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Events  |  People  |  Places  |  Year Groups

All schools have their own vocabulary: terms and nicknames used for places, job titles, year groups and so on. Your school will provide you with its own glossary, but do ask if you hear or see a term you don’t understand.

The following words and terms are common to most boarding schools, although note that not all schools use all of them, so they won’t all be relevant to you. Look for the words and terms you’ve seen in connection with your school, to find out what they mean:

Events

Assembly: this is another word for Chapel and for Prayers. It’s when the school (pupils and staff) gathers together at the start of the day to hear notices and announcements, and usually sing a hymn and say a prayer together. In some schools, it happens every day, but in others it may happen only 2 or 3 times a week.

Chapel: this is another word for Assembly and for Prayers. It’s when the school (pupils and staff) gathers together at the start of the day to hear notices and announcements, and usually sing a hymn and say a prayer together. In some schools, it happens every day, but in others it may happen only 2 or 3 times a week.

Colours: an award for excellence and commitment in a particular activity (such as a sport or music).

Exeat: this is another word for leave out. It’s a weekend when all boarders get to go home. In some schools, this word is used for half term.

Leave out: this is another word for exeat. It’s a weekend when all boarders get to go home.

Lent term: this is what some schools call the spring term, running from January to March.

Michaelmas term: this is what some schools call the autumn term, running from September to December.

Prayers: this is another word for Assembly and for Chapel. It’s when the school (pupils and staff) gathers together at the start of the day to hear notices and announcements, and usually sing a hymn and say a prayer together. In some schools, it happens every day, but in others it may happen only 2 or 3 times a week.

Prep: homework. It’s also an abbreviation for preparatory.

Preparatory or prep school: primary or junior school, usually for pupils up to year 6 or year 8. 

Set: a class of pupils separated by ability in a particular subject.

People

Alumnus/alumni (masculine), alumna/alumnae (feminine): former pupil or pupils of the school. There is probably an alumni association or society, to which former pupils belong so that they can stay in touch with the school and with each other.

Assistant Head (Assistant Headmaster/mistress): a term for the deputy head teacher. There may be more than one, eg Assistant Head (Academic) and Assistant Head (Pastoral).

Chaplain: this is the person who is responsible for the spiritual life of the school. He or she usually runs, or helps to run, Assembly, Chapel or Prayers and may also run discussion groups and teach religious studies, as well as supporting pupils when they need help.

Common room: this is a collective term for the teaching staff.

Deputy Headmaster/mistress: this is another term for the deputy head teacher and there may be more than one, eg Deputy Headmaster (Academic) and Deputy Headmaster (Pastoral).

Deputy Head Cocurricular: this is the person responsible for out of class activities, such as games, clubs, trips etc.

Form Master/Mistress: this is another word for Tutor. It’s a teacher assigned to you to take close responsibility for your academic and pastoral development. They look after a small number of pupils, including you, and work closely with your Housemaster/Housemistress/Houseparent.

Head: this is what some schools call the head teacher.

Headmaster/Head Master/Headmistress/Head Mistress: this is the head teacher.

High Master: this is what some schools call the head teacher.

Housemaster/Housemistress: this is another word for Houseparent. There is a Housemaster or Housemistress in charge of each boarding house. The Housemaster or Housemistress for your boarding house is in charge of you while you are at school.

Houseparent: this is another word for Housemaster or Housemistress. There is a Houseparent in charge of each boarding house. The Houseparent for your boarding house is in charge of you while you are at school.

Master: this is what some schools call the head teacher.

Matron: someone who is in charge of your health and well-being whilst you are at school, and who will help with domestic aspects, such as laundry and when your clothes need mended. Matron may also be a nurse.

Principal: this is what some schools call the head teacher.

Second Master: this is another term for the deputy head teacher, often used by older schools which have been around for many years.

Tutor: this is another word for Form Master/Mistress. It’s a teacher assigned to you to take close responsibility for your academic and pastoral development. They look after a small number of pupils, including you, and work closely with your Housemaster/Housemistress/Houseparent.

Warden: this is what some schools call the head teacher.

Places

Dorm: this is the room where you sleep.

House: this is your boarding house, where you live whilst at school. Houses all have names and the names will be particular to your school.

San/Sani/Sanitorium: this is the school’s medical centre, where you go if you are ill or need treatment for an injury.

Year Groups

3rd Form: Year 9

4th Form: Year 10

5th Form: Year 11

6th Form: Years 12 and 13 collectively. Lower Sixth is Year 12 and Upper Sixth is Year 13.

Lower School: usually, this includes all the year groups below the Sixth Form (ie year groups younger than Years 12 and 13).

Lower Sixth: Year 12.

Sixth Form: a collective term for the oldest two year groups in the school, ie Years 12 and 13. Sometimes the Sixth Form is called Upper School.

Upper School: usually, this is the Sixth Form year groups (ie Years 12 and 13).

Upper Sixth: Year 13.