REPORT: NAPCE Chair Phil Jones Reports on the ASCL Pastoral Care Conference 2023
Improving Pastoral Practice – the key to whole school improvement – A Report from ASCL Conference for Pastoral Leaders 2023
NAPCE was delighted to be a partner with ASCL once again for the planning and delivery of their annual conference for pastoral leaders.
The conference was in person for the first time since the pandemic restrictions and it was brilliant to see pastoral leaders having the opportunity to network and share experiences and ideas.
The venue was the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Manchester.
NAPCE Chair Phil Jones attended and provides this report of the day.
I was pleased to be able to represent NAPCE on the two discussion panels and to discuss the issues that emerged during the day.
NAPCE had a display stand and it was great to talk to members and other delegates who were interested in finding out more about the work of the Association.
The title of the conference highlighted the important contribution effective pastoral care can make towards school improvement.
The experiences of the pandemic highlighted how important the support that children and young people receive at school is for raising their achievement.
It was clear from talking to delegates that many challenges for pastoral systems are still emerging following the pandemic and schools are also facing new challenges to support learners in achieving their full potential.
Delegates had the opportunity to listen to expert and inspiring speakers.
The host for the conference was Margaret Mulholland the SEND and inclusion expert for ASCL who did a excellent job explaining the significance of the presentations and the issues that were emerging during the conference that are facing pastoral leaders working in schools in 2023.
The first speaker was Tom Middlehurst who is the Curriculum and Inspection expert for ASCL. He gave delegates an insight into the current pastoral issues being explored by Ofsted and the importance of a distributive leadership approach to respond to these challenges. He made it clear that Ofsted’s view was that pastoral care was not the job of one person and should be distributed across the school.
He reported that there was currently a huge focus on inspections in attendance including alternative provision and part time timetables.
He also shared information about how inspectors judge behaviour and that there was a current focus on the prevention of sexual abuse and the wider curriculum.
The theme of how pastoral care features in the work of Ofsted will be further explored in the presentation by Catherine Crooks HMI at the NAPCE conference on March 11th.
Back to the ASCL Conference, where the well-being of young people was explored in the presentation by Natasha Devon MBE who is an author and presenter on LBC radio.
She shared with delegates some ideas for embedding self-esteem, positive mental health and well-being which are available on her website.
She made the point that there is a link between social injustice and mental illness and that mental health can be caused by a person’s experience and environment rather than illness.
She explained the concept of the ‘stress bucket’ and that some people suffer from overflow and respond to stress with short term solutions such as alcohol or food which only provides temporary relief. She provided three positive responses to stress.
- Physical activity
She made the important point that new technology is not going away, and the challenge is to learn to live with it.
Children and young people need to be educated about how to use technology and one suggestion was to make them aware of how technology such as mobile phones is ‘stealing their time.
She encouraged pastoral leaders to explore the concept of being a “digital citizen” as a young people in the world today.
Matthew Cooke’s presentation explored the important link between supporting children in care and future life chances. This encouraged delegates to reflect on how their pastoral systems support individual learners.
They were reminded that pastoral staff are not working on their own. Matthew, as the Virtual School Head for Suffolk and Virtual Schools, pointed out what is available in the system to support the care of children and young people.
Pastoral staff are good at working collaboratively to find solutions to often challenging problems and this is where organisations like NAPCE can provide guidance and support.
The interest of delegates was quickly captured by the honest and inspiring presentation by Lads Like Us.
All of the members of the group had experienced trauma in their lives and had not had a good experience at school. They shared how they had learnt to hide what was going on in their lives and behaved badly to ‘fit in’ with their peer group.
One commented, “My behaviour was telling a thousand words, but nobody picked it up”.
They suggested that what was needed in schools was what they called ‘professional curiosity’ where all adults would share responsibility for caring for the children and young people in the school.
The argument is often made that teachers are not social workers but this challenges that view by calling for all adult professionals to take an interest in the well-being of children and young people in their care.
This has implications for the approach of pastoral leaders to support and care for all children and young people in schools.
The stories that were shared by the young men in the presentation showed that there should be no doubt that there is a need for effective pastoral care in schools in the 21st century.
Ellie Costello who is the Director of ‘Square Peg’, shared ideas in her presentation about how schools should collaborate with parents. She spoke about her own experiences as a parent to illustrate the points made.
She pointed out that research shows that thirty-seven thousand families are currently struggling with attendance issues with their children and that there was a need to make relationships with parents meaningful by having courageous conversations.
She explained how persistently absent children can often have social and emotional needs and that the use of tough language in dealing with these matters is not always helpful.
She talked about a ‘threat-blame approach’ which leaves parents feeling blamed and less inclined to want to engage in the process to get their children back to school.
She gave the example that it is more appropriate to talk about ‘barriers to attendance’ rather than ‘school refuser’. This has implications for pastoral leaders who need to consider carefully how pastoral staff build positive relationships with parents which does not leave them with a sense of shame when they are doing their best to be complaint with requests and trying to work with the system.
Lisa McCall, Head of School, at Wales School in Rotherham in her presentation explained that pastoral leaders needed a balance between care and supporting learners to prepare for examinations in the classroom.
She pointed out that good pastoral structures ensure good mental health. Lisa highlighted the need to have discussions with children and young people about the issues that are important in their lives.
She explained that self-evaluation was important for leaders to identify progress and challenges and to know how well strategies have been embedded.
The leader’s role was not to simply share good news but to identify risk to raise awareness about the challenges being faced.
Victoria Rayner who is the Chair of the International Forum for Safeguarding Professionals asked a question about how well safeguarding is embedded across the whole school, in her presentation.
She made a case to delegates for the need for a whole school approach to safeguarding and explained that this required both a culture of safeguarding and trained staff with the required expertise for their roles.
One of the overall themes that emerged from the event was that pastoral leaders should not just ask what they are going to do or how they are going to do it but why are they doing it.
This approach to pastoral leadership will ensure that the pastoral systems developed and the strategies used are relevant to the needs of the children and young people in the care of the school.
The pastoral work of the school is an opportunity for children and young people to make sense of the rapidly changing technological world that they are living in.
Effective pastoral care in schools can develop the positive attitudes and skills that learners need to achieve success and prepare them to make a positive contribution in the modern workplace and society of the 21st century.
The modern world must seem confusing to a developing mind with endless challenges and risks. We are surrounded by automated systems and computers that are available twenty-four hours a day and act as are companions in our daily lives.
At times it seems that we are not a human beings but a machine that interacts with other machines. One example of this digital existence was the NAPCE team trying to ascertain what information our bank needed from us for a security check after bank had share that they can’t tell us what they need because their Customer Contact Team is not allowed to contact customers!
A basic need for all human beings is to be able to interact with other human beings and share thoughts ideas and experiences.
Effective pastoral support can support young people on their journey, as they take advantages of all the opportunities available in the modern world and have the skills and attitudes to form positive relationships with other members of society.
The National Association for Pastoral Care in Education (NAPCE)