Passionate about Pastoral
Pastoral Care: Relationship & Support
Pastoral Care is not merely a complimentary practice; it is policy and practices fully integrated throughout teaching and learning and structural organisation of a school to effectively meet the personal, social (wellbeing) and academic needs of students and staff.
This document is to provide an overview into Pastoral Care within a school, touching on all aspects in brief and drawing a conclusion which will hopefully, guide senior leaders and SENCO’s all over the country, in all educational settings to improve outcomes for students requiring Pastoral support.
Pastoral Care in Schools in 2019 is one of the most important areas of any school. Due to the current climate that our students live in, we must seek to remove as many barriers as possible to each student, through Pastoral Support. As many staff will agree, every student has a different life to the next student, and with that brings complexity to the door of your Pastoral office.
We live in a world that has much changed since I was a teenager at school. I attended Secondary education from 1999-2004 and in all honesty, I can never recall a Pastoral Office or having anybody to go to with the issues I was facing personally. However, the issues I was facing as a student, are still as prominent, 20 years on, and as cohorts move forward, we can now add to that list, with the help (non- help) of the world of Social Media, for what a presence that has had on our young people.
Issues such as: Bullying, has now transformed into Cyber Bulling. Depression and anxiety are at all- time highs, especially in Key Stage 4, and with good reason. The Progress 8 score wasn’t around in the millennium, and data didn’t transform into ‘fact’
There has been such a catastrophic jump in technology where almost all, students have a mobile phone, enabled with the latest and most up to date apps. Instead of face to face talking, students can now ‘snap’ each other, dm and inbox, which leaves little to the real world of old fashion conversation. The art of discussion without an emoji for some students is, at this point, unthinkable.
Below is a list of some of the issues we are dealing with in 2019;
• Physical, Emotional, Verbal Abuse
• Thoughts of Suicide
• Home Life – Family Support, or lack of
• Isolation or feelings of loneliness
• Friendship Breakdowns and Circles
• The feeling of not being able to cope
• Family Divorce / Separation
• Feeling of being unloved
• Temper Frays
• Use of language
• Issues with a student / member of staff
When I drafted this list, I began recalling all the incidents I have had with so many students with the above issues, and I began to realise that they all had something in common, they all needed someone.
It was then when I became passionate for Pastoral, I wasn’t living in the land of fairy tales, but I knew that if I had the right relationship with that student, and I created a tailored plan for each one of them, eventually success would be sought. The barrier to their learning might not disappear, but it would hopefully lessen greatly.
In 2018 I was walking down a corridor, and I could hear a toilet door slam so hard and loud, I thought the door had come off the hinges. I had no idea who was in there, but I chose to go in and find out, it was lesson time and this person didn’t go in to use the toilet, this person was in there to escape something.
The thing was, I didn’t have any relationship with this girl, I was a new face to her and in all honesty, I think she thought I was ‘another teacher’ telling her off.
Relationship is key in a school, it can be the difference of a smooth-running lesson and a lesson with badly behaved students pushing the boundaries. It can be comforting for some students who have nobody to go to, and it can also give you knowledge, so you can pre-empt an issue with a student, group or class. If a student has good rapport with you, then there is respect, this is how students work, they need to know you on their team, and whilst we are all on this team, it is important to let the students know they are valued, respected and liked.
It might sound crazy, but so many students say, ‘She doesn’t like me, that teachers don’t like me’
In life, we ALL want to be liked, but this lessens as we mature and can see the bigger picture, but for our students, being liked, especially by people and staff in school, is huge. That’s one to think about.
Eventually, the girl in the toilet came out, she was Year 9 at the time, one of the ‘hardest girls’ in the year, her face was red and sore, and her eyes were wet from crying, but she was also angry. I had no idea in the slightest what was wrong, but I was going to find out, and I remember saying to her, ‘If you help me to understand the problem, then I will help to sort out the solution’
This little saying, lives with me and became a bit of a mantra and, I even use this on my own two children at home.
Instantly, I gained relationships with the students, because they knew I was there for them.
One of them said to me, and I bet you will have someone in the back of your mind when I say this,
‘Miss, you are the only one who listens to me, who hears what I have to say and who wants to help me out’
That student had family at home, but they didn’t believe in the Education System, they didn’t want him to go to college and get A Levels, furthermore they were beside themselves when he mentioned University.
Pastoral Care means being understanding, honest, allowing yourself to empower others through acts of kindness and boosting self esteem in students when they do and don’t need it.
