement.
Student Leadership Opportunities
Houses also create new student leadership opportunities. Students are encouraged to take on greater responsibility within their communities. This year, over 30 students from Year 7 through Year 11 submitted applications for various leadership roles. Ultimately, two Key Stage 3 captains, two Key Stage 4 captains and a Student House Leader were chosen for each House. These captains will act as liaisons between their Houses and staff. They are charged with ensuring the voice and wishes of the Houses are heard by the school’s Leadership. This is a big responsibility and offers a valuable opportunity for students to experience leadership roles while in school.
Houses: a Second Home
Overall, it is the goal of the BSN to make being part of a House feel like another home. Each House is a safe, inclusive place with its own distinct identity. Wherever a student’s skills and interests lie, they are encouraged to use them to benefit their House.
Collaboration, community and leadership are pillars of the House system at the BSN. They are also central to our values as a school. Within a creative and disciplined environment, we encourage high aspirations and challenges for the whole individual – ‘head, hand and heart’. This is seen in practice within each of the Houses at the BSN.
Whether you are representing Gouda, Amsterdam, Leiden or Delft, the Houses at the BSN are places for camaraderie, belonging and striving to do and be the best you can be.