Skip to Content

NAPCE News – August 2021

NAPCE News – August 2021

Making a positive difference to young people through pastoral care

FEATURE ARTICLE: NAPCE’s Dr Julianne Brown explores pastoral leadership in schools as approach”Normality”

Pastoral leadership in schools, new challenges, new perspectives, new leaders?

There is much talk and hope about a “return to normal” in education for the new school year.

A brief look at the word ‘normal’ in the Oxford Dictionary online suggests ‘normal’ as “typical, usual, or ordinary; what you would expect”.

In a global pandemic, there is no ‘typical, usual or ordinary’.

As we progress through the pandemania of COVID 19, the only certainty is uncertainty.

In this article I take a look at senior pastoral leadership in schools and question the idea of whether we can, or even should, attempt a return to what was ‘normal’ in our education systems.

Effective leadership in pastoral care in schools has never been more vital. Could we use this unprecedented time to reflect on old practices and reimagine pastoral care in education?

A search for wellbeing and/or pastoral care roles in the Times Educational Supplement, or the Education job sector of The Guardian reveals the welcome variety of new positions being offered in schools. Many positions are assistant or middle leadership roles.

But what about the senior leadership level?

On the rare occasions that a pastoral position in the senior leadership team is advertised, the essential criteria for the post will often specify qualified teacher status (QTS).

I would argue that strategic pastoral leadership requires a specific skill set that may or may not be found in a qualified teacher.

In these different times, is it conceivable that we can question these established practices and do things differently?

Let’s start by thinking about the upcoming school year and the new buzzword “catch-up”.

The effects of school closures, the absence of face-to-face teaching and the shift to online/ hybrid learning has negatively impacted the learning of many children and young people across the world (UNESCO et al 2021).

Calls to bridge the gap abound with some Government funding available for the most vulnerable students (UKGov 2021).

Possible solutions to make up for the ‘lost learning’ are the National Tutoring Programme in the UK, peer tutoring and summer schools.

How are we expected to cope with the pressures of this new ‘catch-up’ agenda in schools?

Demands for extra learning outside of the school day, during weekends and holidays and persistent reminders to fill the learning gaps will inevitably bring extra stresses and strains.

It is difficult to state the long-term effects of the last 18 months on the mental health and wellbeing of the school community but what we know at the moment is that many people are suffering.

The disruptive nature of the global pandemic has affected our personal, social and political lives and left many feeling vulnerable, isolated, confused and even fearful about what lies ahead, questioning how we understand the world and our place in it.

The COVID 19 pandemic has raised awareness of mental health issues and highlighted the importance of social and emotional wellbeing in schools. It has reinforced the inextricable link between our wellbeing and the possibilities for effective teaching and learning.

In the coming weeks, months and even years, it will be important not to lose sight of this when driving forward with the ‘catch-up’ agenda.

Indeed, the suggestion that students can ‘catch-up’ to a pre-Covid 19 learning trajectory may in itself be unrealistic.

On a more positive note, it is at these points in time, when our worlds have been shaken up, that new possibilities come into view.

This is a time for innovation and creativity as we begin to shape new ways of thinking about education and school as a social space.

It is a time to prioritise excellence in pastoral care, to strengthen our relationships and ensure safe, kind, caring, supportive environments for learning.

Excellence requires leadership, vision and compassion. In these unprecedented times we need senior pastoral leaders, with a strategic capability, who have a deep understanding of the wellbeing/learning space, who are able to challenge entrenched views and open dialogue as a platform to new ways of being.

Here, I ask that we take a minute to reflect on Senior Leadership in pastoral care.

What is the job profile of the Senior Leader in Pastoral Care? Of course, this is not an exhaustive list, but I offer it to encourage a process of reflection and discussion:

The Senior Pastoral Leader:

