Meet your boarding school family: Head of house
‘Boarding has taught me so much, as I prepare for university life.’
The head of house is a senior student who supports others as a mentor and a link between students and staff, looking out for their fellow students' academic, social and personal welfare.
Alexander Hamilton (Ally), 18, is Head of School House and a school prefect at Campbell College – a grammar school for boys in Belfast, Northern Ireland, which has 135 boarders and 800 day pupils.
Now in his final year, Ally explains why he was made Head of House, how his role helps him to support his peers, and why he loves studying at a UK boarding school.
School House is the boarders’ house at Campbell College. It is home to boys from all over the world, representing countries including Germany, Spain, the USA, Australia and China.
‘I take great pride in my role as both leader of the boarding house and as a prefect, with responsibilities within the whole school environment. I have been boarding at Campbell for three years now and thoroughly enjoy it.
‘In the Lower Sixth (ages 16 and 17) I applied to be a peer mentor – a role that involves helping younger boarding students with any issues they might have at school, from homework or sporting activities to the more emotional aspects of living away from home.
'Peer mentors give younger pupils the chance to ask questions and get advice from senior boys who have been in their position before
and allow people from different age groups to build relationships, all
of which is very important for creating a sense of community in the boarding environment.
‘In the Upper Sixth (ages 17 and 18), it was decided that I had been a positive role model to younger boarders as a peer mentor, and so I was appointed Head of House and a school prefect.'
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‘The boarding day starts at 8am, when breakfast is served in the dining hall. This is followed by year group meetings with the boys who are in your year.
‘At Campbell, the school day runs from 9am to 3.30pm. For boarders, there are also supervised study periods called "prep" from 5 to 5.45pm, followed by dinner in the dining hall. Second prep runs from 6.45 to 8.15pm with an evening activity after, which may be swimming, football, basketball or going to the gym.
‘As a prefect, I supervise at dinner and during prep. This allows me to spend time with junior boarders. I particularly enjoy my role within school as it helps me practise my leadership skills, and being Head of House gives a significant level of responsibility. I feel it is important to build relationships with boys from different cultures and religions as it allows you to learn what life is like for people living all around the world.
‘As Head of House, my relationship with the teacher in charge of boarding and senior staff members is also very important. I support them in the overall management of the House and act as a link between them and the pupils. I help my peers understand why we have certain rules so that we grow our culture of teamwork and togetherness.
‘Boarding has taught me so much about becoming more independent as I prepare for university life. My mum probably still does too much for me (at least, that’s how I sometimes feel!), but now that I’ve been away from home, I am more confident about entering University and about facing the challenge of looking after myself.’