Skip to Content

NAPCE News – September 2023

NAPCE News – September 2023

Making a positive difference to young people through pastoral care

LEAD ARTICLE: Pastoral Care For All – One Brain at a Time” by NAPCE Officer Eileen Donnelly ?”

My attention was caught recently, by an article in The Pastoral Care for All – One Brain at a Time
As we celebrated the 40th Anniversary of NAPCE we reflected on the role it has had in informing our pastoral provision in schools.

Our postponed celebratory dinner – which took place earlier this year – afforded us the opportunity to express gratitude to the many authors and contributors to the journal which over the years had shaped and formed our thinking enabling us to arrive at where we are today.

The pastoral journey spans from the earliest years of providing financial and physical support to small numbers of individual students, through to the development of a topic-based curriculum delivered to the ‘less able’ students, and more laterally a statutory skills based Personal Development programme which supports students to take responsibility for their social, emotional and cognitive development.

Additionally, the literature helped move us away from the historic divide between the ‘pastoral’ and ‘curricular’  aspects of the school. Subject teachers were encouraged to get to know their students and build strong relationships with them. Pastoral care was to be ‘caught’  in addition to ‘taught’ 
More laterally, the field of neuroscience had added even more grist for the mill giving Teachers an insight into the uniqueness of each student’s brain, the behavioral impact of underdevelopment and the need for support to compensate.

We are learning that the adolescent brain is  very much ‘under construction’. Many of the regions including the frontal lobe (top front) which is concerned with executive function, judgement, and impulse control will not be fully developed until early adulthood, long after they have finished their formal school education.

Normal growth appears to occur between the ages of six and ten (KS2) and again in early twenties leaving the years between ten and eighteen (KS3 & 4) void of improvement.

Might this go some way to explain students’ lack of focus, poor organization, time management skills, and inability to register tasks and follow through with them until completion. Might our expectations of some students be just too high? Might this bring a new focus to the kind of care we need to provide for them? 
When they appear tired and lazy, we may be right in thinking they have had late night ‘screen time’ however it may indeed be because their brain has been busy ‘pruning’.  The process of cutting back old unused neuron connections to reshape new brain connections and allow for more growth happens mostly at night and requires energy.

Similarly, melatonin levels in adolescents naturally rise later at night and fall later in the morning . This may explain why many teens stay up late and struggle with getting up in the morning.

They frequently need more sleep than children. This sleep interruption can explain lethargy, lack of concentration, poor engagement with learning,  increased impulsivity,  irritability and depression. Until we create a greater awareness of this, student’s health and wellbeing may not be addressed appropriately.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain associated with producing intense feelings of pleasure and reward. During adolescence, levels in the limbic system can increase dramatically.

Serotonin, known as the calming chemical, on the other hand, eases tension and stress and can counteract the excitement and recklessness that dopamine can produce.

If there is a defect in serotonin processing in the brain, there can be vulnerability to boredom, increased risk taking and impulsiveness manifesting in behaviours which can have lasting negative consequences.

Neuroscientists have also alerted educators to what they describe as  ‘temporal discounting preference,’ and ‘underdeveloped brain organization.’

The impact of this is seen in students’ impetuous behaviour and making choices which offer short-term rewards.

Despite this, our expectations of students is that they become self-motivated, make responsible career choices, set personal and academic targets, and strive to achieve them. We need to rethink how best to achieve this, considering these findings.

The prefrontal cortex which essentially manages emotions and impulse control has developmental delays years behind the limbic system. Until it catches up with the rest of the brain our students will rely on the amygdala to steer them through very difficult situations. For many, this will prove an unreliable source of support as it is not a thinking organ, rather, it works on instinct rather than logic.

This turmoil often explains why the period of adolescence is when many mental disorders such as schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and eating disorders emerge. Early intervention strategies that create an awareness of this and train the amygdala to make better decisions are essential.
Perhaps most interestingly, research into neuroplasticity offers teachers the most hope by dispelling the notion of fixed intelligence.

We have always known that neurons and synapses, changing and strengthening connections, are at the root of all learning in the brain.

However, we believed that neurons were predetermined at birth by biology and genetics. Using a carbon dating technique scientists can prove that neurons can grow in the hippocampus region of the brain which is known to play a crucial role in  memory and learning.

Teachers have to accept that students can get ‘smarter’ and figure out how best to achieve and capitalise on it.
Neuroscience has lots to offer Teachers, but does it pose more questions than answers?

