House History The House System Part 1

1. The House System was introduced to the School in 1931/32. The Rector, Dr. Alexander Leighton, was the prime motivator to its introduction with its four Houses, Airlie, Cortachy, Glamis and Mains. He was assisted by Donald B.Stewart, a distinguished former pupil recently returned to join the staff after seven years at Dollar Academy where he had experience as a House Master.

2. This was the first complete House System to be introduced into a Senior Secondary school in Dundee. A truncated version had been in existence at The Dundee High School since 1925, but it had been confined to the annual rugby competition among the senior boys.

3. An explanatory article in the School Magazine of Dec.1936 gives the reasons for its introduction at Morgan Academy. “The system was introduced to stimulate interest in school work as well as in sports………The house system ought to have a good moral effect. It is training the citizens of the future to realise the value of corporate work by showing them that one slacker in a team or house jeopardises that body’s chances of success”..

4. The introduction of the House System was very low profile. No publicity was given to it, even in the School Magazine. The 1931/32 Session was regarded as a “trial year”, involving only the Secondary department where, in theory, each House would have a similar number of 220 pupils. There were no School nor House Captains, no House Masters nor House Mistresses.

5 The first Boy and Girl School Captains (Douglas Adamson and Margaret Fowler) were appointed in 1932/33, together with House Masters and Mistresses. There were also “unofficial” Boy House Captains for that year – William Anderson(Airlie), Douglas Adamson (Cortachy), Albert Graham (Glamis) and George Murray (Mains) but no Girl House Captains. The Boys’ and Girls’ Literary Societies presented the Trophy for the competition that year. Official Boy and Girl House Captains were first appointed in 1933/34. The Primary Department joined the system in 1933/34. House badges, designed by the Art Department, became available in 1934/35.

6. In the first year, i.e. 1931/32, all brothers and sisters in the senior school were allocated to Airlie and all “single” pupils were divided among the remaining Houses. Airlie won the competition that year! In succeeding years, new pupils followed their siblings into the relevant Houses or were allocated among the four Houses. This was only one of a series of strange decisions by Dr.Leighton, which badly corrupted the House System from the beginning.

7. All Morgan Primary pupils were entitled to continue at the Morgan senior school and over 40% of the Secondary department intake each year came from that source. There is a strong probability, therefore, that a much greater representation of family groups in the senior school came from the Morgan Primary department than from the public schools. This would contribute to a bias of numbers in favour of Airlie, as siblings in the school’s Primary department joined their brothers and sisters in the senior school.

8. Another strange feature of the launch was that Dr. Leighton personally conducted the division into Houses in each classroom – Primary and Secondary. The standard classroom had four rows of double desks and his procedure was to divide the rows between the four Houses. There is anecdotal evidence that the first row selected was frequently the “top row” in the class, which was allocated to Airlie, followed successively by Cortachy, Glamis and Mains.

9. In the First Year of the senior school, the Register Teacher was responsible for the allocation of all new pupils to the four Houses. Unless the total number was divisible by four, however, Airlie would always have the greatest number and Mains the lowest. A review of First Year classes in the 1930’s shows that Airlie consistently had 10% more pupils than Mains on this basis.

10. For the first decade, the election of School and House Captains was in the hands of the House Masters and Mistresses, presumably with an input from the Rector. The Captains were chosen “for their moral qualities besides their scholastic achievements. Each must have a strong personality that will have an influence for good; each must be courteous to all, be ever willing to serve in a good cause, be jealously watchful over the fair name of our School – in short, must aim at becoming a perfect human being!”. (Former Captains, how do you feel you measured up to this?)

11.  Rector Peter Robertson introduced democratic elections for Captains in 1944/45, with the School and House Captains elected by classes five and six.

12. The method of allocation of Points for the Trophy between Work, Medals and Sport was never revealed to the pupils until 1971. According to an article in the 1939 Jubilee Magazine by Donald B.Stewart, the House averages for school-work each year were very close and did not have a decisive bearing on the final result. The points for Medal winners also had a marginal effect. The results were determined mainly by Sport and Games where numbers could be a decisive factor. The original formula for the calculation allowed for a 50% contribution from Work, 43% from Sport and 7% from Medals. As this method turned out to be unduly favourable to Airlie in the first year, it was subsequently revised to 60%, 30% and 10% respectively, a formula which continued with only minor tinkering until 1972. Those of you older F.P’s who thought that Airlie always seemed to have more people to choose from were probably correct!

13. Airlie won the Championship seven out of eight times to the beginning of the second World War, the exception being 1932/33 when Cortachy won – due to the herculean efforts of Douglas Adamson – Rugby Captain, Sports Champion, and Science Medal winner. In the 1940’s Airlie won the Star four times, Cortachy four times and Glamis once. (There was no contest in 1939/40). In the 1950’s, Airlie won four times and Cortachy and Mains three times each. The championship became more evenly divided in the 1960’s with Airlie three times, Cortachy twice, Glamis three times and Mains twice.

