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NAPCE News – October 2022

NAPCE News – October 2022

Making a positive difference to young people through pastoral care

LEAD ARTICLE: “Evolving Pastoral Care for a New Digital Age” by NAPCE’s Charlie Walker

Evolving Pastoral Care for a New Digital Age

Of the many stories recalled by my grandfather, one always stands out: the day the first computer arrived at his school.

Not only the deputy headmaster, but also a very able mathematician, he was soon ushered in to work out just what they were going to do with it.

Whilst I am sure he was cautiously excited about the opportunities that such a development could bring, I
doubt that he or any of his colleagues imagined just how expansive technology would become in both
education and in wider society.

My own school journey took place in parallel with some of the fastest developments in this digital revolution.

To give some sense of scale, when I began secondary school in 2012, around 900 million people were signed up to Facebook.

Upon leaving the sixth form, this number stood at over 2.5 billion.

Now training as a neuroscientist, my day-to-day studies cover everything from mental health and addiction to learning methodologies and artificial intelligence.

Specialising in the policy and ethics of neuroscience, I am particularly fascinated by the ever-evolving relationship between young people and technology.

All too often I encounter sentiments that digital devices are merely dangers and distractions. There are indeed very significant risks that potentially lie in wait and these should never be underestimated.

Similarly, whether or not to ban mobile phones and devices in schools is a decision for individual leaders.

However, it is the responsibility of those entrusted with educating young people to do so in a way that best supports them in this new digital era, an era that will only continue to evolve when they leave school.

Reflecting on my own experiences of navigating the constantly changing world of technology, three key
challenges come to mind for school leaders.

Firstly, we must appreciate the very significant cognitive and biological effect that our interaction with technology induces.

Traditionally, downtime away from the classroom may have resembled a game of football in the park or a trip into town with friends.

Such events are periods of relatively low levels of brain activity; recognisable faces, familiar locations, repeated interactions and simple tasks do not require vast loads of neural processing.

This is very much downtime — a chance for the brain to rest — and such periods of recovery are
necessary to allow us to be at our best when required.

However, as technology becomes evermore engrained into the lives of many young people, downtime will now include significant periods using digital platforms and devices.

Yet such experiences, although they may seem fairly simple, are very different from a trip to the park. The endless scrolling, the countless videos and the
constant provision of new ideas and information provide an immediate sensory overload.

Although it might not feel like it, and even if the content seems relatively mundane, the brain is forced to process vast amounts of visual, auditory and logical information.

Additionally, such digital experiences are easy to access and provide instant gratification, quickly releasing quantities of the pleasure neurotransmitter dopamine.

Compare this to a game of football: the physical exhaustion, the necessity of teamwork and the dream of victory are replaced by a simple tap of the finger.

Too much time spent in this sphere of sensory overload is dangerous. The brain has little time to recover and, as a result, young people will be entering classrooms and other important environments having had little real downtime. This is without mentioning the impact on factors such as sleep patterns and eyesight.

Pastoral leaders should always preach moderation, educating young people and helping them to understand the harmful effects that such behaviour can unknowingly induce.

Working alongside students individually, to develop strategies to break dangerous cycles of behaviour, especially when they may not be aware of it, is potentially very valuable.

Secondly, is important that we do not underestimate the speed at which these digital tools and spaces are
developing. When I began secondary school, Facebook was the predominant social media website.

Now, it is largely considered dated and young people spend the majority of their time on other platforms like TikTok and Instagram.

New platforms deliver new trends and new interactions, and such mass fluidity in the way young people use digital spaces is important for understanding how to improve support.

Such influences may include patterns in
activities, challenges and fashions. In recent months, we have seen the particularly devastating effect of online trends with the TikTok ‘blackout challenge’.

Even for those staff who do not use social media, staying aware of the key developments in how and why young people might use certain platforms is essential.

This can help tailor care, improve awareness of behaviour patterns and even create a proactive environment where pupils who may be particularly vulnerable to certain trends can be supported more closely.

