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Headmaster's Blog - Boarding System at Bloxham School

Just before we broke up for Half Term I was invited to address the Second Form parents on the House system at Bloxham School. The meeting was held to help these parents and their children decide on their preferred House to join on moving up to the Third Form. So, an important rite of passage and one which I know will dominate many common room conversations over the coming months!

At Bloxham, we do not offer open selection of Houses, believing that the excellent pastoral reputation we enjoy here is due in part to the balanced mix of talents and personalities we endeavour to achieve in each House. However, we recognise that parents (and indeed students) should be consulted on their views about what will best suit their needs and as far as possible we take this into account when allocating Houses.

Understandably, there were lots of questions about what each House provides and which one is ‘best.’ I can honestly say that I believe our students enjoy the same high standard of care whichever House they join. As I explained that night, the Houses are the key to happy living at Bloxham and we protect their harmony above all else.

As a former Housemaster myself, I know that belonging to a House is essential in helping students develop their sense of identity. Here at Bloxham this is displayed through the healthy inter-House rivalry which exists during music or sporting competitions. It is also evident in the trusting relationships students and their parents develop with their Housemaster or mistress and Tutor, and in the life-lasting friendships which are nurtured during these years.

Yes, there are other boarding models around; but I am convinced that the vertical structure we offer at Bloxham, which allows for students of all ages to live together in one House, is most successful. It provides positive, peer-to-peer role models for our younger students as well as creating opportunities to learn responsibility and leadership for the older ones.

When the provision is good, I truly believe that living within a boarding community can draw out the best in our young people. By immersing them within the school’s culture we can reinforce good attitudes and behaviours, teach them tolerance and how to live in harmony with others. Students undoubtedly benefit from supportive and supervised prep and are enriched by a varied programme of evening activities.

And yet I accept that boarding is not for every child and, across the sector, the trend for full boarding is down. While at Bloxham we still enjoy healthy levels of boarding, with a steady 60-40 boarding-day split, how do we accommodate changing family needs? A critical feature of our Houses, and something we have been commended for by the Independent Schools Inspectorate, is the successful integration amongst our boarders and day boarders. This, coupled with the option of flexi-boarding, allows our day boarders to feel fully part of the community and able to participate in as much of school life as they wish.

We must always listen to the views of our parents and students, which is why I was so pleased to participate in the Second Form House event. We balance this feedback with our own experience and professional insight to achieve, I hope, the highest standard of pastoral care for all our students and the best outcomes for the school as a whole.