  • Should research developments feature more on Teachers CPD?
  • Might it revolutionize the care and support we give Students during their most vulnerable years?
  • Without the luxury of magnetic resonance imaging scans how will we know who to target for support?

And the students:

  • Can they really blame it all on their brain?
  • Can we afford to ignore it?
  • Can we even begin to measure the destructive impact this can have on their lives?
  • Will they be receptive to intervention strategies until their brain ‘grows up’?

The GL PASS Psychometric test provides insightful information on the mindset of students, how they will respond in certain situations and the impact it will have on their behaviour and learning. Schools are using it to identify students in need of immediate support. In response, we have developed a range of brain-based intervention strategies informed by research from the fields of Neuroscience and behavioural change techniques.

The  ‘PASS – Mentoring Intervention Programme’ introduces pupils to a basic understanding of their brain and uses videos to demonstrate the skills driven behavioural change strategies, which, with persistent practice, will change their behaviour enabling them to be more in control of their lives.

Our approach works, schools report an average 25 per cent increase in student PASS scores when reassessed after programme completion. The outcomes for students can be  life changing.

If you would like to feedback on the contents of  this paper or find out more about the
PASS – Mentoring Intervention Programme please email me

Eileen Donnelly
NEC Member

ARTICLE: Introducing “World Kindness Day” a event to be celebrated with Liz Bates

Did you know it is World Kindness Day on November 13th ? Asks Liz Bates                                                                                                                                                      

And of course November 13th is also the start of Anti-bullying Week.

With ‘Make a noise about bullying’ being this year’s slogan perhaps it is also time to ‘make a noise about kindness’.

There is no escaping the rise of unkindness in its most evident, explicit and toxic form.

The internet has allowed anonymity to enable a ‘no rules’ onslaught of unkindness which is almost impossible to challenge.

Then at the other end of the scale are the minute by minute, everyday choices that are made, to be unkind.  And that is the root of conversations we can have with children – that unkindness is a choice and, crucially, so is kindness.

Scientific studies have shown that kindness has a great number of physical and emotional benefits and that children require a healthy dose of good, positive feelings in order to flourish as healthy, happy, well-rounded individuals.

Kindness can change our brains by simply experiencing it. We can think and talk about kindness but that is not enough.

Experiencing kindness is the best way to learn about it.

Kindness can….

  • increase positive behaviour and help to create warm, inclusive environments where children can feel safe, secure, noticed and listened to, where children can belong
  • increase the likelihood of forming relationships, children are more likely to be accepted if they are well-liked – kindness is a pro-social skill
  • change a viewpoint when helping others less fortunate
  • produce endorphins activating parts of the brain that are associated with pleasure – this can lead to good feelings
  • lead to a release of oxytocin – this can increase individual levels of happiness
  • result in ‘helper’s high’ increasing a sense of self-worth
  • increase levels of serotonin which can affect mood and other aspects of health

and all of these can lead to better mental health.

Giving and receiving kindness are equally important. Being kind to others feels good, as does someone being kind to you. And not to be forgotten is being kind to ourselves, which I will come to shortly.

Remember ‘kindness can be catching’.

The more children see and hear adults and other children ‘modelling’ kindness the more normalised those behaviours become. I am more likely to be kind to someone else if someone has been kind to me (replace kind with unkind and that too is true).

What we do and what we say are our choices, so we can talk with children about this, asking, “Why would someone choose to be unkind if we have a choice to be kind?”

Because 99 times out of 100 there is a choice.

We can interrogate the reasons that someone might have for choosing to be unkind. We can look at kindness as an active choice, not a passive act. ‘I am choosing to do this…I want to say this….why would I do or say something else instead?’ Let’s see kindness as a superpower which we all have.

There is plenty more on this in Cool to be Kind: A Storybook and Practical Resource for Negotiating the World of Friendships and Relationships such as exploring the language of kindness and I will say a little more here about that, the words we choose to say.

Language is a very powerful instrument. The words we choose to say can be helpful or harmful.

We can speak words of encouragement, praise, inspiration and enthusiasm. We can also speak words of threat, hatefulness, put downs and criticism.

And once unkind words have been said they are hard to take back.

They can sometimes leave a mess that is very hard to clean up – imagine that words are like eggs.  We have to treat them carefully – if we don’t they can leave a horrible mess.

We also have to own the words that we say – they belong to us, no-one else.

If we make a bad joke or say an unkind thing we cannot then blame the other person for not getting the joke or being upset, the unfeasible “can’t you take a joke?” ‘defence’. They are our words and we have to take responsibility for them.

