Westminster House

Westminster House is one of Sutton Valence’s senior boys’ boarding houses.

The fifty or so residents of Westminster form a major part of the School’s thriving boarding community. There is a real sense of house spirit in Westminster and our favourite motto is 'work hard, play hard.' The House provides a safe and positive environment in which the boys can flourish and benefit from the boarding experience.

The House leadership team is made up of a Head of House, his deputy and the sixth formers. These young men lead by example and, under the careful guidance of the Housemaster and staff, see to the daily routines that are so important to the functioning of a large house. We look to develop the leadership potential of all our boarders, and through both formal and informal processes, we foster confidence, compassion and a strong commitment to serve each other, the school and the wider and global communities. 

Westminster is blessed with having first class, experienced House staff, all of whom place great store in the importance of a sense of humour and a realistic outlook to life. The tutors’ role is both pastoral and academic, and the boys meet with their respective tutor each morning as well as during the evenings when they are on duty in the house.


First joining Sutton Valence in September 2014 as Head of Economics and Business, Michael James has since been appointed Housemaster of Westminster. After his two years tutoring in Westminster and over twenty years’ involvement in boarding in Australia, he was an outstanding choice. Both Michael and his wife Theresa have a deep commitment to boarding and together have over 35 years’ experience leading boarding houses for boys and girls of all ages. Michael and Theresa live in a residence attached to Westminster.

The longest serving tutor in the House, Mr Westlake teaches Mathematics and is heavily involved in the school’s CCF. He is never happier than when he is taking the cadets on live fire marksmanship training at the Hythe ranges or in target rifle competitions up at Bisley. He lives in one of the residential flats connected to Westminster, along with his wife, who is second in the English department at Sutton Valence and their three young children Evie, William and James.

Miss McConnachie joined the House in 2012 as an Out Tutor. After teaching PE at Cranbrook and Rochester Grammar, she took up the post of Head of Netball at Sutton Valence four years ago. With a former career in Web Design she also teaches ICT. Sport is her number one passion in life and open water swimming is her latest venture. Miss McConnachie enjoys being a part of the boarding community, especially the competitive spirit between the Houses!

Mr Clapp is a recent addition to the Sutton Valence community. After 3 years in the world of business, he has seen the light and is excited about joining the Geography department and becoming a resident tutor in Westminster. Mr Clapp brings experience and energy to the role having lived and been involved in boarding houses for most of his life as a result of his father being a House Master for many years. Mr Clapp graduated in Geography from Exeter University in 2013. He is a very keen sportsman and carries his passion for sport into his teaching career by being involved coaching rugby, hockey and cricket at Sutton Valence. Mr Clapp lives in a residence attached to Westminster. 

Mr O'Donovan joins the School in September 2016 to teach Modern Foreign Languages. He was born in Ireland, grew up in England, and later lived in Mexico for twelve years. Upon completing a degree in philosophy, he qualified as an English teacher and has fourteen years' experience in the classroom and as Head of Languages. He also worked as a translator and interpreter for the Mexican government. He is married to Erika, with whom he has two little girls.

Our Matron, Mrs Aiston joined Westminster in 2012 after nine years at St Johns School, where she had extensive training in many aspects of ‘special needs’. Debbie lives locally in Leeds village with Glenn, her husband of 37 years and adult son Max, who has recently returned from six months playing cricket in Australia. Her daughter Alex is in the London team of Display Stylists for NEXT and is called upon to work on shows, including London Fashion Week. Debbie trained in Exhibition Design and Display, and later Floristry, she worked in the industry on many award dinners at top London venues. To accommodate family life, she has since worked in other fields involving children, including nine years at a local primary school mostly dealing with special needs. Debbie has introduced the training of two essential skills to Westminster, namely; how to iron a shirt, and tie a bow tie!

Westminster is blessed with our housekeepers who ensure that the House is always in good order. While we expect the boys to become independent, and to that end, we develop organisation and self-care skills, our housekeepers are exceptional. They have the boys’ best interests at heart, but they should not be taken for granted.

Life in Westminster

The House is renowned for its social occasions, most notably our regular Saturday pizza evenings and kitchen cook-ups as well as summer barbecues and Christmas parties. The creation and extent of such activities, sporting occasions and other events is managed by the House Leaders who are encouraged to be as creative as possible. The House will usually have a charity which it supports, this too is driven by the House members and we hope this encourages a more selfless view of the world and an appreciation of how fortunate those of us in Westminster and at Sutton Valence are.

Westminster is a welcoming house where we strive to create an environment in which the boarders are safe and happy. The focus is on assisting each boarder to, firstly, reach their academic potential and then to enhance their leadership, community, and co-curricular journeys. Westminster has strong traditions of camaraderie, support, and house spirit. These qualities along with our fantastic staff will hopefully make each boy’s Westminster and Sutton Valence experience a memorable and productive one.

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