Sian Mulvihill has been Cader Housemaster for four years, after starting her journey at St David’s College as a History and English teacher. Over the years, she has taken History trips to the French Battlefields and New York - two extremely different experiences! Sian helps with our annual school production, is always working hard during rehearsals, and has become well known for her costume expertise and backstage organisation. Her passion for theatre is extremely useful during House Play rehearsals. Sian’s husband Phil offers mechanics activities to boarders and can often be found pottering with enthusiasts in the mechanics shed.
Why did you decide to become a Housemaster?
I fell in love with the pastoral side of the school and the boarding way of life. My daughter Emma always wanted to be a boarder. From when she started, she kept pointing out that there was a whole side of St David’s that she was missing out on as a day pupil. I felt a bit like that as a teacher as well and I thought: I like evening duties and being part of the boarding community - I think I would like to run a House.
How do you find being a Housemaster works with the teaching side of your job?
Housemastering can take over (in a good way!) As much as I love teaching History, the Housemastering is the fun and particularly rewarding part of the job. The pupils in the House need you more to sit and chat and help sort out their problems, so naturally their needs are my priority. If the Housemaster phone rings – I will answer immediately.
How would you describe the qualities of Cader House?
Cader’s motto is ‘Stand United’. When I took over, the House was very competitive. Now it’s more of a family and a great team: we stand united and stay together no matter what. Younger years see the House Prefects as big brothers and sisters. They support one another. My current House Captain is taking the lower 6th under his wing to help them prepare for leadership roles next year. The 6th formers know what they want for the House and I will help to push them in the right direction.
What values do you concentrate on as a Housemaster in House Assemblies and generally during House competitions?
Everyone should give it a go. It doesn’t matter whether we win or lose (although we would prefer to win!) I don’t like to put pupils under too much pressure because sometimes they worry that they will let the House down. That is why I always say that giving it a go is more important than winning. It’s the taking part and doing your best that matters. I introduced the Lockdown challenges to reinforce that. We did “good egg bad egg” as an egg decorating Easter challenge. Everyone was praised and given a confidence boost.
How do you plan for house events?
The House Captains take the lead. It’s their competition and they thrive on taking ownership. It’s great for their organisational skills and leadership. Sign up for an event is during House Assembly. They always keep me in the loop and ask for help when needed. The younger years will come and tell me that they’ve sorted a team and I will ask them to go over things with their House Captains. It’s brilliant when the different year groups work together. I do get rather involved with House Plays. That’s the competition that takes the most preparation.
What are your favourite House Competitions and why?
House Plays (Pantos) because I am a bit of a diva! They are great because you see pupils totally out of their comfort zone and doing things a bit out of the ordinary - the lad from the rugby pitch dressed up as a fairy, for example. There are lots of opportunities to get involved backstage. One pupil wanted to be onstage but just as a tree, so they didn’t have to learn lines or move! Some just like to have the responsibility of standing side of stage and handing out props. It was watching House Plays when she was little that inspired my daughter, Emma to come to St David’s and now she is in her final year at PPA drama college. As much as I love sports events, it’s watching the other kids who aren’t sporty getting involved and enjoying themselves that makes House Competitions worthwhile.
How would you say day and boarders benefit from the House system?
I try to involve the day pupils as much as I can. If we have an open flat and day pupils are around, they are welcome. Day pupils are encouraged to stay late for activities and practices. It’s about finding the balance to keep everyone involved in the House during after-school practices and rehearsals. They do have the opportunity to stay over if they travel in. Boarders do tend to end up doing more because they are always here and that is a great benefit to boarding at St David’s.
What are the favourite activities that your Cader House boarders enjoy in the evenings?
Boarders love to come into our house to watch TV. Sometimes they just need to sit on the couch and let off steam. Other favourite activities are anything to do with food. Going to the beach is popular. We don’t even need to take anything, they just run around and have fun. It’s the incidental things - not the planned ones - that are always the best. Duties in the House and bedtimes are often animated when the House Prefects interact with the younger years.
The older ones loved watching ‘The Grand Tour’ with my husband Phil. He was only allowed to watch it with them! While they watch something together, there is so much chatting and social interaction. They like it when Phil opens the garage too. He fixes their bikes and they like to learn from him. Phil is enjoying being involved and likes the fact that he can go and help out in the garage. That’s his focus and his niche. He has a great relationship with the kids. He helps with the House Raft Race which is great fun!
Old Davideans would say that being part of your House is for life, not just while you are at school. How true is this?
It is definitely true because my daughter is still Tryfan, despite living in Cader House with us. Old Davideans joined in the Cader Lockdown challenges that we did. That reinforced the House spirit and community that continues even after pupils leave. Old Davidean Nicolo has been running and has bought a new Cader sports top since he has left. House t-shirts and house hoodies are great and Old Davideans still buy them. It’s definitely for life!