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NAPCE News – November 2022

NAPCE News – November 2022

Making a positive difference to young people through pastoral care

LEAD ARTICLE: “What shall we tell the children? Reflections on how to address concerns over potential nuclear conflict in Europe by NAPCE’s Max Biddulph

What shall we tell the children? Reflections on how to address concerns over potential nuclear conflict in Europe – By Max Biddulph

Reporting on 6 October 2022, The New York Times quoted U.S. President Joe Biden in a speech made to a fund-raising event the previous evening, as saying ‘that the risk of nuclear conflict in the world had not been so high since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis’.

A year ago, this would have been an astonishing statement to make but since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the word ‘nuclear’ is now regularly used in media environments which are monitored by people of all ages, including children and young people.

For those of us old enough to have experienced previous eras of superpower tensions in the form the cold war in the 1980s, the existence of a nuclear threat is not new.

In the British media of the time, the consequences of using nuclear weapons was graphically articulated by Raymond Briggs’ cartoon ‘When the Wind blows’ (1982) and the BBC drama ‘Threads’ (1984).

Driven by alarms triggered by this media reporting, I undertook a literature review to determine the ways in which children and young people might be processing the current narrative about nuclear weapons that is unfolding and the way in which they might be supported by education professionals.

Unsurprisingly, there appears to be a dearth of recent research, most of the sources I located being written in the 1980s and 1990s. That said, as I engaged with them, I realised that they still have real currency in the present situation.

For example, William Beardslee alerts us to the ways in which young people come to understand the consequences of using nuclear weapons:
‘The evidence indicates that many youngsters are bewildered and perplexed by the threat of nuclear war. Some are frankly troubled or frightened. They often find out about it alone, through the media, or from their peers, without help or guidance from their usual circle of caring adults. Helplessness and a sense of powerlessness, as well as a profound sense of fear about the future, may accompany the realization. (Beardslee 1986, abstract).

The silence that surrounds discussion of this subject pervades both the home and education environments, in fact Lifton and Markusen (1988) refer to this as ‘nuclear numbing’ produced as Beardslee (ibid) observes, by the fact that:
‘It is difficult for anyone to think about these matters, let alone know how to talk to or deal with young people about them. Beyond this, it is disturbing to think that the threat of nuclear war in and of itself might be having an impact on our children’s development. Furthermore, the subject itself, precisely because it is so painful and yet so politically controversial, is inherently divisive’.

Given the above, it is of course completely understandable as to why anyone may wish to avoid the emotive and anxiety-promoting thoughts of the consequences of using nuclear weapons.

That said Buck (2017) offers a counter argument, pointing to the cost to the mental well-being of generations of North Americans living with this spectre with a subsequent silent societal response, and Christie and Hanley (1994) argue that colluding with silence is problematic as discussion is both the problem and the solution to the feelings of powerlessness that young people experience.

Interestingly, in all the literature I read, education is consistently positioned as providing not just an understanding of nuclear issues but also more optimistically, articulating hope for a future.

In all probability, the next generation of world leaders are likely to be engaged with schooling at the present time, and Christie and Hanley (ibid) are at pains to point out, an opportunity exists here to educate and reassure young people.

The teaching and conversation about this subject needs to go beyond information-giving, to inspire young people to take action as the problem solvers and peace makers of tomorrow.

Given their frontline role, teachers charged with pastoral responsibility have opportunities both in the pastoral curriculum e.g. Personal, Social Education and in their daily one to one interactions with students to address this issue.

In the UK, help is at hand in the form of updates posted on their websites in 2022 from both the Department for Education and Education Scotland (see links below), who provide valuable resources for teachers finding themselves engaged in discussion with young people regarding the Ukraine conflict.

These resources are numerous, drawn from a wide range of commentaries and rigorous in their suggestions e.g. teaching critical thinking when making sense of reporting as well as providing strategies to manage the anxiety that listening to the media may trigger.

And yet in my review of the 40+ resources presented, the phenomenon of ‘nuclear numbing’ is alive and well, the ‘n’ word being completely absent.

For novices and experienced practitioners alike, the prospect of discussing nuclear confrontation in classrooms feels like daunting, uncharted territory.

What to do? Be proactive and introduce the subject or watch and wait and be lead by young people themselves?

Whichever scenario applies, practitioners need to be prepared for the subject being raised and may be able to draw on their experience of teaching other sensitive issues.