So the language of kindness:
Is positive and supportive.
Is clear, with a shared understanding, so it isn’t misunderstood.
Is inclusive and does not deliberately exclude.
Belongs to us – what I say are my words, I choose to say them so they are my responsibility.  I cannot blame anyone else for the words I choose to say.

Kindness isn’t about agreeing with or liking someone else but about accepting them and upholding their right to feel safe. It is about an absence of cruelty, meanness and nastiness.  But if we do get it wrong it is important to forgive ourselves and commit to doing better and getting it right next time.  Just like anything else, the more we practice, the better we get.

We know that nurturing the moral development of children has both positive individual outcomes and also positive outcomes for others, for the group, for their peers, for the classroom, for the school, and kindness is a fundamental building block in that development.

As is our modelling of behaviours, and of language; the thousands of micro-moments we have when interacting with children.  As adults we show children kindness – why wouldn’t we?
As well as talking about what kindness means, try introducing a regular ‘kindness reflection’.

In schools this could be done on a Monday morning and Friday afternoon.

Head on table, eyes closed (if the child/children feel comfortable doing this)
Spend 1 minute thinking about:
The kind people you know
Kind acts that someone has done for you
A kind act that you could do for someone
How do you show kindness?
What more can you do to be kind or show kindness?
What can you do today or this week that is kind?
And on Friday afternoon….
What have you done this week that is kind?
What can you do this weekend that is kind?


There are some children whose unkind narrative is a repetition of what has been said or done to them by others – both adults and children.  A child who is unkind to others may be repeating the unkindnesses done to them. And may be reinforcing those unkindnesses to themselves. Self-kindness also needs to be cultivated, looked after and, as alluded to earlier, practiced.  It is about being sensitive to our own feelings as well as the feelings of others, particularly negative feelings and negative thoughts.

Some children can be self-critical to the extent that it prevents them from developing, moving forward and achieving.  This self-criticism might be said aloud and heard by others, but it is often hidden in the head of the child.

Their anger, frustration and disappointment is reinforced by their internal voice, thus maintaining the negative emotions and potentially making them worse. Supporting these children will include challenging negative self-talk and helping them to not necessarily believe their thoughts – learning to challenge that voice in their heads, the internal monologue that may be unfair and unrealistic.  Helping them to move towards accepting themselves.

There are activities and strategies we can introduce such as ‘Mean Mate’ and ‘Patient Pal’, all of which are described in detail in Cool to be Kind and the accompanying adult resource.

And finally, as Henry James said, “Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”

For much more on raising awareness, activities and lesson plans:

Cool to be Kind: A Storybook and Practical Resource for Negotiating the World of Friendships and Relationships

So have a think about what you can do to raise the profile and make a noise about  kindness in your setting and celebrate World Kindness Day, not just on November 13th,  but every day.


ARTICLE: A Guide to Setting Up & Running an Effective School Council from VotesForSchools


NAPCE is very pleased to enjoy a positive collaboration with VotesForSchools.

Once again in this month’s NAPCE News we are delighted to share an insightful article from the organisation, which we hope will inspire you.

Discover the ultimate guide to setting up and running a successful school council, empowering student voices and fostering leadership skills with VotesforSchools’ free resources.

We all know how important pupil voice is – it can bring about positive change in your classrooms, playgrounds, and beyond.

And yet, the prospect of setting up and running your school council can still be daunting, especially in a jam-packed schedule. But I can assure you it’s worth the effort: its success lies in equipping your young people with the skills they need to self-manage and lead with confidence.

What is a school council?

A group of young people who are elected by fellow pupils to represent their school and think of ideas for improving it.

Why is school council important?

Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) states that every child has the right to express their views, feelings, and wishes in all matters affecting them, and to have their views considered and taken seriously.


Let them lead the charge against bullying and amplify their voices for a safer, inclusive school..

Sign up today to receive your free Anti-Bullying Week 2023 lessons straight into your inbox ahead of the week.

Hold an election

At the start of each academic year, invite pupils from each class to create a pitch that highlights their school-wide ambitions for the year ahead. A good place to start is by reminding them of the dos and don’ts when it comes to voting and getting them to think critically about the qualities of a good representative. This not only stops elections from becoming a popularity contest, but also means that they are putting their knowledge of the democratic process into action. Getting creative by using vote slips and ballot boxes is also a great way to introduce your pupils to the voting system.

Provide opportunities for all

In your first school council meeting of the academic year, encourage members to discuss their interests and favourite subjects. This may help them to decide on who is the best fit for each role or responsibility. A good listener? Chairperson! Enjoy working with numbers? Treasurer! A keen writer? Secretary! But, most importantly, make sure that there’s something for each person to take a lead on.

