We are delighted and proud to begin the new school year with an excellent set of exam results behind us; it’s a reminder that our individualised teaching approach pays off, and gives younger pupils something to aspire to.
But good exam results are only part of how we define ourselves as a school. We aim to foster confident, resourceful and respectful young men and women who can draw on the benefits of a rounded education, wherever life takes them.
Our emphasis on strong pastoral care is central to this, because youngsters who feel happy and secure in the knowledge they have a supportive network around them are empowered to develop their own skills and interests.
The house systems at Pocklington Prep and Senior Schools anchor our pastoral care system, preventing pupils from feeling lost in a “big” school by giving them a secure base and a sense of shared identity and belonging.
Inter-house competitions also encourage a sense of mutual support and endeavour, uniting pupils across year groups as they strive towards a joint goal; overcoming obstacles and celebrating achievements together.
The first contact most children have with their house is when they receive a home visit from their housemaster or housemistress before they join the school. This sets up an ongoing communication with home that we regard as vital to each child’s wellbeing.
Each pupil enjoys the support and guidance of a house tutor, who works closely with the housemaster/mistresses to take an active interest in “their” pupils’ pastoral and academic progress. We regard parents as central to this relationship, too.
The four houses (Rievaulx, Jervaulx, Fountains and Byland in the Prep School and Dolman, Gruggen, Hutton and Wilberforce in Pocklington School) all have their own identity and promote a sense of community and collaboration.
The most exciting part of the house system for our pupils is the thrill and reward of shared enterprise which healthy inter-house competition brings.
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 both 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 which will serve them as adults.
In our annual inter-House Drama competition, for example, pupils decide between themselves who will take responsibility for costumes, set design, lighting, directing, the roles and so on. It’s a valuable lesson in project management and delivery, and the chance for students to develop new skills, knowing that staff are on hand to guide and advise as necessary.
A student who left our Sixth Form this summer wrote to say how much he enjoyed being involved in all our house extracurricular events.
He said of the “wonderful” House Music challenge: “We have all learnt an enormous amount: about ourselves, our strengths and weaknesses, and the part we can play within the team which worked so seamlessly to the same end; and about others, and how to work to get the best out of all manner of different ages and skill levels.”
He added: “I firmly believe that the experience of working as a team of equals – a rare time in our lives so far when no adult has come down on one side or the other to resolve discussions, but where we have learnt how to compromise, contribute what we can and accept when others are better suited for certain tasks – has prepared me better for my life in the future than any formal ‘team-building’ exercise ever could.”
It is great to receive letters like that, but equally gratifying to staff is the pride, determination and sheer joy in pupils’ faces as they first strive towards, and then achieve, a joint goal.
Forget social media: communicating, compromising and then celebrating a joint venture is most rewarding when people work together, face to face. As well as being a huge amount of fun, inter-house challenges are central to our aim of helping Pocklingtonians develop the social skills and confidence which will serve them well for life.