Two things immediately stand out:

  • Beardslee (1986) presenting the findings of classroom practice in North America in the 1980s, argues that preparation for any discussion of this topic necessarily involves undertaking a personal values audit within the educator themselves. ‘Knowledge’ in this regard needs to go beyond facts and interrogate personal positioning both from a values and feelings point of view
  • As with the teaching of other sensitive issues, lone working is not a good idea. Collaboration with colleagues is sensible, and frame any discussion of this issue within any policies on the teaching of sensitive issues.

Buck (2017) points to the need for directness and honesty in answering classroom questions, foregrounding rationality which has the potential to take the charge out of alarmist thoughts.

Beardslee’s (ibid) research is optimistic in this regard in that it reveals that there is an opportunity to introduce the prospect of hope which comes with dialogue and activism.

Beardslee (1986) argues:
‘This can only occur when they are fully informed and carefully introduced to the issue, supported in their understanding of it, and then willing to take action. This can occur only when they have a vision, a hope for the future, which includes the belief that nuclear war can be prevented and that their actions have an effect. This must be the central aim of our educational efforts…it is essential that young people will not be left alone with their fears. It is essential that they make contact with others who are willing to hear them and to share their concerns’.
What a challenge.

Max Biddulph, School of Education, University of Nottingham


Beardslee, W. 1986. Children and adolescents perceptions of the threat of nuclear war: implications of recent studies. Accessed: 07.11.22

Buck, S. 2017. Fear of nuclear annihilation scarred children growing up in the Cold War, studies later showed. Accessed: 07.11.22

Christie, D. and Hanley, C.P. 1994. Some psychological effects of nuclear war education on adolescents during cold war II. Political Psychology, 15 (2) pp177-199
Lifton, R. and Markusen, E. 1988. The Genocidal Mentality. New York: Basic Books

Useful links:
Department for Education (DfE), 2022. Accessed: 07.11.22
Education Scotland, 2022. Teaching about conflict and war: Support for educators. Accessed: 07.11.22

AWARDS: National Awards for Pastoral Care in Education – ENTRY OPENS DEC 1ST

Entry for the National Awards for Pastoral Care in Education 2023 will open on December 1st, 2022.

The Awards is the first and only scheme based in the UK to recognise great practice of pastoral care providers in the education sector and is now in its fourth year.

We have been delighted with the success of the NAPCE Awards since we launched in 2020 and the initiative continues to go from strength to strength.

We hosted a busy in-person Presentation Evening at Worcestershire County Cricket Club in 2022 and we are planning to hold the 2023 event in September next year.

The closing date for all categories this year will be Wednesday 19th April, 2023, but there’s no reason to wait, get your entries in now.

Just like in previous years, the finalists of the National Awards for Pastoral Care in Education will be selected by an independent judging panel and invited to attend the ceremony to share the experience with peers and find out who wins each Award.

After record numbers of entries each year, Phil Jones, Chair of NAPCE, is hoping the Awards, once again, reaches new heights in 2023.

He said: “The NAPCE Awards continues to go from strength to strength and in just three and a half years it has become a fixture in the calendar of so many schools and colleges in the UK and further afield.

“We are now accepting entries for the National Awards for Pastoral Care in Education 2023 and I anticipate a repeat of the outstanding quality of entries we’ve seen in the past.

“Not only do we receive such a large number of entries but one of the main characteristics of the Awards that we see is the outstandingly high level of dedication to and expertise in pastoral care.

“The Awards is a brilliant opportunity to showcase great work in pastoral care across the education sector and so I encourage all schools, colleges and institutions to begin putting together their nominations.

“Entry is online and is not a lengthy process so you can dedicate your time to putting together the best possible submissions. Good luck!.”

NAPCE is inviting nominations in the following categories;

Pastoral School of the Year
Pastoral Team of the Year
Pastoral Member of Staff of the Year
Pastoral Leader of the Year
Pastoral Development of the Year
Raising Awareness about Pastoral Care
Outstanding Contribution to Pastoral Care
International Contribution to Pastoral Care

You can enter the NAPCE categories from December 1st, 2022 here Enter here

Nominations are encouraged for awards in different categories from schools and educational establishments and you DO NOT need to currently be a member of NAPCE to take part.

NAPCE Awards 2023 is an excellent opportunity to share good practice in pastoral care and through our social media, website and those of our partners, the Awards raises awareness of where pastoral support is making a real difference in the educational experience of young people.

The Awards also encourages new initiatives and ideas in pastoral care and will recognise the contributions being made to developing policy and practice in pastoral support.

This is an opportunity to recognise the impact the work of pastoral staff is having on the achievement and well being of young people.

