Wellbeing in schools, both nationally and internationally, has seen an intense spotlight on it in recent years. This was undoubtedly accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic, and our own personal experiences and challenges of managing our wellbeing throughout this time.
We mustn’t forget to look back and appreciate our journey so far, and to take the time to really notice all of the good things we have already. In this way, we can make better decisions about the path forward.
Mike Calvert’s 2009 article ‘From ‘pastoral care’ to ‘care’: meanings and practices’ helpfully outlines the timeline of growth and the form that pastoral care in UK schools has taken over the past few decades. They proposed these “seven ages of pastoral care”:
- Pastoral care as control – this was seen in the introduction of roles such as pastoral deputy and head of year which was initially bound up in notions of control and power.
- Pastoral care as individual need – this came from a growing interest in counselling and the expectation that teachers would provide individual support which led to unevenness in the quality of provision. This was due to both a lack of willingness/ability/support to meet these needs, and a divide between the more traditionalist (disciplinarian) approach and the progressive child-centered approach.
- Pastoral care as group need – this reflects the shift to trying to meet individual needs in group situations (i.e. form tutors)
- The pastoral curriculum – recognition that the pastoral curriculum should be a part of the whole-school curriculum, and the inclusion of school-based activities that relate to personal and social development.
- Pastoral care post implementation of the National Curriculum – during the 1990s there was a growing preoccupation with the hierarchy of academic subjects and subject performance and assessment. This meant that Personal and Social Education became largely neglected.
- Pastoral care for learning – the early 2000s saw a return to pastoral provision as the dangers of a performance (over learning culture) were recognised, as well as the fact that emotional and psychological health and wellbeing contribute to academic achievement.
- Pastoral care, the wider workforce and the Every Child Matters agenda – during the late 2000s schooling provision became more diverse with different types of schools and specialisms. There was also a shift towards a greater dependence on “paraprofessionals” which used to be the remit of teachers (for example, support/mentoring/disciplinary roles). There was also a shift back somewhat towards academic output with new definitions of pastoral roles (learning mentors, learning coordinators, etc).
Having most recently worked as a head of sixth form at a British International School, I sit here reflecting on an “eighth stage” that we are currently experiencing not just in terms of pastoral care, but the broader wellbeing umbrella.
“We can’t set national policy, but we can forge our own pathway forwards.”
In August 2021, Public Health England (PHE) and the Department for Education updated their advice for promoting and supporting mental health and wellbeing in schools. They shared the following recommendations:
- Taking a coordinated and evidence-informed approach to mental health and wellbeing
- Identifying a senior mental health lead who will have strategic oversight of a school’s approach to mental health and wellbeing
- Introduction of a “mental wellbeing training module” in RSHE provision
- Mental Health Support Teams (MHSTs) in schools to provide evidence-based interventions for mild to moderate mental health issues
- Psychological first aid training for all staff to help recognise signs of mental health concerns, and provide up to date information for students
Undoubtedly these are very important policy challenges that I am hopeful will have a positive impact in schools. Many international schools “borrow” from their national systems, and as such we have started to see several of these changes in international education, notably the introduction of whole school approaches to wellbeing and dedicated mental health leads.
“Many international schools ‘borrow’ from their national systems.”
However, as those of us who work in international schools will know, there are many unique challenges and considerations in each of our contexts. Whilst these structural changes are welcomed, it is important for us to be intentional in how we approach wellbeing provision.
The “Thrive 2023: The Wellbeing Conference for International Schools” seeks to explore current learnings and future choices when it comes to wellbeing work in schools. Some of the key work related to wellbeing work in international schools that we’ll explore includes diversity, equality, inclusion and justice (DEIJ) -informed practice, trauma-informed teaching, international school alumni experiences, and supporting international school transitions.
As we emerge into post-pandemic life and navigate through a world still experiencing global turmoil, this conference aims to provide schools and educators with the knowledge and tools to best support their students and wider communities. We can’t set national policy, but we can forge our own pathway forwards by better making sense of where we’re at now, and where we still need to go.
To find out more and to book your place, please visit thrive2023.org/register