After enjoying life as a pupil at St David’s, Nick Cogger’s return as a residential assistant and teacher has led to his aspiration of becoming a Housemaster. Nick lives in Tryfan boarding house with his wife Joanne, son Henry and daughter Liliana. He is our technical wizard, having been instrumental in transforming our school assemblies and Chapel services online for live stream sessions while strict Covid restrictions were in place. Also, as Production Arts and Computer Science teacher, Nick seems to effortlessly combine his pastoral and academic responsibilities with a positive and approachable outlook.
Nick, you are an Old Davidean. Why did you decide to return to St David’s to become a Housemaster?
It’s just a lovely community to be part of. I first returned to St David’s as a Residential Assistant and I realised that I enjoyed my pastoral role more than any other aspect of my job. Working at St David’s is definitely more of a vocation than a job. It’s about lifestyle and belonging to the community. At the centre of that community are the Housemasters. As soon as I returned to work here, I realised that becoming a Housemaster is what many teachers aspire to be. Much like when you are a school prefect and you aspire to be a House Captain. The House system builds relationships between staff and pupils and at the right times, breaks down the hierarchical structure. We know the pupils as people. We understand when they need pushing or when they need some space or support.
What House were you in while you were in school?
In Tryfan of course!
Is the role of the Housemaster fundamentally the same as when you were in school?
From a pupil point of view, yes. Having seen as many Housemasters as I have, I do think that each Housemaster changes the role to suit their character and skills. It’s the only way of doing it to be authentic.
How would you describe the qualities of Tryfan House?
The House motto is “Family, Honour, Victory!” “Family” means instilling family ethos in the same way you would help and support your brothers and sisters. “Honour” is concentrating on our collective attitude when participating in House Competitions. “Victory” is just for fun!
“Family” is how the 6th form develop their pastoral skills by being involved with the younger members of the house. This starts with the House Cross Country Competition in the Autumn term. The really important part is the 6th form going out on runs with the juniors on the junior course in the mornings and will practise running their own course in their free time.
It’s the same with Netball. The girl House Captain will organise training once a week and the seniors will train the juniors, staying after the big session to train as a senior team. Winning is important but not the only reason for competition. The House Competitions are vehicles for creating bonds across the year groups. They are also about building confidence. Often pupils are persuaded to try sports and activities that they wouldn’t usually participate in and it’s a real pleasure when someone finds a talent otherwise undiscovered.
What values do you concentrate on as a Housemaster in House Assemblies and generally during House competitions?
House Assemblies can often be compared to a war room situation! Usually, we will have the next House Competition in our sights. The focus is getting people involved. We ask pupils within each age group to take a lead role and assign a 6th former to help support them. It’s a combination of motivational talks, strategy, moral messages and everyone uniting in wanting the same thing. There are also important key messages attached to our motto. For example, if we win a House Competition, we need to make sure we congratulate the other Houses and to recognise the time and work that everyone has committed to that competition. It’s not fair to rub a win in other people’s faces because of the effort that has gone into competing. Equally, when we lose, it’s important to feel pride for the work we have put in.
Both day pupils and boarders are in the House system. How would you say day and boarders benefit in different ways?
For boarders, the school campus is their home. That is why the family aspect of St David’s is so essential. It gives focus during their free time so throughout the year with the House Competitions, there is always something to be doing or working on.
For day pupils, the boarding environment that focuses so strongly on family values is what turns us from a normal school into St David’s. Hopefully, that feeling of wanting to be involved is infectious – day pupils wanting to stay for rehearsals and practices after school and experiencing a taste of the full boarding community creates very natural social conditions.
What are your favourite House competitions and why?
I like them all! The whole school ones are great as they create a huge surge of energy and motivation across the school. I really like House Plays. Out of all the House Competitions, they take the most work and practice. And I suppose it’s because of that hard work that the reward is the greatest.
Rugby is a highlight because you see the boys putting every ounce of effort and energy into a match and it is the same for netball. Our House Captains always come to watch all House matches. The presence of the boys and the House Captains makes the girls play better by having that support just as the girls cheering and shouting instructions from the side-lines helps the boys.
What are the favourite activities that your Tryfan house boarders enjoy in the evenings?
Often the simple activities are the most popular. We invite different year groups into the flat some evenings. It’s important for the boarders to be in a family home environment at times. It’s my wife Jo’s connection to school – the family time with boarders and my children love that time. Normally we will have food like pizza, popcorn and hot chocolate. We chat and socialise like any family would.
What house leadership opportunities are available for pupils?
The House Captain is at the heart of the community. Being the older brother or sister in a house that younger pupils can come and talk to is so important and needs to be something that all House Prefects can offer. As a Housemaster, you don’t create a House Prefect: you recognise that a pupil has become a House Prefect by demonstrating their leadership qualities. These qualities are developed as pupils spend time working with their House.