Why pastoral care is needed in schools: The five essentials to an outstanding pastoral care system

Picture: Aldwickbury School

Picture: Aldwickbury School - Credit: Archant

Schools are ultimately judged on their academic results, the destination of their leavers or their reputation for academic excellence built the over years.

Paul Symes, who will be stepping into the role as Headmaster next year at Aldwickbury School in Harpenden. Picture...

Paul Symes, who will be stepping into the role as Headmaster next year at Aldwickbury School in Harpenden. Picture: Aldwickbury School - Credit: Archant

Why then is pastoral care, or the physical and mental wellbeing of pupils, an important consideration when choosing the right school for your child?

We spoke to Paul Symes, who will be stepping into the role as Headmaster next year at Aldwickbury School, a boys independent school in Harpenden, about what he believes are the essential ingredients to an outstanding pastoral care system.

Why is pastoral care important in schools?

Picture: Aldwickbury School

Picture: Aldwickbury School - Credit: Archant

With children under increasing pressures, helping a child to feel supported gives them the confidence and belief to cope with challenging situations - whether that’s in or outside the classroom.

Quality pastoral care focuses on the whole child (personal, social, and academic) and it engages everyone in the school community to support the pupils in all aspects of their learning: after all, a happy child is (more often than not) a successful one.

Building confidence, resilience and creativity in children allows them to navigate their own path through the school.

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One of the most striking impressions that Aldwickbury School makes on visitors is that the boys are happy, open, friendly and confident in all that they do.

Picture: Aldwickbury School

Picture: Aldwickbury School - Credit: Archant

What makes an outstanding pastoral care system?

1. Someone for pupils to talk to

In an outstanding pastoral system, children should know who they can go to with a worry. The process for how to share a worry should be discussed with the pupils regularly through chapels, assemblies, form time and PSHEE, as well as being displayed via signage around the school. Every child should feel that their voice can be heard and that all staff are approachable.

2. Get to know the children

It may seem obvious but it is vital is that staff know the pupils they teach. Taking the time to get to know the pupils, their likes, interests, and favourite subjects are all essential in personalising pastoral care. This allows teachers to identify who is worried, who is struggling with friendships, who is tired or who simply needs someone to talk to. In my experience, the staff who know the children the best build stronger working relationships with them.

3. Common values and having a ‘growth mindset’

Many of these values can be found in the child who demonstrates a ‘growth mindset’. This concept is based around the work of Dr. Carol Dweck who after studying the behaviour of thousands of children, believes that intelligence isn’t fixed and that effort and practice reinforces our neural pathways, strengthening our understanding and growing our intelligence. We all learn from experience, including failure and therefore the process is just as important as the outcome. Children who have the mindset to respond positively to failure, to keep trying, to embrace challenge rather than take the easy option and to thrive off feedback from their teachers/peers will ultimately grow.

4. Promoting positive behaviour

A consistent approach to dealing with both positive and negative behaviour is key.

It is essential that staff and pupils agree on the fundamental expectations for outstanding behaviour and promote positive actions.

The school community should have shared expectations and clear communication for basic manners, uniform and etiquette around the school these are achieved by seeking the views and opinions of all stakeholders.

5. Creating a sense of family

The house system is an essential layer of pastoral care and plays a key role in balancing academic and pastoral life in the school. A good house system creates a sense of belonging and generates healthy competition both in and outside the classroom. Pupils feel a sense of belonging when allocated to a house, enabling them to compete against their peers - an essential part of school life. It also creates the perfect opportunity for children to connect with each other via a buddy system, allowing the older children to contribute to the caring ethos of the school. Additionally, it provides the younger children with positive role models who they can seek to emulate.

About Aldwickbury School

Located in Harpenden, Aldwickbury is an independent school for boys aged 4-13, which prides itself on creating an environment where they feel secure, cared for and respected.

To find out more visit aldwickbury.org.uk, or call 01582 713022.