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Huili's House system: building a sense of belonging

07 Nov 2020

“ The most basic human desire is to feel that you belong.”

—— Simon Sinek

Brian Curd Assist Head of Junior High Since the Huili School Shanghai's founding in 2018, the House system has been a key element in our school’s holistic education model. We aim to make our pupils better learners through their subject classes. Much in the same way, we aim to make our pupils better people through the House system. 

House system The House system has many benefits for pupils. A House is a place for pupils to feel safe, respected and comfortable enough to express to themselves. It instils in our pupils a sense of belonging.


This is essential for maximising pupil wellbeing. Throughout their time at Huili, pupils will change their form class every year, but they will always be in the same House with the same peers. Over time, pupils build support networks within their Houses and develop strong bonds with their Housemates. Moreover, they will have the opportunity to help build and shape their House community, instilling in them a sense of ownership and pride.


Pastoral care Another benefit is the pastoral care that the House system provides. Every pupil has a House tutor and Housemaster that help support their overall wellbeing at school. This support comes in the form of mentoring. Pupils take part in one-on-one mentoring sessions with their tutors. The goal is to provide them with academic, emotional and social support.

In these sessions, pupils are invited to express their concerns and get individualised care. Additionally, tutors engage in coaching. They help the pupils set achievable goals and provide guidance in developing their metacognitive skills. This involves asking pupils questions that prompt them to create their own solutions and cultivate better self-awareness.


Wellbeing programme Another important aspect of the House system is wellbeing class. In Junior High, this is the only class that pupils attend with their Housemates, and it is taught by their Housemaster. Adapted from that of Wellington College UK to meet the needs of Huili pupils, the class covers a variety of topics that help to build their character, their physical and mental health and their sense of citizenship.

All of these topics are designed to help pupils meet their personal and social potential, find a sense of purpose, and become positive and productive role models in their communities. Specifically, pupils have lessons on developing effective study skills, evaluating their character traits, building grit and a growth mindset, empathy, reducing inequalities in the world, creating SMART goals and much more.


Student leadership The 2020-21 academic year will also bring many new initiatives to the House system. This year, there will be many new leadership opportunities for pupils. Many have already gone through a rigorous application process of interviews and presentations to select House Captains and Deputy House Captains. This year also sees the launch of our Arts and Sports Leadership Teams. These pupils will be responsible for helping to organise events and promoting the arts and athletics within the school. There will also be growing opportunities with the pupil-led committees we launched in October. Every pupil gets to sign up for a committee of their choice with the goal of creating outcomes that benefit their House or the Huili community. These committees will help to build pupils’ collaboration and communication skills and provide the opportunity to support their House in ways that align with their interests and talents.

This year will, of course, also have numerous House activities. Our successful House camps have already been completed, and this year we will have numerous House competitions in areas such as sports, maths, and debate, among many others. As always, the goals of these competitions are not to win, but for pupils to challenge themselves and each other while engaging in new experiences.


House engagement Finally, this year brings another important change to the House system: The appointments of Ms Shirley Yuan and Mr David McKay as Housemasters of De House and Xian House respectively. Both Ms Yuan and Mr McKay bring strong experience to the role and a track record of responsible pastoral care at Huili, as both shined in their roles as tutors in previous years. Having Ms Yuan and Mr McKay on board will be a great benefit for their Houses and the Huili community.

The House system is all about mutual support between pupils, tutors and families. We are committed to continuing this effort and ensuring that everyone in our community has a sense of belonging.