Pastoral Care

Last night I took part in a fantastic pastoral chat session with Jill Berry via UKPastoral Chat.

We were debating various matters pastoral, both in relation to pupils and staff.

I said that I feel that a different model of pastoral support and staff training is needed, if we are to move forward in terms of education and provide genuinely supportive education.

In fact, on reflection, I don’t think that what we need is new, since much of it is going on already, some of it in our own schools and some of it elsewhere.

Many school leaders and politicians would benefit from reading this when considering what we want our interactions with children to be like:

I also wrote this over a year back and still hold that the 10 questions need to be asked by anyone who chooses (and please remember that it is a choice) to take on the responsibility and privilege of shaping young lives:

10 questions that you need to answer ‘yes’ to if you want to be a teacher/stay in teaching.

1. Do you like children and are you able to love each one as if they were related to you?
2. Do you like hard work?
3. Do you like working in a team of adults?
4. Are you self-aware and self-reflective?
5. Do you understand your own behaviour and its impact on others?
6. Do you genuinely value inclusion and equity?
7. Are you able to see beyond fads and trends and stay committed to your values and evidence based research?
8. Do you understand that the long holidays are not really all holidays? See here for more excellent reflection on this:
9. If you have never worked outside of education, are you willing to work hard to research and understand other ways of being?
10. Are you able to say sorry?

And this post that I wrote last week is pertinent to some of the issues raised last night:

I believe above all that a commitment to caring and to allowing the time and space to give pupils individual attention are absolutely crucial, if our schools are to be genuinely nurturing.

Our Scottish Curriculum for excellence recognises the need for personal support:

“Children and young people are entitled to personal support to enable them to
* review their learning and plan for next steps
* gain access to learning activities which will meet their needs
* plan for opportunities for personal achievement
* prepare for changes and choices and be supported through changes and choices
All children and young people should have frequent and regular opportunities to discuss their learning with an adult who knows them well and can act as a mentor, helping them to set appropriate goals for the next stages in learning. This provides opportunities to challenge young people’s choices, which may be based on stereotypes. Young people themselves should be at the centre of this planning, as active participants in their learning and development.”

Yes, we are teachers of subjects and specialisms in secondary education but we are also teachers of children and role models in how to live. We should all be able to provide personal support to children.

As a valued colleague Mandy Davidson noted as part of the debate on Twitter this morning, “My concern of separate path is that others may then see pupils as “not my area, I am subject specialist”.

As teachers, we all have to be prepared to be specialists in educating children and in providing children with the time and space to find solutions to the challenges that they face. We have to give unconditional positive regard to all the children we encounter and want the absolute best for every one.

I disagree that external providers or ‘specialists’ are best equipped to fly in and help children deal with challenges. As adults, we are all specialists in living. We are all specialists in being mentally healthy, where we accept the World Health Organisation Definition of Mental Health as “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”

A minority of children will need specialist support for an acute physical or mental health condition.
The majority need caring, positive adults who are solution-focused, aspirational and aware of how children grow and develop. And who work in partnership with the child’s parent or career to find the right path for him/her.

Some final thoughts:
We all need to be prepared to deliver pastoral care. A system which divides us into pastoral and curricular staff is inefficient.
We can’t be positive role models if we are worn out, demoralised and overworked.
We can’t run schools well if we don’t have enough adults in them to provide time, space and care.
We need a bit of slack in staffing so that if I am teaching French to a class of 27 and 26 of them are coping fine but one needs a bit of time out because his mum is ill/ his cat has died/ he feels angry/ he just needs to be listened to then someone can give him what he needs. This is early intervention.

This is not about class sizes per se but about the ratio of adults to children in an environment where life is happening and where positive relationships have the power to transform lives.

And I will finish with tweets from two very excellent people.

Let’s lead our schools like Chris Dyson:



And lead our lives like the fantastic Dr Mike Farqhuar:










5 thoughts on “Pastoral Care

  1. Good to read this, Lena. Absolutely agree that we ALL have pastoral and curricular responsibilities. And we need to respect both and not to see either as ‘other’.


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