  • Develops a whole school approach – pastoral care is not an outlier, a separate element of the school. Much like health and safety at work, pastoral care is everyone’s responsibility. Pastoral care underpins effective learning, but it sits alongside policy and practice, and needs to be embedded in every decision, at every level, along the way.
  • Is language aware! An example could be the “catch-up” agenda, the “lost school time”. Think of how it might feel, to a child who may already be struggling, to constantly hear that you have ‘gaps’ in your learning and that you have to work harder to catch up, otherwise….! Pastoral leaders need to model the language of support and encouragement.
  • Understands that teacher wellbeing is a critical factor for effective teaching and learning. The Teacher Wellbeing Index 2018 (ESP 2018) stated that 67% of teachers described themselves as stressed (80% of Senior Leaders). This was pre-COVID. Teachers and staff are a critical resource in schools and teacher wellbeing has been shown to affect the quality of their teaching and learning. Therefore, prioritising staff wellbeing is an essential component of senior leadership (TES, 2020). Who can manage these competing goals in favour of wellbeing?
  • Cares for those who care. At a conference I organised at our school for professionals working in pastoral care, one of the reoccurring points was the stress of ‘caring’. COVID 19 has made its own particular demands on our health and welfare services. The pastoral leader takes time to listen, takes action to remove unnecessary barriers to effective working practices, gives praise and is inclusive.
  • Makes time for professional development in the area of mental health and wellbeing for all staff e.g. how to recognise potential and actual problems; referral pathways; coping strategies; how to proactively promote student wellbeing in the classroom. Doesn’t assume that people naturally know how to promote wellbeing.
  • Ensures support systems are transparent, easily accessible and available for staff and students
  • Doesn’t shy away from asking the difficult questions

The senior pastoral leader requires a comprehensive understanding of teaching and learning in schools as well as in-depth knowledge of the field of mental health and wellbeing.

They demonstrate empathy, kindness and compassion in their relationships with others. They listen actively to foster personal and professional relationships.

This is the basis for excellence in pastoral care.

I welcome your thoughts.

Dr Julianne Brown
NAPCE Officer

Education Support (2021)Teacher burnout: help & support. (accessed 10.08.2021)

TES, 2020: Staff Wellbeing Report: October 2020

UKGov (4.2021) : Education, universities and childcare during coronavirus: Guidance Catch-up premium: (accessed 11.08.2021)

UNESCO, UNICEF, The World Bank and OECD, (2021) : What’s Next? Lessons On Education Recovery: Findings From A Survey Of Ministries Of Education Amid The Covid-19 Pandemic

REPORT: “From the Chair” with NAPCE Chief Phil Jones

From the Chair by Phil Jones

I am sure that this year the summer break will be very welcome, and more important than ever before, to everybody working in pastoral roles in education.

I remember the summer holidays in three different stages.

The first two weeks was recovery time where I realised that there was more to life than coping with the latest demands being made on educational professionals.

The middle two weeks were a time for reading and thinking positively about opportunities to develop new ideas and implement improvements for the benefit of the learners in our care.

In the final two weeks I tended to spend the time convincing myself that this year would be better than the last and counting the days down to when life would become hectic again and feeling a little frustrated that time would once again be rationed for family, friends, and myself.

I always had mixed feelings about the first day back at work.

I was not keen about having to get up at a certain time and having my time during the day organised for me, but it was also good to meet colleagues and students again and make a difference for learners with new energy and motivation.

This highlights why the summer break is so important for professionals working in education, to be able to recharge yourself both physically and mentally in preparation for new challenges and opportunities.

It is also a reminder of how important it is to look after your physical health and mental health with a sensible work/life balance during the academic year.

The new academic year is a fresh start and an opportunity to focus on what really matters in your role and to reflect on how you can make a positive contribution to improve the learning experience and life chances of the children and young people in your care.

Planning and setting goals in September creates the motivation and inspiration to keep going when you face the challenges that are part of every academic year and will remind you later in the year about what your priorities are despite what other demands are made for your time and attention.

My summer reading included the book, ‘Successful conversations in school’ by Sonia Gill.

In the book she describes a process of group development from Bruce Tuckman.

Forming – where the groups from and expectations are explored
Storming – where boundaries and expectations are challenged
Norming – where there is some agreement about what is expected and the boundaries
Performing – where the agreed norms and boundaries mean that positive work can take place.

This can be applied to my experience of the school year.

In September there is a motivation to explore better ways of working and new ideas and initiatives.

As a headteacher I can remember in the first few weeks of the academic year how colleagues would come and tell me how well their classes were doing.

Then comes the storming period which in my experience takes place around November with the weather deteriorating and the added distractions for people working with children and young people of Halloween, bonfire night and the darker evenings with the clocks going back.

During this period my experience as a headteacher was of colleagues coming me to tell me how impossible it is to work with my children.

