Becoming a housemaster/housemistress

Other relevant job titles: House Mother/Father/Parent

The housemaster or mistress lives in independent – predominantly boarding – schools and is in charge of all the daily looking after of the children, such as feeding, bath time, prep and bedtime.

The role may be allied to teaching duties but is more often a non-teaching, pastoral role. At boys’ boarding schools, the housemaster is often accommodated with his family, but in girls’ schools, the job is for a singleton woman and so the housemistress has not quite managed to shed her Victorian image.

Salary

Approximately £15,000 – £40,000. These roles tend to be live-in and the free - or subsidised - accommodation and meals have to be factored in to calculate the true value of the package on offer. The perks can be big -meals, domestic cleaning, gardening, no rent or rates and subsidised school fees.

Hours

Whichever way the rota is scheduled, hours are long, usually either from 4pm in the evening until 8am in the morning or with two separate shifts in the daytime to supervise all mealtimes. Weekends are usually one on one off. When on duty at night time, you will be on call all night, although there’s usually someone else on site to share the responsibility.

Housemaster/Housemistress duties  

Think of what a parent does and multiply this by the number of children in your charge. It’s perhaps not quite as onerous, and mealtimes, prep supervision and tend to be the bigger priorities than more personal ministrations. However, all the activities below have been mentioned by users on the TES forums…

  • Supervising waking up, meals, bedtime and prep
  • Caring for sick children
  • Making arrangements for temporary boarders
  • Booking taxis
  • Drawing up agendas for a house meeting
  • Writing minutes
  • Laundry
  • Filing
  • Planning weekend activities
  • Producing daily handover notes and reports for staff meetings

Qualifications needed to become a housemaster/housemistress

This type of job is often linked to light teaching duties (usually less than half timetable).

Some schools will ask for a pastoral track record of working with young people and a nursing qualification is often an advantage.

Boarding schools generally prefer to recruit residential staff from their current teachers, because of the greater security that should result from someone who is already known to the school.

Teaching, nursing and youth work are all good backgrounds for this heavy-duty pastoral work.

Skills and knowledge

  • Able to contribute to extra-curricular programme and activities
  • Enthusiastic
  • Reliable
  • Energetic
  • Good behaviour management

The upsides

You always have company – living in a school means there’s lots going on and there’s never a dull moment.

The downsides

You will have very little free time during the term. Some housemasters have talked of working 60 hours a week plus being on call at nights.