Twelve Months for Pastoral Care
One of the challenges for staff in pastoral roles is that you can often feel like there is no time to respond to all the challenges that you face. It is impossible to solve every problem and meet all the demands that are made on pastoral staff. It might help to have a different focus for every month in the year. The ideas in this article could be used as a stimulus for monthly pastoral team meetings to provide inspiration for sharing positive ideas and plans.
An opportunity to think about what personal qualities could be improved
One of the positive things about working in schools is that there is always an opportunity to make a fresh start and to take advantage of lessons learnt form previous experiences. There is a new academic year, a new calendar year, a new term, a new timetable, a new week, a new class, and these are all opportunities to respond positively and with new energy to challenges. For pastoral staff, the new calendar year can be a time to think about what worked well in the first term and how practice could be adjusted to be more effective. It is also a good opportunity to encourage learners to think about the personal qualities they would like to improve and the actions they could take to become better people.
Making a commitment to not give up on achieving ambitious goals
This is a time of year when pastoral staff must summon up all their strength to maintain their determination to achieve their pastoral goals and to provide a positive culture for learning. A smile can make a huge difference, to motivating other people. The winter months can seem never ending. In the middle of lockdowns and a global pandemic this is even more likely to be true. The focus for pastoral staff, is on ‘keeping everybody going’, with the belief that investing time and effort now will bring rewards in the future. It is an opportunity to build resilience, through tutor time activities and assemblies. A clear message from pastoral staff, that effort now will achieve success in the future, provides a sense of purpose for each day. This will encourage young people to become more effective learners and support their personal development, in preparation for the challenges they will face in the world of work.
Making the most of available support and opportunities
The spring is the time for pastoral leaders to review the resources that they have available to achieve their goals. Budget planning, is an opportunity to identify where investment, could have the biggest impact and make a real difference for learners. The most valuable resource for pastoral work is staff. Time should be given to considering whether they are being deployed, so they can use their skills and expertise to support learners effectively. What opportunities can be provided for improving their pastoral skills and expertise, through good quality, continuous professional development? Pastoral leaders should review the pastoral support they are providing and how it is making a difference, in supporting young people to achieve their full potential. Is there effective support from counselling available? What additional support is provided to support learners’ academic progress and personal development? How are parents involved as active partners in the education of their children? How does the school form effective relationships with external agencies? It is important to make sure that learners and parents are aware of the support that is available.
Listen to feedback from learners about their experience
This month there is a focus on the opportunities provided for young people to contribute to their learning and to participate in the activities of the school. Review what opportunities are provided for young people, to feedback about their learning experience and the support provided for their personal development. This can inform future planning and ensure that time and effort are directed where they can be most effective. What systems and structures such as, school councils, can be used to ensure that this process is effective? How can young people, be given opportunities, to contribute to the work of the school, for example, as peer educators or peer mentors. Giving young people responsibility, helps to develop positive attitudes and social skills. If pastoral work can encourage young people, to feel that they belong to the school, they are more likely to be positive in their approach to learning and more ambitious about what they can achieve from education and in later life.
Ensuring a positive response to any challenges.
This is the time of year when learners must demonstrate their knowledge and understanding through tests and examinations. For many young people this can be an experience where they feel under pressure and isolated from support. The pastoral structures and systems of the school need to encourage learners, to understand their feelings and to be positive about what they can achieve. In preparing for tests and examinations, young people will benefit from a positive pastoral message, that they are not on their own, and that the school is there to support them in facing the challenges. This can include providing guidance about time management, revision techniques and looking after their health and well-being. A positive pastoral strategy is to encourage learners to see tests and examinations as challenges they have prepared for and not as experiences to expose their weaknesses and lack of effort.
Long term targets and goals
Using recent experiences to inform decisions about future plans.
With a new academic year on the horizon, now is the time for pastoral leaders and pastoral staff to start planning. A new academic year will provide opportunities to change structures and to adapt pastoral systems, in a way that is not always possible during term time. This needs planning and needs to use recent experiences to inform decisions, to ensure that the focus is on the right priorities. Allowing time for planning, enables pastoral teams to be ambitious about what they believe they can achieve for the young people in their care. It provides time to research different options and to make preparations, to ensure that new initiatives are implemented effectively. Decision making can be informed by the views of staff, parents, and learners. Learners can be encouraged to think about their long-term goals for their education and for their later lives.
Value progress and success to inspire future achievements.