This is the time when expectations and boundaries are being challenged as learners and adults explore what the norms will be.

Sonia Gill describes this as a positive process where if issues are examined and discussed a positive working culture can be developed.

The time spent on resolving disagreements leads to the norming period where there is an acceptance of the boundaries and although it is the nature of young people to keep testing them there is a shared view of what is expected.

In my experience this does not really start to appear until the second term, so it is important to understand that the challenge and questioning of rules and boundaries is a normal process that we must work through.

Eventually the reward for all the effort invested in the process comes with the performing stage when there is some shared sense of purpose of what we are working towards.

It is frustrating that with many students they seem to arrive at this point just as they are about to leave the school and the adults are left wondering why we couldn’t get to this way of working earlier, without all the effort being spent on resolving conflicts and reinforcing expectations.

Resolving conflicts and establishing a positive learning culture will always be part of the work of staff in pastoral roles in schools.

This was especially true in the last academic year because of the additional challenges form the pandemic.

Reading the nominations for the 2021 National Awards for Pastoral Care in Education it was clear what inspirational work is taking place in pastoral care.

It was great to see that nominations were being made from all parts of the UK and some from other countries across the world and from many different schools and educational organisations.

There were so many brilliant examples of good practice and innovations to respond to challenges and provide excellent pastoral care and support for learners.

It has also become clear how vital this work is for supporting the socialisation of children and young people to enable them to become positive members of society.

NAPCE is pleased to have this opportunity to share the good practice by organising the annual awards and to contribute to inspiring professionals to find effective responses to new challenges and to make a real difference in the future life chances of learners.

The winners in the eight categories will be announced at a Presentation event that takes place at 7-00pm on Thursday 23rd September.

Once again because of the uncertainty about restrictions for the pandemic it will be an online event.

We hope that once again colleagues will make an evening of the event and join with NAPCE,  to celebrate the achievements of everybody who was nominated and to congratulate the winners.

There are a limited number of tickets for the event and they can be reserved by visiting Eventbrite.

There is no limit to how many people can join a link to be part of the event so why not arrange to dress up for the evening and organise the celebratory drinks!

Tickets for the presentation Event are free and to reserve your place and for more details please follow the link:

The national awards are an important reminder of the excellent work that is being done in pastoral care to support young people to achieve their full potential from their education despite the difficulties and challenges that we face every day.

The increased interest in the work of NAPCE, demonstrates what a positive impact effective pastoral care can have in supporting learners and improving their future life chances.

NAPCE followers on social media have increased, there is more contact with the Association from people who share our interests in pastoral care and the number of memberships of the Association which includes a subscription to the respected international academic journal, ‘Pastoral Care in Education’ is increasing.

NAPCE is looking forward to our 40th anniversary year in 2022.

The Association has been supporting pastoral care in education and sharing good practice for 40 years and the passion to continue making a positive contribution to the learning experience of learners and their preparation for their future lives is as strong as it has ever been.

The National Executive Committee are planning events and activities to celebrate the anniversary, and these include the publication of a new book about pastoral care by Cambridge Scholars and a Conference where we hope to once again be able to meet each other in person.

For the latest news and information about NAPCE please visit the website and follow NAPCE on social media. (TWITTER @NAPCE1). For information about membership or anything else please contact us by email on

NAPCE is looking forward to working with our members and supporters in the new academic year, to continue making a positive contribution to supporting children and young people to enable them to achieve success in their education and future lives.

All my best wishes
Phil Jones
National Chair


ARTICLE: “Supporting students to take control of leaked explicit images” published on

NAPCE was created almost 40 years ago and we’ve been at the heart of pastoral care development for that time.

From as far back as the 1980s we’ve been sharing great practice and actively engaging in matters of the day affecting the wellbeing of young people in education.

Once upon a time we flicked through the newspapers on a daily basis to stay abreast of reported developments across education but more recently we have been sharing links to articles published online which relate to the wellbeing of young people.

These are matters that people working in pastoral care roles or associated positions in schools should be aware of.

In this edition of NAPCE News, we are keen to share an article published on the Schools Week website on 17th August, 2021.

The article is written by Suzanne Houghton and it is this month’s recommended read.

Read it here:

We use cookies to improve your website experience. To learn about our use of cookies and how you can manage your cookie settings, please see our Cookie Policy. By closing this message, you are consenting to our use of cookies.