FROM THE CHAIR: Thoughts on Pastoral Care for Remote Learning with NAPCE Chief Phil Jones
Pastoral Care for Remote Learning
On October 6th Ofsted published evidence from visits to schools between, 14th and 18th September. The purpose of these visits was to explore four questions.
- What is the current state of children’s school education?
- How have children been affected by schools’ closures, to most children?
- How are schools planning to maintain standards in education through the pandemic?
- What are schools doing with their COVID-19 catch up funding?
The report recognises that the findings, may not be representative because the schools involved volunteered for visits from Ofsted.
Ofsted will be making further visits to schools and promise to explore remote learning arrangements in more detail during the term.
They found that schools were using remote learning to reach those who had to stay at home. Some leaders in the schools talked about implementing a recovery curriculum, and in some cases, this involved more emphasis on personal, social and health education and wellbeing.
A few schools reported safeguarding concerns about the use of online learning and about learners having access to devices and the internet.
Leaders in the schools visited recognised the difficulties with communicating with parents during periods of remote learning and the difficulties that learners had in completing work at home.
Evidence was found that while learners were away from school, their communication skills had regressed, that they were finding it more difficult to concentrate and some were showing less resilience.
Several leaders in the schools visited said that learners were more subdued than normal.
It was noticed that some learners’ physical health had deteriorated while they had not been in school and a minority had been very anxious about returning to school.
There were examples of schools providing additional support for individual learners such as counselling and a phased return to school.
It was reported that in some schools there had been an increase of safeguarding concerns, linked to domestic abuse during the lockdown and some schools had provided food parcels because some families needed additional support to get the food they needed.
The report highlights the importance for pastoral leaders and staff to consider carefully how to meet the different needs of young people, in an unpredictable and quickly changing situation.
Schools will need to consider how to use available pastoral resources to support learners. Young people need to be able to make sense of their learning experience, their daily lives, and the world around them.
Tutoring provides a planned strategy for supporting young people in school. This is more important in the 21st century, than ever before when young people have access to information on the internet that can influence their thinking and actions. This information can be misleading and, in some cases, factually wrong.
If schools do not have an effective structured approach to tutoring, then young people will find other ways to get the guidance and information they need, from the internet and from their peers, to be able to make sense of their experiences and to have a purpose, to their daily lives.
The information provided by their peers comes with risks, because it is likely that the source was the internet, or they are giving the information they think their peer wants to hear.
Family life in the 21st century means that, in many cases, both parents are working and because of the pressures of full time jobs, they do not have the time to always explore the feelings and concerns of their children when it is most needed.
The family is less likely than in the past to have a regular routine of sitting down to dinner or sharing leisure time together and this means there are fewer opportunities to share and to discuss issues that are important to young people.
A purpose of tutoring is to help young people to make sense of events that are happening, that are having an impact on their daily lives or causing concern. A tutor period is a safe place for worries and feelings to be explored and discussed.
This is a time for issues in school, the local community and in the world, such as a global pandemic, to be discussed with the support of a tutor the young people know and have a trusting relationship with.
A tutor period provides a structured approach to exploring feelings and ideas. An effective tutor group with routines, established expectations and positive relationships can be a safe place where young people can test their ideas and challenge boundaries.
This, of course, does not just happen and there needs to be a planned approach to the pastoral care of young people in the school and the role of the tutor needs to be valued and supported.
It is part of growing up to question the status quo and to use their youthful energy to challenge custom and practice.
I remember being in a school where top buttons on shirts had to be done up and how brave we felt walking down the corridor, with them undone to rebel against the rules.
In one of my first teaching appointments the school had two buildings, separated by a field. At every change of lesson, the Headteacher could be found on the path, supervising to make sure there were no opportunities, for rebellious learners to take a short cut across the field.
I still had my bravery from my school days and one day, I asked him why he allocated so much time to supervising the path.
His answer was that he would rather young people challenge authority on something that does not really matter than on something more serious.
It is not unusual for young people to challenge authority, especially when they feel stressed or uncertain about a situation and this is when effective tutoring can provide young people with a safety net to catch concerns and negative feelings.
This is especially true during a time of crisis and uncertainty. A situation such as a global pandemic means that the need for pastoral support is going to be high, but it will be more challenging to deliver.
Young people need to be supported during changes to their normal experience, for example, during a period of remote learning.
Schools will need to be innovative, to find ways of providing effective support at the same time as having to deliver the academic curriculum. It will be challenging to maintain communication with learners and with parents.
Pastoral support will need to be planned to provide motivation and a sense of purpose for the learners.
Investing time in tutoring can be valuable during a crisis period, to keep young people engaged and feeling supported to make progress in their learning.
An established tutoring structure is an effective way of organising case work, especially when it increases at a time of crisis.
Tutors are in a good position, to know the young people from their regular contact with them and to be more aware of their family circumstances and backgrounds.
This knowledge and understanding informs decisions about appropriate interventions and support, to meet the individual needs of young people and build trust, to ensure that young people and their families are not dealing with issues in isolation.
Planning for remote learning needs to consider how pastoral support will be provided while it is needed and how pastoral resources will be allocated to support learners on their return to school.
The National Association for Pastoral Care in Education