Just like teachers will understand the dynamics of the corridors and playground, they should also understand (to their best ability) the dynamics of the virtual alternatives.

Finally, we must understand the significant impact that social media can have on the wellbeing of young

A whirlwind of ‘likes’, influencers and virtual behaviours is now widespread.

The desire to compare and contrast these idealistic scenarios with our own lives is a natural human tendency; a seemingly perfect and care-free world, streamed straight to your phone and out-of-touch with real life.

Throw in the opportunity for anonymous messaging and comments, a competition for ‘likes’ and a narrow viewpoint of social acceptability, and you have a perfect recipe for distress and uncertainty.

Pastoral leaders must understand the exposure of young people to these alternative (and fake) existences, to these trends in behaviour and to these ideals of social acceptability.

Educating students on the dangers of this — and ‘finding reality’ again — can be incredibly powerful in raising awareness, building confidence and allowing young people to thrive, whoever they might be.

Now in his eighties, my grandfather has definitely kept up with the digital revolution; I know this all too well, regularly called in to act as an iPad technician.

The challenges that pastoral leaders face today, brought on by these digital tools and platforms, are a world away from that which he knew.

However, one underlying similarity remains, and that is the desire of young people to explore, to challenge, to take risks and to fit in.

With the landscape of the digital world constantly changing, keeping up with the right way to support them can be very difficult.

These factors render our digital age one of great excitement and opportunity, but also one of great challenges.

The danger is not in the tool itself, but in the way we use it; a hammer can break a finger or build a house,
depending on the care we take and the understanding we have.

Whilst the environment that surrounds them
may have evolved significantly, young people are still fundamentally the same. They try new things, they make mistakes but they often learn from them; that is the neuroscience of development.

Whether in the park or online, one aspect remains constant: it is the knowledge, support and guidance which surrounds them that is key.

Charles Walker FRSA
NEC Young Member
Adviser on Young People in the House of Commons

AWARDS: Huge Success of National Awards for Pastoral Care in Education 2022 – Winners Announced

The winners of the third annual National Awards for Pastoral Care in Education were unveiled at a busy ceremony on October 7th.For the first time finalists attended an in-person event at the home of Worcestershire County Cricket Club.

Despite a planned rail strike one day later, nominees travelled from all over the UK including several parties who flew in from Northern Ireland to celebrate the outstanding practice in pastoral care.

The atmosphere was warm, vibrant and celebratory, special guests included Pastoral Support in Education Director Maria O’Neill who gave an opening address in which she declared that all finalists had “won the hearts and minds of those in their care.”

The event was hosted with aplomb by long-standing NAPCE Chair Phil Jones.

“We’re all absolutely delighted with the way the National Awards for Pastoral Care in Education has continued to go from strength to strength,” he revealed.

“To witness so many highly talented and devoted pastoral care experts in one room is truly inspiring.

“A huge thanks to everyone who came along, especially the people who travelled many miles and those who flew in, and once again big congratulations to all of the winners.”

More nominations than ever before, brilliant winners and wonderful support from across the education sector defined NAPCE Awards 2022.

Here are the winners and finalists of the National Awards for Pastoral Care in Education 2022.

Pastoral School of the Year – Sponsored by AHM Procurement

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.

Fir Vale School

St Catherine’s College, Armagh

Fairfield Primary School

Moorlands Junior School

Abbey School

Pastoral Team of the Year – Sponsored by NAPCE

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.

Cathal Meegan and the Mentoring Programme team, St Patricks College, Dungannon

Strangford College Pastoral Team

Andrew McCartney and Julie Grantham, Hull College

Pastoral Forum, St Cecilia’s College

Staffordshire University’s Institute of Policing (Work Based Education Officers)

Pastoral Member of Staff of the Year – Sponsored by NAPCE

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.

