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A day in the life of a housemaster

Published Monday 12th of January 2015 11:11:11 AM

If you thought keeping your family in order was a full time job, spare a thought for Andrew Day, Housemaster at leading independent boarding and day school King Edward's Witley. In addition to his own brood (comprising his wife and two and a half year old daughter), Andrew heads up another extended family made up of 55 boys, 33 of who board full-time at the School.

As Housemaster for Edward House, Andrew shoulders the pastoral, academic and emotional welfare of the boys and says he feels 'completely blessed' to be entrusted with such a significant responsibility. As well as being a Housemaster, Andrew - who is now in his 11th year of living in a boarding school environment - (eight years at a school in Dorset and two years at King Edward's Witley) also teaches Computer Science and some physical education.

'All Houses are run differently' Andrew explains, 'but I find when you have so many boys looking to you for guidance and leadership, a structured routine is essential and I think we've got this down to a tee within Edward House'.

For boarders, the day begins at 07.15 when Andrew calls upon one of the House Prefects to wake the boys, with Matron checking everyone has had a good night and helping to ensure the boys get down to breakfast on time.

At 07.30 the first meal of the day is taken in the School's bespoke dining hall and afterwards at 08.15 Andrew does a roll call. This includes the 22 day pupils who are required to congregate at the House alongside their boarding peers. Notices for the day are discussed and if there are any birthdays to be celebrated, a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday is traditionally sung. With such a large 'family', the traditional birthday tune rings out from Edward on an alarmingly frequent basis!

At 08.40 pupils are required to attend either their tutor group or chapel (depending on the day of the week). Tutor sessions provide individual support and mentoring for the boys, in addition to an opportunity to debate topical news stories.

Lessons start at 09.00 prompt, and at this point, Andrew resumes his teacher status until the first break at 10.50 until 11.15.

During break Andrew will either return to the House to catch up with the boys or go to the staff common room. This represents a good time to identify any issues affecting any pupils, ranging from struggling with academic studies to possible minor conflict between house 'residents'. Rooms are allocated within the House by Andrew and great care is taken to match pupils according to personality and interests / hobbies, but no matter how well the boys get on, with 55 boisterous males in one house, inevitably there are occasions when the Housemaster needs to intervene!

Andrew is ably assisted by five Prefects who are ultimately elected by the whole House. Boys are required to apply for the trusted role of Prefect and are subjected to a stringent recruitment process, which includes a half hour interview with Andrew and the delivery of a two-minute speech on their philosophy of leadership.

From 11.15 to 13.05 lessons are resumed until the break for lunch. Inevitably for a Housemaster this involves a working lunch, meeting either with the Headmaster, Deputy Head and other Housemasters or the House Tutor Team. Alternatively Andrew may use the time to dine with a small group of some of Edward House's day pupils.

From 14.00 to 15.55 it is back to lessons and then the boys return to the House where Andrew, the House Prefect or Matron will welcome them home. A variety of sports or alternative activities are available to the pupils until the day boys usually leave at 17.15 and boarders go down to dinner at 18.00. With prior arrangement with Andrew, day boys can have dinner and stay late until 20.00. Day boys also have the option to sleep over which is particularly convenient if, for example, they have a school trip departing in the early hours or something like a Duke of Edinburgh hike the next day. Weekly boarders, so long as they are free from Saturday morning sports commitments, leave from 17.15 on Fridays and return to School by 20.00 on Sunday evening or by 08.00 Monday morning.

After dinner, Andrew repeats the roll call before boys head off for prep, which is supervised by the evening Duty Tutor and Duty Prefect. This offers pupils the chance for a one-to-one meeting if required, to access additional support and guidance. Once prep is completed it's down time for the House and this generally means some pool table action, table tennis or simply chilling out in the comfortable communal living rooms, including shared space with the adjoining girls' House. At this point Andrew is able to get back to his 'other family' (whose accommodation is linked to the main House) but he is still very much on call. Being at home also represents an opportunity to catch up on emails (usually 100 on a daily basis!) and all the general admin associated with the role of Housemaster. For parents looking to enquire about the welfare / progress of their child, the Housemaster is often the first port of call so Andrew spends a considerable amount of time liaising with parents, many of whom live overseas. The final phase of Andrew's working day is the handover from the Duty Tutor and a walk around the House to check that all is calm and in order. A late night is not uncommon in this role and being up until midnight is far from unusual �

When asked what qualities make for a good Housemaster, Andrew is quick to reply with ' a sense of humour is essential!' adding 'an ability to respond, but not necessarily react straight away to the various problems which might present themselves when you have a family of 55 teenage boys living in close proximity 30 weeks of the year. There is a distinct difference between recognising a situation that is important and one that is urgent. If it is urgent, immediate attention is required. If it is important, it probably implies that time should be allocated to thinking through the best strategy to deal with the issue rather that acting on impulse. Our role is to develop the boys, to teach them how to conduct themselves even when things go wrong and to guide them to respect the importance of honesty and integrity in all their dealings. Matron, the Assistant Housemaster and I run a happy house and whilst the job is 24/7 during term time, it is incredibly rewarding. We see boys join the School as children and leave as young men, so it is a real privilege to play such a pivotal role in their journey towards reaching adulthood.'
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