St Peter's School
Design and Technology teacher Jon, and his wife Lucy, a physiotherapist, have been House Parents at Dronfield for eight years, living in a house that is home to up 40 girls aged between 13 and 18.
“Dron” girls speak happily of an atmosphere that is relaxed, and where every girl feels part of a family. Creating and sustaining a culture in which girls thrive and are happy is the core purpose of the House Parents.
Girls may sign out of the House to visit the music rooms, gym or local supermarket. Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays may see independent trips into the city centre. Visitors from other houses are welcomed most evenings, in the downstairs areas only, and there are regular Dron nights, when the “no visitors” sign will be posted on the front door, pyjamas will be donned and romantic comedies watched by the bucketload, with suitably large containers of popcorn or other snacks. Bedtimes and lights out are part of normal routine, but talking can go on into the night, especially for excited new boarders.
We’re not their parents. We are adults around them who will support them and guide them.
Lucy Whitehouse, House Parent
“After a while you see the girls realise that they need structure,” Jon says. “And rather than us imposing that on them, they work out what’s right for them, and what makes them happy. It’s about learning to self-regulate.”
It is their own experience of both parenting and boarding (Jon boarded for several years as a child), that has influenced the House’s very welcoming attitude to parents.
“Some parents we’ll see a few times a week,” Lucy explains. “Others we’ll see at the beginning and end of term but we want everyone to feel that they can pop in. We encourage that as much as possible.”
Jon and Lucy are supported by an Assistant Houseparent, a domestic team of three, and House Tutors for each year group, who are all present at various times during evenings and weekends. “The tutors will happily spend time chatting and answering questions and let their guard down. The girls enjoy getting to know staff outside of the classroom. It’s not a formal environment,” Lucy says.
I always say to parents, regardless of what it is: pick up the phone, email me, talk to me. However you prefer to do it, get in touch.
Jon Whitehouse, House Parent
A footbridge separates the main campus from the leafy residential street that houses Dronfield. “I see that bridge as quite significant,” says Jon. “On that side of the bridge there’s discipline, and there’s learning, and there’s school structure. When the girls come over the bridge they should be able to feel relaxed and be themselves. This is their second home.”
“It’s a really lovely school,” Lucy adds. “The children are lovely: they’re grounded, they’re good fun, they’ll give everything a bit of a go. You hope it’s a great place for them and it’s certainly good fun for us.”