Frances Wood, Moulton College

Conor Lavery, St Patricks College, Dungiven

Anna Marie Byrne, St Catherine’s College, Armagh

Shani Thorpe, Bishop Challoner Catholic Secondary School

Andrew Keep, St Bees School

Pastoral Leader of the Year – Sponsored by Taylor and Francis

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.

Angela Bowker, Wright Robinson College

Moses Arthur, Brent Inclusion ServicesA

Catherine Currie, St Cecilia’s College

Martine Mulhern, St Cecilia’s College

Dr Vanessa Mitchell, The Ladies College, Guernsey

Pastoral Development of the Year – Sponsored by NAPCE

A pastoral initiative or idea that has achieved positive outcomes and has improved the learning experience and future life chances, for young people.

Emma McCarron, St Patricks College, Dungannon

Meridian High School Summit Team

St Louis Grammar School, Ballymena

Russell Friese, Bassett House School

Michael Fitzsimons, Trinity Sixth Form Academy

Outstanding Contribution to Pastoral Care – Sponsored by NAPCE

A person, group or organisation that has made a real difference in pastoral care, for the benefit of young people.


Niamh O’Sullivan, St Cecilia’s College

Hull College

All Saints C of E Primary School

Majella McCartney, St Patricks College, Dungiven

Raising Awareness about Pastoral Care – Sponsored by The Association of School and College Leaders

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.

Luke Ramsden, Senior Deputy Headteacher, St Benedict’s School, West London

Miss Hannah Walton, One/Third Project

International Contribution to Pastoral Care – Sponsored by The Hult International Business School

An 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.

Partnership for Children

REPORT: NACPE Chair Phil Jones Reports on a Busy NAPCE Weekend in Worcester

A Busy Weekend in Worcester by Phil Jones

The NAPCE team were in Worcester for a weekend of meetings and events at the start of October.

The presentation event for the National Awards for Pastoral Care in Education 2022 took place on the Friday evening in the Graham Hick Pavilion at Worcestershire County Cricket Club.

It was a lovely venue and the prosecco tasted good as we glanced towards the stunning architecture of Worcester Cathedral that lit up on skyline on a “mizzly” early autumn evening.

It was brilliant to have our first ever ‘in person’ awards presentation ceremony and it was great to meet and congratulate the winners and finalists.

There will be more information to share on the good practice demonstrated by the finalists in future editions of the NAPCE newsletter.

On the Saturday morning it was back to work with meetings of the National Executive Committee and the NAPCE Editorial Board at The University of Worcester.

Some of the plans and ideas discussed included the Anniversary Conference and Anniversary Dinner that have been moved to March 11th, 2023, following the train strike which fell on October 8th.

There was a discussion about organising a conference in the future in Northern Ireland. Watch for news about this and other events in future editions of this bulletin.

On the Saturday evening the NAPCE team had the opportunity to relax with a visit to the oldest pub in Worcester, the Cardinal’s Hat followed by an enjoyable Italian dinner.

It was time to say goodbye at breakfast on the Sunday morning and we’re looking forward to meeting up again in March.


CONFERENCE: National Safeguarding in Education Conference in London a Networking Success for NAPCE

NAPCE was delighted to be represented at the recent National Safeguarding in Education Conference in London organised by Optimus Education.

NAPCE had a display stand at the conference and it was great to speak with delegates about our work supporting Pastoral care in education and to talk about our plans for future events and activities.

The event was very well attended with over 250 delegates from different parts of the United Kingdom filling the Excel Centre suite.

It was also a great opportunity to raise awareness about NAPCE and how it shares good practice and supports the work of teachers and other professionals working in pastoral roles.

National Chair, Phil Jones and National Executive member Luke Ramsden were invited to speak at the conference.

Their presentation explored the importance of using pastoral systems in a school to develop a positive culture for safeguarding.

The pair shared ideas about how strategies such as student voice and open and transparent leadership supports the building of a positive culture.

The presentation used scenarios to examine different safeguarding situations that staff might face and delegates had an opportunity to share their expertise and ideas about how to respond.


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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