The House System Part 2

1. By 1970 there was general disillusionment with the operation of the house system. An anonymous article i the Morgan Academy Newspaper described the current feeling. “Apathy and boredom of the pupils seems to surround the house system, as shown by the small attendance figures at the sports….. the most common pupil grouse us that there is a lack of communication between the people running the system and the pupils and probably both sides are at fault. perhaps if the pupils had more opportunity of finding out how the points system works, how their house is doing and other such things, they would feel more involved and show an increased interest as a result.” The closure of the primary Department after 1962 had eliminated the core of Morgan pupils “brought up in the faith” and may have contributed to the unwillingness of secondary pupils to accept the old rules at face value.

2. In 1970/71, there was a new rector, Mr James Bewick, and major changes in the staff responsible for administering the House System. A principal failing had been that too much of the administration of sports and games had fallen upon the P/E department and there was a lack of liaison with the House Masters, An internal paper produced by teacher Jack Herd recommended that the administration should be transferred to the staff in general and that a Registrar be appointed to ensure the equitable allocation of pupils between houses

3. Major changes to the House System were implemented almost immediately and were spelled out in the 1970/71 magazine. these were:

A.  A committee of House Masters and Mistresses would reorganise the Points Awards to include “all facets of school work”. In practice this broadened the allocation of points away from sports and games and towards scholastic achievement. It included points to each pupil for passes in Higher and ordinary grade subjects, Bad conduct and lack of diligence lost marks.

B.  Inter-house matches would be organised by the Houses involved and not the P/E department.

C.  House Boards would provide a running total of points awarded although the winning house would not be disclosed until the annual closing ceremony.

D.  Jack Herd was appointed as the first Registrar to allocate pupils to Houses on information provided by the school office.

E.  From 1972 the school became organised on a house basis. This was to encourage greater contacts within the House, simplify administration, make attendance a House matter and introduce “House counselling”.

4. Following the introduction of comprehensive education in 1973, the new system was reinforced by the appointment of Guidance posts and House Form teachers were appointed to strengthen the House System. This continued for a few years but became difficult to administer with S1 & 2 in the former Stobswell Girls School building and S3-6 in the original building in Forfar Road.  As a result the Guidance structure changed to a horizontal system where the guidance staff were responsible for a year group. The House system was still in place with teachers volunteering to be House Master and Mistress to help the House captains organise teams for the Inter House competitions. At the start of session 1998/99 all pupils were in the Forfar Road building again and the Guidance structure moved back to a vertical House system. In addition the four Assistant Head Teachers became the Heads of House with 2 Guidance teachers and 10 form teachers in each House. House assemblies were also introduced.

5. The principles of the changes in the 1970’s have largely stood the test of time although the trend towards awards for scholastic achievement has continued, in addition there is an increased number of awards for personal achievement, outside the school, in sports, music and scholastic activities; Points for “Citizenship” include the wearing of the Morgan tie, the use of Personal Organisers and Attendance.

6. Inter-House games appear to have languished in recent years, possibly because of the unavailability of staff to organise them. In 2001/2 for example, Inter-House games were held only for Association Football. The swimming gala now rates equally in points for the school sports and both rate twice as highly as the Inter-House competition.

7. Changes to the structure have done little to change the pattern of distribution of the “Star” between the Houses as the following table shows.


8. It is appropriate that, with the transfer to the “new Morgan” the future operation of the House System is among the many subjects currently under discussion at the school. The destination of the House Championship is as keenly contested as ever, as those who have attended the Closing ceremony would testify. The admonitions for the House System in the 1930s continue to have relevance in today’s educational climate and they link surprisingly closely to the current “National Priorities in Education” in Citizenship, Achievement/Attainment and in promoting an ethos of pride in school and pupil/staff relationships.

9. The selection process for prefects and captains was revised in 2008 and S6 pupils apply for the post by completing an application form and attending an interview. Their selection is based on three main criteria, staff and peer group opinion, quality of application and interview performance.

10. At the start of session 2011/12 the system was reduced to 3 Houses with Glamis being mothballed. This difficult decision was taken because of the loss of a Depute Head Teacher post and two Guidance teacher posts with cut backs implemented by Dundee City Council. The remaining three Houses appoint 3 House captains each session.

It is a vital part of the corporate life of the school. Allegiance to House is strong and can extend over the generations with parents who are former pupils wanting their children placed in the same house as they were in, siblings are placed in the same house.

Even after all these years old rivalries never die and the announcement at Prize giving of the session’s points is still a tense moment. The winning House Captains take pride in receiving the Star and Championship Trophy along with the trophies for the winning House Captains. Belonging to, and contributing to, may not be fashionable but the possibility that in whatever way you could be part of the winning team is secretly valued by today’s pupils.

 Main areas to contribute to the House Championship

Academic   Sporting   Citizenship   Personal Achievement

The S6 pupils of session 2000/01 fund raised to buy a trophy for the House Championship since the original was lost in the fire of March 2001.

A new STAR was presented by the Former Pupils Association in 2004 to replace the trophy which was also lost in the Fire.

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