Updated: Mar 31, 2022
School houses have a rich and colourful history to back up an already storied tradition. The first ever school house may have been built as early as 597AD in Canterbury, or as recent as 1840 in London – tracking down the exact date may be a tad tricky but the history of school houses is very much alive today.
Where School Houses Began
School houses originated from the country of England and have since spread across the globe to a multitude of different nations, most prominently the Commonwealth.
Originally, school houses referred to boarding houses in English schools.
For a detailed history of the education timeline in England head to Schoolsmith for more info. These establishments were quite literally houses, dorms or rooms, that housed a group of students while they attended school away from their actual homes. Sometimes the houses would be spread throughout the village or congregated on campus.
Students would eat, sleep, and spend their leisure time at these houses – in fact, it was common for most English students to spend more time in their boarding house than in class. Each boarding house would typically have a housemaster or housemistress: this was an adult, usually a teacher, who would board in the same house as the students and be responsible for their well-being. This adult was usually seen as a parental figure and indeed, the whole of the house took on a familial feeling, rather than mere classmates.
Overall, this contributed to a feeling of a home-away-from-home for the students. Typically the school would pit each boarding house against the other during sporting events, instead of entirely different schools, as is the practice today.
Who Else Uses the School House System?
The popularity of school houses rapidly spread outwards from England and became a mainstay in the majority of Commonwealth countries. Most notable among these are India, Australian schools and New Zealand. Some European countries, too, have adopted the house point system.
The house point system has evolved immensely since it’s inception, whilst keeping many of its traditions alive. As mentioned before, the system was originally created for boarding houses. However, as the accessibility of schools have risen over time, the focus has shifted from providing boarding houses for students to live in, to sorting Australian students into groups where they can learn the value of teamwork.
Interestingly, the house point system has even worked itself into popular culture. The famous book and movie series Harry Potter by JK Rowling features heavily the house system as a core plot device in it’s story. Funnily enough, many European countries that do not use the school house system (such as France and Russia) mistakenly attribute the Harry Potter series as the inception point for such houses.
From Past to Present
As you can see, school houses have been around almost as long as the schools themselves have. They are an integral part of the education system and a vital tool for passing the school’s lineage down from one student to another. What started out of necessity swiftly and effectively spread to a multitude of different countries, cultures and religions, and now forms one of the core tenants of modern school life. Teachers and schools are now able to access online house points systems which interconnect staff, teachers and students on a daily basis. House point applications such as Housebytes allow schools to collate data and award specific students.