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Why Pastoral Care is fundamental to Academic Achievement

Posted: 10th August 2023

St Lawrence College Barney Durrant

Why Pastoral Care is fundamental to Academic Achievement

As a head teacher with three children, one of the key factors in making a decision as to where I want to teach is whether my children will thrive in that school. There are a whole host of factors that I look at when deciding which school to choose, but fundamentally it comes down to one thing – will my children be happy. This may seem like an interesting thing for a head to say, but it does not mean that I don’t value academia and nor does it mean that I am not expecting rigour within a school. Ultimately though, my children will thrive in a school when they are happy – but this does not happen by chance. This is what lead me to think about pastoral care in schools, for schools to genuinely develop positive wellbeing amongst their children, there needs to be a clearly thought-out programme of social and emotional learning, and this needs to run throughout the school. 

Why do I think that pastoral care in schools is so important?

The explicit teaching of values, respect and compassion are vital to developing empathetic learners with the soft skills necessary to thrive in the 21st century marketplace. Schools should not just be places where we learn subjects, but places to learn about our position within the global society, to learn about different cultures and customs and to understand differences. They provide opportunities for our pupils to develop tolerance and to understand how diverse our population is. When looking at pastoral care in schools, with an explicit emphasis on wellbeing and positive relationships, our pupils develop emotional intelligence and understand the importance of being part of a community. I want my children to grow up to become leaders in whatever field they choose, but to do that they will need to be collaborative, thoughtful, able to listen to others and resilient. These are all skills that can be taught and developed if schools have the desire and commitment to teach them – and in my mind, with the amount of time that we are able to spend with the pupils, there is no better place to teach them than in boarding schools. 

Pastoral Care in Schools

I obviously want my children to develop into good citizens, but there is also a direct correlation between positive wellbeing and academic achievement that is linked to pastoral care in schools. A study by the Department for Education demonstrated that pupils with positive emotional wellbeing in Year 2, had gained more than one additional term’s progress by the end of Year 6, when compared to those with neutral or negative wellbeing. Additionally, in the senior school, wellbeing can make a significant difference to GCSE and A Level results, as positive social and emotional wellbeing has been proven to boost attainment by between 11% and 17%.

There is also the opposite correlation. No school condones bullying, but those who do not have a genuine focus on pastoral development and care are more likely to see bullying type behaviours amongst their pupils. Thus emphasising the importance of pastoral care in schools. Pupils bullied at aged 14 score significantly lower GCSE grades when aged 16 than those who experience a positive school experience. If a child experiences bullying, the probability of gaining five or more GCSE passes is reduced by 10%, pupils attain 5 A Level points lower on average, and income at 25 years old is reduced by 2.3%. When you recognise the direct impact that wellbeing has on academic achievement, my comment on looking for a happy school perhaps has more context. 

A Sense of Belonging

Furthermore, if my children feel a sense of belonging towards the school and feel happy, settled and valued, their confidence, self-esteem and engagement will grow. They will try new things and are more likely to involve themselves fully in the extra-curricular programmes. Not only do these develop the essential soft skills vital in life, but they similarly have a direct correlation with academic achievement – with pupils engaging in self-development activities (including sport and physical activity) achieving 10-20% higher GCSEs.

I often hear parents talking about how they want an ‘academic school’ and that, whilst they are sure that the pastoral care in schools is important, they just want their children ‘to achieve results’. The reality is that the two are inextricably linked and schools that actively promote and develop wellbeing amongst their pupils will deliver better results for those pupils. 

Holistic Education

A genuinely holistic education, therefore, that places a strong emphasis on wellbeing and pastoral care in schools will develop children with greater emotional balance, fewer activity and attention problems, less troublesome behaviours and more positive friendships. It will develop the soft skills necessary to thrive in the modern day marketplace and give our children the best possible chance of achieving high performance in all that they do. Everything else will flow from developing happy, secure, confident children – that is what I want for my children, and what I aim to develop in my school.

Barney Durrant MA
Head of College

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