The importance of good pastoral care in schools

Adam Speight

Award-winning teacher Adam Speight is a Middle Leader in a secondary school in South Wales and also works as an FE lecturer specialising in ICT and Computer Science. Aside from Adam's teaching commitments he also runs his own education consultancy business - Mr Speight Consultancy and since qualifying as a teacher in 2011, he has worked in both Wales and England in the state and independent sectors in a variety of roles. He is always keen to share his ideas and is a frequent educational writer and speaker. Adam is always looking for new, innovative teaching ideas, so that no learner ever gets left behind.

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Image credit: Flickr // brett-sayer // Originally published on 16th October 2015. Image credit: Flickr // brett-sayer // Originally published on 16th October 2015.

Pastoral care is one of the most important duties a teacher can have within a school. As form tutors, we are given the most amount of time in which we can make a personal difference to a pupil without having to worry about the demands of the subject we teach. So, what does good pastoral care looks like, and what can we as educators do in order to ensure all pupils receive an above-standard level of care across the board?

In my eyes, a good pastoral system is one which starts at the beginning of the day. I know lots of schools like to employ systems which take place later on in the school day but I can’t help but feel that these systems hold schools back. As the form "Registration normally consists of plenty of discussions around what is going on in the news."tutor it’s your job to make sure that from the start of the day, your pupils are ready to go and learn - and give yourself a headstart in sorting them out if they’re not in the right headspace.

All too often, registration periods consist of pupils merely filling in Literacy and Numeracy booklets in order to hit ‘inspection guidelines’. Most of the time, these do not add value as pupils and staff fail to engage in them and justifiably fail to ‘see the point’ of them.

To make registration at Kings Monkton a bit different, I organise a variety of activities to develop pupils’ transferable skills beyond those they learn in class. Our typical week of registration normally consists of plenty of discussions around what is going on in the news in terms of general affairs and politics along with the pupils being given a specific talk they must prepare for. I either invite speakers in or actually deliver a specific motivational talk myself.

I look at my form class as a learning family where each pupil is equal with the form tutor. We are all on a journey together. In order to do this, a form tutor needs to spend time across the learning family, not only holding pupils to account but by also working with them in order to ensure they are achieving right across each of the subjects they are currently studying. Often, we are the one consistent person who can consistently be there for them rain or shine each day. This is something we should take great pride in.

Part of my role as a form tutor at Kings Monkton involves working alongside an academic tutor. Each form class has one of these tutors assigned to them and it is their role to monitor and track the pupils’ academic progress using assertive mentoring techniques in order to get the best results out of our pupils.

The great thing about having someone assigned to this role is that the form teacher can be automatically ‘freed-up’ to focus entirely on pastoral"Give each parent a quick phone call to introduce yourself, letting them know they can contact you at any point." issues. Meanwhile, the mentor can focus purely on ensuring academic attainment is fulfilled. We find that this really helps staff be able to hold pupils to account from a both pastoral and academic point of view. Beyond your relationship with the pupils themselves, we must be equally mindful to foster a positive and regular dialogue with the pupil’s parents as well. If there are concerns or queries regarding that pupil, it is crucial to get yourself in a position where neither party is afraid of contacting the other.

I find a good way to establish a working relationship with them as quickly as possible is to do two key things. As soon you become responsible for a form class, give each parent a quick phone call to introduce yourself, letting them know they can contact you at any point in the future and do so without worrying. Secondly, endeavour to cement this relationship as quickly as possible. I find the best way is to communicate in first name terms as opposed to titles. This automatically makes parents and carers much more relaxed and willing to engage with you.

I take my role as a form tutor seriously, and it is my firm belief that these duties extend far beyond a simple registration period. Even a simple conversation around the corridors about how their day is going, last night’s TV or what they did on the weekend can really help them to realise you are there for them and that you genuinely care about their wellbeing and development. And that is what good pastoral care is all about.

How do you tackle pastoral care at your school? Share your tips below.

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