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Relationships throughout the College are highly positive and fruitful, enhanced by the House System which encourages older pupils to work with younger. ISI Report, January 2015

House/Tutor System 

Each boy in the College is under the pastoral care of a Head of House and his/her team of Tutors. In this way, the care offered by St Columba’s is enhanced by providing continuity and a sharper focus for College life and activities. Each boy remains a member of the House assigned to him on transfer to the Senior School until the end of his time at the College.

His House Tutor Group is likely to be no more than twenty in number and more normally fourteen to sixteen. Boys in the Sixth Form continue to belong to their Houses, though they will also enjoy an independent identity under the care of their own Head of Sixth Form. In Form 1, boys are taught in mixed-ability groups, except in subjects where boys are set by ability, for instance, Mathematics and English. The College has an 11+ Coordinator, who has oversight of the transition of boys during their first year to help them in the process of settling in. A 13+ Coordinator carries out a similar role for entrants to Form 3. The House Team (of Head of House and Tutors) are the people who best get to know each individual. When parents require information or advice about anything to do with their son, they are advised to make contact with the House staff in the first instance, particularly the Tutor. Subject-related matters, however, should be directed to the individual’s subject teacher.

The House System provides the basis for the whole pastoral structure. Students will come to identify with a House, a Head of House and his/her team of House Tutors over a period of years. They will develop a sense of belonging and pride in their affiliation to what is, in effect, a community within a community. Thus, boys will have a greater spirit of commitment and loyalty, which serves to complement and strengthen the wider ethos already prevalent in the College.

Heads of House and their team of Tutors will get to know the boys and their parents very well indeed, and this will allow them to respond better to the boys’ individual needs, academic and pastoral, and to deal with all disciplinary matters. These factors, among others, are fully consonant with the ethos of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart and their emphasis on education as a partnership with parents.

A genuine sense of competition is generated within the school. This allows more boys to be recognised and rewarded for their successes. This competition is wide, incorporating sport, Inter-House Music, plays, chess, public speaking and other activities, allowing each student to practise and extend his ability in a range of activities. It will also provide the context for the extended learning programme.

Sixth Form students assume even greater responsibilities for leadership and example as House Captains, House Prefects and organisers of their House activities, as well as by encouraging those who participate for their House and being themselves active members of House Teams. Parents are also part of what is effectively not simply a House, but a Home within the context of the school. The Houses – Charles, Guertin, Joseph, Martin, McClancy and Stanislaus – are named after the Brothers of the Sacred Heart schools in North America, which provide international links through exchange programmes.

Teaching Groups

In Forms 1, 2 and 3, boys are mixed in terms of ability to constitute the teaching groups of Andre, Benedict, Francis and Ignatius. All are named after saints. The named ones here are the four such groups in Forms 1 and 2. However, in Form 3, with the 13+ intake, the number moves to five with the addition of Thevenet. This also means that class numbers remain in the region of twenty-two to twenty-four. The groups are mixed annually in terms of both ability and House composition to allow for boys to establish relationships across the year group.


Students are set by ability in Maths and English throughout the school to allow students to progress at the forefront of their ability and in Science from Form 3 onwards. Latin groups are also established from Form 2 into Form 3 for those students who show a particular aptitude in the subject. The remainder of the year group then focuses on a skills-based course. French is the core language and timetabling allows the first year to be taught in two advanced and two standard groups. Spanish is introduced in Form 2 in mixed ability groupings.

In Form 3, Science is set by ability across the year group and this continues to be the case through to the end of the GCSE course, as in Maths and English. All other subjects, including Geography, Music, PE and RE, are mixed ability, according to the teaching groups.

At GCSE, setting continues in the core subjects, apart from Religious Education. All other subjects, effectively those chosen as options, are all in mixed ability classes.