First a personal story from earlier this year.
As February half term approached I made my plans. I had a week ahead with my daughter and son without mum. The reason for this was that mum was flying to East Midlands airport to look at primary schools. It had been weeks since I had accepted this job and our priority was to find our daughter a school and make plans so that she settled quickly. She would be leaving her home, friends and life behind and we knew how important it was to get this right.
We discussed what we wanted from a school and it boiled down to three essential questions which struck at the heart of how we both felt: Will she be safe? Will she be known? Will she belong? These questions get to the heart of what is commonly meant by pastoral care.
For anyone to be able to succeed they must feel safe and secure first. This applies to all people and it is especially pertinent for children who make the first, often timid steps into an unfamiliar school environment at the age of eleven. This is one of the first pieces of educational theory that trainee teachers learn and is best described in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
There are ways that you can work out what a school’s approach to pastoral care looks like and how good it is, and you can only make an assessment by visiting. I would consider the following:
- What do children who are currently at the school say about their experience? Do they know who to go to if they need support? Can they give you an example of this?
- How many children stay on at their school for Sixth Form?
- Does the school have the ability for students to stay from eleven to nineteen years old?
- What do parents with children at the school say about support for their child?
- Do members of staff address the children by their names and with warmth?
- What systems are in place to meet the needs of children when they need support?
- What does the Ofsted report say about behaviour and conduct? Equally bear in mind that this report becomes less relevant based on how old it is because many of the students featured in such a report may have actually left by the time you read it!
All these questions will give you a sense of the standard of pastoral care but in my opinion, it comes back to something even more fundamental. What feeling do you get from your visit and the people you meet?
Outstanding pastoral care is all about finding an environment where your child will be safe, known and has a sense of belonging. Children who have these building blocks within an environment where they can develop long term friendships have significant advantages and experience greater well-being.
Want to know more about the pastoral care we offer at Robert Smyth Academy? We offer tours of the school during the week and we are hosting our open evening on Thursday 27th of September 2018. For more information call or email Alishia Read at email@example.com or 01858 440770.