The decisions about prize winners in each category will be made by a panel of invited professionals who work in pastoral care.

There will be a prize of £100.00 for the school or institution for the winners of each category and individuals will also be recognised for their achievements.

The criteria for the NAPCE awards are;

•Pastoral School of the Year
A school that can demonstrate a commitment to pastoral care and support for learners that makes a real difference in the progress and personal development of young people in the school

•Pastoral Team of the Year
A team that works in pastoral care and can demonstrate a determination to support young people to achieve their full potential and a positive impact on the young people they work with

•Pastoral Member of Staff of the Year
A member of staff who works in pastoral care and who always makes the extra effort to support young people to enable them to become effective learners and achieve success

•Pastoral Leader of the Year
Has a passion for pastoral care that is shared with colleagues to inspire and motivate them to make a real difference in the lives of the young people they work with

•Pastoral Development of the Year
A pastoral initiative or idea that has achieved positive outcomes and has improved the learning experience and future life chances, for young people

•Raising Awareness about Pastoral Care
An individual, group or organisation who through their actions have raised awareness about pastoral care or pastoral issues and encouraged positive improvements for the benefit of young people

•Outstanding Contribution to Pastoral Care
A person, group or organisation that has made a real difference for the benefit of young people in the area of pastoral care

•International Contribution to Pastoral CareAn international school, organisation outside of the UK or an individual working in research or in an international school outside of the UK, that has promoted or delivered high quality pastoral care.

Nominations for the NAPCE Awards are welcome from member schools and institutions and from schools and institutions that are not currently members of NAPCE.


QUESTION FOR READERS: Dorset School Seeking Advice on IT Systems

A Question for Our Readers from a Dorset School

For forty years NAPCE has enjoyed interacting with and offering advice to schools on a range of subjects around pastoral care work.

We were pleased to receive a message recently from Anne Lennon who works in the pastoral care team at St Michael’s Middle School in Wimbourne, Dorset.

Because we have such a large audience of schools across the UK and further afield we thought, in this instance, we’d put the question to you, our valued readers and pastoral care colleagues.

It’s about effective IT systems. Here’s the question, as it came in.

“I am getting in touch to ask for some advice. I work in a Middle School in Dorset and we as a Pastoral team we are struggling with our outdated IT systems and having to make records in multiple places. I
thought before we try, again, to lobby our Trust board and IT team about having a more efficient system I would check with NAPCE to see whether
you have come across schools who have good IT/Communication systems in place.”

Anne would ideally like some advice before the end of this school term.

If you have valuable experience in this area, please get in touch with us so we can pass your advice onto Anne.

Please contact us via email

Thank you

CONFERENCE: NAPCE to Chair Online Pastoral Care Conference with ECUK

NAPCE Chair Phil Jones is delighted to have been approached to chair a virtual conference on 9th February, 2023.

Mr Jones will lead the Delivering Outstanding Pastoral Care Conference 2023 ran by Education Conferences UK.

Who should attend?
Pastoral Leaders, Senior Mental Health Leads, Behaviour Leads, Designated Safeguarding Leads, Deputy DSLs, Assistant Heads, Deputy Heads, School Counsellors and any other members of staff who wish to improve their understanding of pastoral care in schools

This conference will enable you to:

  • Get essential updates on key topics for pastoral leads in schools
  • Understand how the cost of living crisis might impact your pupils
  • Come away with practical ideas to support children and families facing poverty
  • Improve how you work with hard to reach and disengaged families
  • Gain a deeper understanding of how to work with children facing mental health challenges
  • Improve how you respond to incidents of cyber bullying to ensure pupils are effectively supported
  • Update your knowledge on school attendance and the changes to guidance and proposed changes in the Schools Bill
  • Go back to your school with practical ideas to improve your behaviour management strategy
  • Hear practical case studies from pastoral leads in schools about changes they have implemented
  • Supports CPD professional development

For more information including details on tickets and sponsorship follow this link

VACANCIES: Fancy Joining NAPCE’s National Executive Committee?

This is your opportunity to join the UK’s leading pastoral care support organisation.

Now in our 40th year, we are delighted to announce that nominations are now open for you to jon the for the NAPCE National Executive Committee (NEC).

This is your chance to help shape the future of pastoral care and change the lives of young people in our schools.

Of course, we’re looking for people who fit the experience criteria for a post on our board and for professionals with energy and enthusiasm who want to make a difference.

We’re looking for applications for 2023 which would cover a two year term on the NEC. For more information and/or to make an application, please contact us via

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