About house point systems

What is a house point system?

House point systems are a common and traditional feature in schools to encourage healthy competition and group loyalty among pupils. It works as follows:

  • The school is divided into teams called ‘houses’. Each house will include pupils from every year group.
  • House ‘leaders’ or ‘captains’ are appointed.
  • Houses could be named after animals, colours, historical figures or local landmarks, depending on the school and the age of the pupils. Each house will usually be identified by its own emblem or colours.
  • Each pupil is allocated to a house when they join the school.
  • Pupils earn house points for good work, behaviour or participation, for example.
  • Houses also compete with one another, often at sports and in other ways, providing a focus for teamwork and group loyalty.
  • House points are awarded according to the school’s reward system. Points are usually represented by physical tokens or stickers, for example, or are counted electronically as part of an online system (read more about physical vs alternative school reward systems here).
  • At the end of the school year or term, the ‘winning’ house is announced and rewarded with a ‘house cup’ or a similar prize.

What are the benefits of a house point system?

  • Using house point systems has been shown to have a positive impact on motivation and behaviour, as well as encouraging a sense of identity and belonging among school pupils.
  • Such systems include all pupils, not just the highest achievers, and help develop a variety of skills other than academic.
  • A sense of camaraderie, teamwork and healthy competition is nurtured, which contributes to a thriving school culture.
  • Ofsted, the government’s office for standards in education, children’s services and skills, has also suggested traditional house point systems help pupils become more engaged in their own education, while raising standards.
  • House leaders are afforded the opportunity to mentor their group members and get to know them individually, which helps to build good relationships.
  • House systems have enjoyed renewed popularity thanks to the Harry Potter books and films, which see young witches and wizards attending houses Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, Slytherin and Gryffindor at Hogwarts school.

How do you set up a house point system?

Of course, every school is different and will decide on and implement its own house system. But most schools will take the following general steps:

  1. Split pupils into houses
  • Between two and four houses usually works well, depending on the size of the school.
  • Houses can include pupils from across all year groups; in fact, age diversity is encouraged.
  • Give each house a name — or, better still, let their members decide on the names.
  1. Track house points
  • Create a central points tracker so that all staff members can access it and award points when they need to.
  • Include information such as which pupil earned the point, and when and how it was earned.
  • Create a public display and update it daily with the latest house point totals.
  1. Reward and celebrate
  • Build the points-earning culture by encouraging pupils, and coaching houses which might be trailing behind.
  • Set a winning house threshold (such as 100 house points) or a fixed end date (such as the Christmas break) for pupils to aim towards.
  • Organise a special celebration event and prize — e.g. a house cup — to reward the winning house.

You can find more detailed guidance around designing your own house points system in our school reward system guide.

Comparing house point systems

Digital

An electronic system is usually tracked and managed via a special app or piece of software, which allows teachers to input house points as and when they’re awarded, and pupils to view their progress on a communal tablet or computer screen. Older children can be given their own logins to view their achievements and points.

You can read more about the pros and cons of electronic reward systems and comparisons with other types of rewards here.

Physical

The use of physical tokens or stickers, for example, continues to be a popular and successful way of rewarding and tracking house points. Receiving a tangible token they can keep hold of or deposit in a collector can be highly motivating for pupils as it serves as a reminder of the reward. Pupils can also see their tokens accumulating over a period of time.

Tracking and displaying house points

Creating an attractive and fun display to record and monitor your class’s or school’s house point system not only provides an ideal creative project for the pupils, it reinforces their sense of motivation and friendly competition when they see their house’s points accumulating.

Colourful, easy-to-read charts that are mounted on the wall in the classroom or hallway and show a clear tally of each house’s points total are a popular and easy way of doing this. The school can always choose to back this up with a page on its website, but the idea of displaying a physical chart is that it engages pupils during school hours and reinforces the sense of camaraderie and competition between the houses.

Of course, the design of the chart or display is down to the preferences of the teacher and pupils, although it’s a good idea for it to be in keeping with the theme of the house names. There are also useful templates for house point display banners available online, which teachers can download and customise — see examples at free primary resources site Twinkl and at the TES website.