Pastoral Initiatives in Schools: What Should They Include?

Pastoral initiatives: The provisions of care an education provider gives to children to ensure their physical and emotional wellbeing. A successful pastoral initiative means children and young people are cared for and can integrate well with the education system.

Pastoral care shouldn't be confused with teaching style - it’s the series of policies all staff members follow. In this blog, we’ll explore what independent schools should include in their pastoral initiatives as well as some real-life examples.

What Should Pastoral Initiatives Include?

Excellent pastoral care is provided when the needs of children are put at the centre of all school operations. So what types of inclusions does this entail?

Open Communication

Independent schools must have a well-developed system for reporting pastoral concerns. This means an accessible way to make concerns known (possibly through a secure online portal) which then reaches the right members of staff, such as the Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL) or more likely, the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO). 

Having these two members of staff in place to meet or resolve issues quickly and efficiently is important for any educational provider. However, without the right communication procedures in place, pastoral concerns can suffer from not getting the attention they deserve. 

The communications procedure also needs to respect the privacy of the individual or group raising the concern. 

Create Opportunities for Multifaceted Learning

As pastoral initiatives are long-term processes, they need to feed into the curriculum as well. Independent schools, while being able to tailor their curriculums, must provide a well-rounded educational agenda. For more information on this, you can read our blog on what independent schools are required to include in their curriculums. 

Bringing in the pastoral side of the curriculum, schools can provide activities and opportunities for students to learn more holistically to develop both resourcefulness and independence. These can be provided to make sure students learn things that aren’t necessarily present in everyday lessons. 

This could be represented by school trips, charity fundraisers or other individual activities. However, in current climates this can be difficult. Fortunately, schools are in a good position to directly place these kind of initiatives within the online environment. For example, Chester Zoo run a virtual zoo day where those tuning in can experience the animals from the comfort of their homes. Alternatively, the Natural History Museum is running online exhibits that people can enjoy. There are many new digital opportunities that schools can employ within the confines of national lockdown.

Use Data to Review Practices

By using data collection (which must be done safely and in compliance with GDPR measures - more on this here) and student, parent and staff surveys, independent schools can measure the effectiveness of their pastoral initiatives. This helps to create an iterative process where any issues can be confronted and amended each term or year.

The data should be quantitative and qualitative. It should also be collected from every level of the school, from senior executives to students and parents.

Engage the Student Body

Staff members shouldn't solely influence pastoral initiatives. As students are the ones experiencing the effects of any strategy, they should be encouraged to provide their thoughts and feelings so they can gain a better understanding of any initiatives.

Clemett and Pearce (1989) write that:

‘When everyone in the school community knows and feels secure in the knowledge that as valued members of that community, they can participate in giving and receiving encouragement, guidance and support.’

NB: This list isn't exhaustive.

The Importance of Pastoral Initiatives

With the definition of pastoral initiatives being broad, ranging from ethical development to mental wellbeing, it’s a highly important part of a school’s offerings. Pastoral initiatives also extend to including religious or sex education within a school’s curriculum. 

Pastoral initiatives in schools have been noted for their importance within the process of healthy development for children or young people. They can also be expressed through the concept of ‘nurturing’, allowing for healthy emotional development which will inhibit barriers to learning. 

For example, pastoral care compliments any safeguarding practices that are in place within a school, where they not only try to prevent harm but also promote healthy lifestyles. By putting pastoral initiatives in place, schools can create a better environment for bridging the gap between students and teachers, increasing communication and ensuring better development. 

This is also the point in which students can be taught about the importance of equality, diversity and democracy.

Pastoral Initiatives in Action

Pastoral initiatives in schools can be represented in different ways, so there's never one universal approach schools can implement. For example, Whitefield Academy School in Barnet has students arriving in Year 7 with attainment lower than the national average. However, results at the end of Key Stage 4 are fully in line with national average and progress figures are always high, meaning there's an excellent educational framework practised throughout those years.

The school uses targeted support for specific students to help them in their studies. For example, the school has a diverse community with many students having English as a second language, so language support can be provided. 

“We work with a range of external agencies to ensure that actions appropriately support individuals and their families. Excellent wrap around care ensures that young people are able to attend regularly, behave well and are ready to learn.” said the headteacher, Liz Rymer.

She added: “The school has a strong partnership with the Local Authority and with other schools. The LA funded Resilient Schools Programme is clearly supporting learning. We also run the Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) programme for the local authority.”

Rather uniquely, each form of students has two form tutors, instead of the traditional one. This is so there are no ‘lost learners’ or RHINOs (Really Here In Name Only). The school also implements a number of the following:

  • Form time is supported by well-trained support staff working in a centralised Student Services Hub. This is similar to student services or unions found in universities.
  • Access to CAF support. 
  • A school-based councillor.
  • Mentoring opportunities.
  • Anger management therapy.
  • Inclusion meetings.

These are just a few of the initiatives that Whitefield practises that make their pastoral care stand out. Many of these inclusions are greatly affected by budgetary constraints, but the overall approach of providing many avenues of support is very effective. 

Online Pastoral Care

Evidently, during the time of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown, schools have had to move their pastoral initiatives online. Students are under a lot of stress in these uncertain times and so the need for pastoral care is all the more important. So how should schools be offering this type of support online?

  • Understand the needs of your students: Review and discuss the nature of your students’ needs and situations. This is a practice that can still be done online. To aid this, why not send out regular wellbeing surveys to gauge the emotional state of your pupils?
  • Remember to communicate: Maintain regular contact through emails or video conferencing. Offer online drop-in sessions. Also, don’t forget to keep parents’ up-to-date regarding progress.
  • Monitor engagement: Keep track of how your pupils are engaging with work and how often they’re submitting completed tasks. This is a good way of seeing how your online curriculum and teaching style is being interacted with.
  • Maintain safeguarding as a core practice: Whatever you practised in school should also be practised online. This means offering guidance, support and the usual safeguarding methodology and processes. You can also offer bespoke safeguarding advice tailored around staying safe online. 
  • Respond to the community: Seek feedback from all those involved within the school environment, such as parents, teachers and students themselves. Any issues raised can be quickly solved.

As we’ve said, pastoral initiatives are all the more important in the current situation. The coronavirus pandemic has affected every aspect of school life and presented the education sector with a number of challenges. This is also compounded by the uncertainty of the Brexit outcome. To offer an amount of clarity on the matter for education professionals, we’ve created a free eBook you can explore.

The State of Education: Post-Lockdown and Post-Brexit

To discover more about the state of education now and in the future, download our eBook. We cover the implications and effects of both Brexit and COVID-19 and offer some guidance for those working in education, especially in higher education institutions. 

To learn more about the current and upcoming situations, as well as ways of dealing with the outcomes, simply click the button below.

Guide on the State of Higher Ed