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The Role of the Association in the ‘Big Society’ of 2012

Phil Jones
Chair of NAPCE

This year it is 30 years since the National Association for Pastoral Care in Education was founded. It was founded to bring together people who shared similar values about the importance of education supporting the personal and social development of learners. In those early days of the Association, Educational professionals attended meetings in their local area to share ideas and views about the new initiatives and challenges that were relevant to the personal and social development of young people engaged in education. There was always a close link between theory and practice with the Association having a journal where academic debate took place about issues relevant to the association and used by members to support and guide them in their daily work with young people. The National Executive Committee was there to link together all the local groups and people who shared and valued this interest in the personal and social development of students.

There have been great changes in the 30 year History of the Association with the introduction of new technology and the impact this has had on daily life and education. It is now much easier for people to keep in contact with each other 24 hours a day for 365 days a year. There is no need for educational professionals to drive themselves to a local meeting at the end of a hard day at work to find out about the latest developments in education. There is less incentive to invest a hard earned Saturday to attend a conference to ensure that you fully understand the impact of new initiatives in education and share ideas about how the professionals in education should respond to them in the best interests of students. The Association finds itself having to consider its role in the age of the internet and is the original values and beliefs of the Association still relevant and is it still important to support the personal and social development of students engaged in learning.

One way of answering this question might be to consider why people are interested in education and why many people want to work in education. Is this not the same as 30 years ago, that most people are driven to make a contribution to education because they want to make a difference in the lives of other people and improve their life chances? It can be argued that there is now a greater need for an Association to support and promote the impact of Pastoral Care in education to support the personal and social development of students engaged in learning. The vision for the ‘Big Society’ is for people working together to improve the quality of life and the life chances of other people through self – help initiatives that make a real impact on daily life. Spending cuts are forcing educational professionals to be creative to find ways to continue supporting learners in their personal development to enable them to reach their full potential. One of the biggest impacts is on Pastoral Care with support staff being the first professionals being under threat when schools and educational institutions have to balance the books. Another casualty of the spending cuts is often opportunities for Continual Professional Development and training especially if there is no obvious link with improving an institutions standing in the league tables.

A recent article in the Times Educational Supplement with the title, “You’ll miss us if we perish, warn subject associations” reported on the challenges they are facing to support teachers at a time when they feel they are needed more than ever. They argue that despite the need for teachers to work together to raise standards membership is falling they suggest because of insecurity about jobs and cuts in school training budgets mean that teachers and support staff in schools are no longer attending training or access other services offered by the subject Associations. The National Association for Pastoral Care in Education finds itself with similar challenges. There are probably more initiatives and proposed changes in the education than there were when it was felt that there was a need to form the Association 30 years ago. The Association is a way that educational professionals who share similar values and beliefs about the importance of personal and social education can have a voice about proposed changes in practice and policy. The move to no notice inspections gains support in the popular media but in the consultation that is going to take place there needs to be some recognition of the possible negative impact of having staff living under this constant threat and the impact it could have on students well -being. As the Observer Newspaper reports on 29th January 2012, schools are facing a revolution, with for profit making companies playing a key role in the UK education system. Who can predict what the implications of this will be for people who work in education or for the students. There is no guarantee that the views of an Association will change policy but they are more likely to be listened to than the single voice of an educational professional. The National Association for Pastoral Care to participate in consultations and its shared values and beliefs needs to be able to demonstrate that it represents the views of a large membership across the country at a time when similar Associations are facing falling membership.

This is the challenge for the National Association for Pastoral Care in Education. Is there a need to promote the importance of personal and social education as part of a person’s educational experience in the modern world, how does the Association achieve this goal in the ‘Big Society’ of 2012 and how does the Association increase its membership to enable it to be able to represent the voice of educational professionals? If it is felt that there is a role for a Pastoral Care Association in the future then it is worth educational professionals investing some time in contributing their ideas on. The more ideas, suggestions and questions we have the more likely we are to find a way that we can continue to work together as educational professionals to find ways to support students and improve their future life chances. Please send any contributions or ideas to the NAPCE base by e mail to thorough the contacts page on the web site or to the administrative officer Mellissa O’Grady at the following Address:

National Association of Pastoral Care in Education (NAPCE), PO Box 6005, Nuneaton, CV11 9GY. (Telephone: 07531 453670)

This important discussion will take place at the Annual General Meeting which will be held at The Imperial Hotel in London at 12-45pm on Saturday 28th April 2012.

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