There has been quite a bit of outrage from Lee Hill’s decision to rename the houses in his school after contemporary activists instead of historical figures. Lee Hill, as a headteacher, is completely within his rights to call the houses whatever he likes (within reason – I’m not sure Hitler House would go down well!) He also has tattoos and apparently that is not OK for headteachers. Why are so many people obsessed with looking at the colours of our skin and commenting? Piers Morgan should be ashamed for his crazy comments on this headteacher who was just responding to students at his school.
I really like the house system and I have had the opportunity to them work at many different schools both in the United Kingdom and internationally. In my experience, schools without house systems don’t foster a team spirit. A friend of mine is setting up a new school and it didn’t have houses and one of the first decisions he made was to create some because it really does seem to get children to work, play and create harder in the name of their team. Friday house T-shirt day is really good, where the team points are all added up and the winners announced. We have house swimming, house sports, house music, house singing, house chess and I think in the senior school we also have house debating. It is really simple and it works.
The problems come when you name them. I totally understand why people name their houses after historical figures because naming them after colours is a bit boring and you would want there to be some learning and investigation from something you refer to constantly. Colours are important though and nice bright colours are distinctive and identifiable. I am not so sure about naming houses after contemporary figures – that would probably be the only thing I would challenge Lee Hill over. For example, in my last school we named the houses after Nobel Winners and one of the houses was called Suu Kyi house after the leader of Myanmar. I thought the school handled the situation admirably as they had a debate on whether to change the name of the house after the humanitarian disasters in Myanmar – I am not sure what the resolution was as I had left by then but it was good to involve the children in such a grown-up debate. It’s probably best to name houses after people after they have died as even our greatest contemporary heroes can fall from grace.
Naming houses after values like Integrity, Perseverance and Courage can work and this is done in some bilingual schools in China. But I really like the ones we have at my current school which are Vikings, Romans, Normans and Saxons. The good thing is these are named after a group of people – I have never really understood naming a group after one person, it doesn’t make sense and sounds a bit cultish! The good thing about our house names is you can also learn about history at the same time. They are in nice bold colours of blue, red, yellow and green and I even wear my house shirt on days off as it’s really comfortable and light!
The good news personally is that I have just been successful in being Head of House for the Vikings team. I am really pleased and proud to lead the Vikings and my family are delighted too.