Get organised

A little bit of organisation goes a long way. Having an agenda for each meeting to keep discussions on track and putting a date in the diary for the next meeting means that the councillors’ valuable time will be well spent. These might be things you want to sort out ahead of time, or as you go – decide what works best for you and your school community.

Communication is key

Keeping pupils and colleagues in the loop about upcoming meetings and events helps with the smooth running of a school council. It also makes sure that everyone knows how, when, and where to make their voices heard. Whether these details are shared through emails, posters, or assemblies, involving your school councillors in the wider conversation helps to reduce your workload and enhance their leadership skills.

Shine a spotlight on councillors

Giving your councillors the opportunity to get involved in wider school life by leading an assembly or holding a weekly surgery at break times can help make them identifiable amongst their peers and encourage pupils to share their views with them. These actions can also help to build momentum and generate enthusiasm for the school council in order to make it fully pupil-focused.

Showcase change

Making sure that the ideas raised by the representatives are being enacted in school and in the wider community allows young people to see the difference their actions are making. Small changes such as changing from single-use sauce packets to bottles at lunch, or new equipment in the playground should be celebrated for all to see. You could do this by inviting the Headteacher or your local MP to an upcoming meeting, or by encouraging the councillors to write a proposal that outlines the changes they want to make in future.

Remember, your role as teacher representative is to facilitate, rather than lead. By putting these things in place early in the academic year, it will benefit pupils and help minimise your to-do list in the long-term and inspire further school council ideas.

While working in the profession, Sophie was the teacher representative for her school council and supported students in making positive change in their school and local community. She is passionate about fostering young leaders, inspiring pupil voice and promoting democracy

About VotesForSchools

Each week VotesforSchools creates resources for teachers to have informed discussions with their classes on topical issues. The children then get a chance to vote and comment, and they then publish that data – ensuring that pupil voice goes on to have an impact. Each week around 40,000 children vote.

They want children to be informed, be curious and be heard.

Due to the nature of the debate and voting and the topics covered. VotesforSchools provides a brilliant resource for the whole school to meet British values and Prevent requirements. For more information contact

The website


AWARDS: National Awards for Pastoral Care in Education 2023 – Programme Revealed


The programme for the National Awards For Pastoral Care In Education 2023 on September 29th has been announced.

The SOLD OUT Presentation Evening at Worcestershire County Cricket Ground, Worcester – which will be busier than ever –  will include a selection of entertainment alongside guest speakers and the glitzy awards ceremony.

Tickets for the NAPCE Awards are FREE and the event includes a fizz reception, guest speaker, entertainment, pay bar and the grand presentation.

The event is SOLD OUT, however feel free to contact Anne at to join a waiting list for returns.

Now in its fourth year, the NAPCE Awards is a standout event on the education calendar.

The ceremony is open to all people working in pastoral care in education roles.

It offers a unique opportunity to celebrate the work and achievements in pastoral care and is a wonderful networking event.

The NAPCE Awards was launched by  in 2019 and is the first UK-wide scheme to recognise outstanding achievements across pastoral care in education settings.

It was created to highlight excellent practice in pastoral care and to celebrate the people making a real difference in the educational experience of young people.

It also encourages new initiatives and ideas in pastoral care and recognises the contributions being made to developing policy and practice in pastoral support.

MEETING: Next NAPCE NEC Meeting Scheduled for October 14th, 2o23

NAPCE NEC Meeting October 2023
The next meeting of the NAPCE National Executive Committee will take place on October 14th, 2023 in London.

The event will take place for the first time at Mixing Networks, Second Floor, 36 Spital Square, London, E1 6DY and will be chaired by Phil Jones.

It will be followed by a six-monthly meeting of the Pastoral Care in Education Journal Editorial Board.

This event is not open to the general public.

For more information about NAPCE, our NEC and the Journal visit


The team at NAPCE would like offer to our sincere thanks to all of our readers. You play a key role in the development of NAPCE and the education community at large. A key part of our mission statement is to continue to expand the NAPCE community. If your staff team are not ‘pastoral care aware’ please send on the link below to your colleagues. The more we share, the more we can make a positive difference to young peoples’ wellbeing throughout their school education experience.
Click here: An Introduction to Pastoral Care

We use cookies to improve your website experience. To learn about our use of cookies and how you can manage your cookie settings, please see our Cookie Policy. By closing this message, you are consenting to our use of cookies.