Matthew Burns

HARD DECISIONS

As Headmaster, an important part of my role is to guide families through the decision-making process that leads to a successful educational outcome. The most common question I respond to is “How do we choose a Boarding House?”

There are some obvious precursors to this answer. Generational ties to a House can be strong and this may be a deciding factor. Following the path of an older sibling may be another. Setting these aside the decision may seem daunting, there is no doubt that it is an important one.

First, let’s look at what should not be deciding factors:

Existing school friends:
Don’t slavishly follow friends. A move into a boarding House offers new opportunities for friendship and you can retain your existing friends even if they are in different Houses.

Ignore House “reputations”:       
Occasionally I am asked “Which is the cricket House?” or a variation on that theme. Beware that these reputations change quickly. If you have pinned your hopes on being in a House which will be the best at something, you may well end up disappointed when another House wins your competition.

Dismiss the decoration:                 
All our Houses are warm, comfortable and homely. We run a programme of annual redecoration which means that some Houses have been refurbished more recently than others. A few chips in the paint don’t matter, it is the people that count in a boarding community.

So, how does one choose?

There is no science to this process, intuition is a key element in making the best decision. I am convinced that the key determinant in successful House decisions is the relationship between parents and the Housemaster or Housemistress.

If you feel you can develop a rapport with a Housemaster or if you could ring a Housemistress for a general chat, that’s the right House. It’s all about finding the person who intuitively shares your family values.

If you find this rapport, your son or daughter will receive a consistent set of messages throughout their teenage years. They will grow in self-awareness and are likely to make good decisions. From that stems long-term confidence and success.

We have been advocating this for many years and it works for us as a School. It means that talent is spread widely across the Houses, whilst similar family value-sets promote strong relationships within Houses.

Do let me know your thoughts.

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