I am a firm believer in kindness, because it’s free and so easy to use, anyone can be kind, we just need to encourage other people to be so.
One of the things I created was a ‘Thank You’ opportunity for any student in the school to come into the office, and take a blank ‘Thank You’ card, and would write a note on it, to thank a staff member, friend, anybody at all in the school for something that day or week. Then on every Friday, I would distribute these to those people. What a huge rise in mood, especially from staff, who felt valued – and by their students! A great feeling for all and it promoted kindness, which was the main point to prove how easy it was.
Some of the messages included things like:
‘Thank you for listening to me and helping me sort out a problem’
‘Thank you for making me smile, when you know I have been down lately’ ‘Thank you for being you’ – love that one.
I then decided to do something kind for the Year 11 students who felt like they were all going to fall apart after their last mock GCSE, knowing they had the real deal to follow. By contacting parents, I took the whole school approach and went above that and included their community. I sent out letters to parents, asking them all, to write a letter to their child telling them why they are so proud of them. Upon receipt of 180 letters, which I was fortunate to open and read, I knew I had hit the jackpot, this act of kindness from parents was profound and I cannot express how uplifting the students felt, and how overwhelmed they (and I) were reading them during a special assembly.
As a parent myself, I thought about what I would write in a letter to my child, and how important that would be for them to read one day.
Eventually, I took the angry, red faced and upset Year 9 into the Pastoral Office, and after a cup of tea (Essential for us northern people for calming down) and tissues, she began to breathe and take stock. I explained the plan:
1. I would listen and try to understand the matter / event
2. I would take down all the information, so I had a clear outline of the problem
3. We would look over it and break it up into phases of the event or problem
4. We would look at how she got to that point of frustration and despair
5. I would provide support and help solve the problem. (The list of problem-solving fixes is
lengthy, but some of those things are to be decided at all levels)
I decided to put this formula onto paper and created a Pastoral Support Plan.
This would detail everything the student would work on daily, weekly, monthly, half termly, it was simply tailored a few days after the event took place and included items such as, short- and long-term goals.
To personalise this, we would include interests to aid relaxation, such as music / meditation / reading
We would also talk about surrounding issues that influence or irritate the main issue that we are trying to resolve. For example, if there is a student who is not able to function in a classroom near another, then we would look at a temporary seating plan change etc.
Alongside the Pastoral Support Plan, I founded the way to grab hold of the essential information – without the student telling me their whole life story, so we could have transparency over the problem.
This came in the form of the 4 W’s
The What – What has happened (Self Harm, bullying, parents divorcing, sibling moving away etc) The When – That day, week, last month?
The Where – School / Home / Elsewhere
The Why – Why has this happened or going to happen?
The How – How do we move forward?
The Pastoral Support Plan launched, I took the basics of what I have spoken about, and imbedded it, along with high standards of behaviour and the promise of an open-door policy for all students.
Over the months, negative classroom behaviour, classroom disturbances and overall movement around school slowed down, mellowed and students started to feel happier, safe, and secure. I’m not going to say negative behaviour stopped, but there was a significant improvement.
The Pastoral Support Plans were shown to form tutors, middle leaders and senior leaders, by students who wanted to impress.
My Year 9 student was the victim of her own torment, she had begun to self-harm during school time as she was being bullied for her weight.
On the last day of my career at that school, I was leaving through the doors into the car park, my arms holding flowers, gifts and bags of cards – some from staff, but mostly all from students I had understood, listened to, and solved a problem for. I will never forget that young lady, as she is the inspiration behind the Pastoral Support Plan and the dedication I have for this cause.
Her words to me were:
‘I know your leaving, but you will never be forgotten by us here. Who else will keep us in shape and make us feel important? Thank you for always being kind and for being real’
I would say that working with students, especially 11-18 years, is hard work –actually I think any age range is hard work, but when you know how to work the students out, then the formula was as simple as that.
As mentioned, and as I hope you can tell from this one example and one section of the Pastoral role, I am deeply committed to helping students, removing those barriers so they can maintain their learning and go onto lead a happy life, with added success from achieving at school.
By putting this simple formula together, and by creating an opportunity to engage with kindness, followed up with solutions, will lead to success in your Pastoral environment.
Finally, and to close, we must strive to maintain our student’s mental health, ensure their wellbeing is supported, and to instil confidence, happiness and respect, to ultimately empower every one of them. Everybody needs somebody, what if somebody has nobody?
Be that somebody for that person, who may have nobody.
by Danielle Duncanson