As the summer holidays approach, it is important to not miss the opportunity to identify and recognise achievements. Recording and celebrating, where progress has been made, ensures that those achievements are not lost and can be used as foundations for further success in the future. Pastoral leaders and pastoral staff can take the opportunity to record and share the achievements and success from the previous year. Pastoral staff should identify where their work has had a positive impact, in making a difference in the progress and achievements of learners and share this information with the school community. It is even more important for young people, that their achievements are recognised and celebrated, before they are forgotten over the summer and the opportunity to provide motivation is missed.
Taking time to think about priorities and to be clear about what is important.
For staff in pastoral roles, it is often difficult during a busy working week to find time to reflect on the goals we are trying to achieve for the benefit of the young people in our care. In term time pastoral staff rely on the structures and systems that have been established, to meet the different demands of young people, for support with their learning and personal development. The summer provides an opportunity to think about the values and beliefs that drive the work of pastoral staff. What are the priorities to be achieved from the resources available and how can they be used effectively to support young people? What are the challenges that pastoral staff and the pastoral systems in the school are likely to face in the future? Are the current pastoral structures and systems appropriate for changing circumstances and demands being made on them? A period of reflection provides clarity about priorities and the motivation to approach challenges with confidence.
High Expectations and clear routines
A fresh start with the opportunity to establish clear routines
The start of the academic year is the opportunity for pastoral staff to reinforce the values and beliefs of the school. This is the opportunity to adapt systems and routines, to ensure that they are appropriate for meeting the needs of all learners. There is a short ‘honeymoon’ period at the start of the academic year, when learners will accept changes and new initiatives, before they start to test them, to expose their weaknesses. It is important that during the first few weeks, that pastoral staff allocate time, to explain the reasons for any changes in routines or procedures and how learners will benefit from them being implemented. This achieves clarity about the high expectations, the school has for its learners and its determination to support them in achieving their full potential. It highlights the school’s determination to support all learners in developing the skills and positive attitudes that will enable them to achieve success. The challenge is to gain the support of the majority, so there is a clear understanding and support for the values and ethos of the school. This helps to create a culture where there is a focus each day on achieving academic goals and personal development.
Looking for opportunities to improve talents and skills
A challenge for pastoral leaders is to look for opportunities, where a small amount of effort will achieve maximum impact. A new initiative implemented now could be a real boost to raising achievement and supporting the personal development of young people. Including discussions about pastoral roles, in the performance management process for teachers and support staff, demonstrates that this work is important to the school and values the contribution that staff make. It is an opportunity to consider how the work of staff could be more effective in supporting the young people in their care. This is a good time to encourage learners to think about what additional efforts they could make to help them to make more progress in their learning and personal development. This places responsibility on individual learners to explore all options, for helping themselves to achieve their full potential and to prepare themselves for the challenges they will face in their later lives. Effective form tutoring can provide motivation for learners. This involves asking challenging questions about what they want to achieve and what actions they need to take to be successful.
Motivation and Well being
Encouragement that recognises opportunities to succeed and the different needs of individuals
In my experience, it is often this month when positive beliefs and ambitious goals start to be tested. The weather is getting worse, dark evenings make it more difficult to enjoy leisure time, more time is spent inside, and it will be several months before this gets better! This is the time for pastoral staff, who will have the same negative feelings as everybody else, to summon all their energy to focus on motivating and encouraging other people. Simple words of encouragement can have a huge impact on motivating young people and staff and make a difference in supporting well-being. At this time of year, it is even more important to remember the values and priorities agreed in September, so there is a sense of purpose for the daily work of staff in pastoral roles. It is important to keep the belief in the pastoral structures and systems, and to be confident that work done now will bring success later in the academic year. Having empathy is important, to understand the different feelings and challenges for individuals and to ensure that well-being is a priority for staff and the young people they are working with. Thinking about each learner as an individual enables the school to provide appropriate support in response to their different needs.
Celebration and recognition
Recognising progress made and success achieved.
As the end of the calendar year approaches, when from my experience all staff and especially pastoral staff are tired and motivation is in short supply, it is a good time to focus on what progress has been made in the first term and to recognise and reward success. Recognising where success has been achieved is a real motivator for achieving more success in the future. Having your own achievements recognised or celebrating the achievements of other people, encourages a positive and ambitious response from individuals. This is true for both adults and young people. A celebration assembly or positive letter home to parents demonstrates what the school values and reinforces high expectations. Rewards need to be awarded, with clarity about the reasons why they are being given. They will then have a positive impact on raising self-esteem and the aspirations of individuals. Pastoral care and support for learners will be more effective, if the people in the process are recognised for the contribution and effort they make.
The National Association for Pastoral Care in Education