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Ancaster Senior Public students give school houses an F

Superintendent says ‘very successful’ system will stay

By Richard Leitner, News Staff

The superintendent for Ancaster Senior Public School says a controversial house system that forces students to eat lunch in pre-assigned groups will remain in place this fall despite getting a failing grade from students in an official online survey.

Sue Dunlop said the house system has been “very successful” in its first year, even if many students didn’t see it that way.

“What they would indicate to me is that there is still work to be done,” she said of the responses of the 270 students who took part in the survey, conducted by the school board’s research department.

“We don’t just simply stop doing it in the first year because we don’t have a 90 per cent rate from students saying, ‘Yes, it was wonderful.’ I think that’s really important, that we have to stay the course.”

The survey asked students to indicate how much they agreed with 12 statements on the school’s culture and climate, three of which specifically addressed the house system, which divides them into groups of 12, half in Grade 7 and half in Grade 8.

The houses eat lunch in two shifts, unlike in previous years, when the grades ate separately and students could sit with whom they wanted.

Fifty-seven per cent of students marked “not at all” to the survey statement, “I am enjoying working with the different Houses,” with another 20 per cent checking off “not that much.”

Only five per cent responded “definitely,” with 11 per cent indicating “a little bit.”

In response to the statement, “I feel that the Houses make the school very friendly and open,” 54 per cent marked “not at all” and 23 per cent “not that much.”

Sixty per cent of students also had negative responses to the statement, “I feel more comfortable talking with students in different houses and/or the other grade.”

Students had already presented two petitions last fall seeking to scrap the house system.

But Dunlop said the school has made several changes since then, including scaling back the lunchtime houses to three days a week and allowing students to sit with those outside their assigned group on one of those days.

They now once again eat by grades on the two remaining days.

Dunlop said she also saw some positives in the survey, including that 68 per cent of Grade 7 students checked positive responses to the statement, “I feel less stress about moving onto grade 8.”

She also noted 55 per cent of Grade 8s were positive about the statement, “I feel that learning to work and interact with different people will help me be more successful when I go to grade 9.”

While the research department’s analysis of the survey cautioned that positive responses to non-house statements couldn’t necessarily be linked to the houses, Dunlop said she believes Grade 8 students realize houses are a good idea even if they don’t like them.

“Sometimes with students in school, as adults we know it’s good for them to do something even though it’s something they may not be comfortable with,” she said. “We know that learning often comes with a little bit of discomfort.”

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