Dragon School Deputy Head Pastoral Kath Harvey considers how we measure and judge pastoral impact within our schools

“My child’s confidence to approach a difficult situation has flourished. They appear to now know that, successful or not, there is always a way forwards.” I have taken this quote from a recent email from a Dragon parent. This particular sentence struck a chord as it has made me question how we measure the impact of important pastoral work.

Pastoral care is at the heart of our school and is an ever-evolving entity, but is it possible to measure something seemingly intangible and, if it isn’t, how can we ensure that the pastoral care we are providing is the absolute best that it can be? Having asked myself and my colleagues this very question in order to evoke discussion and debate, there were three main points that came to the forefront.

First, it is important to remember that pastoral care is part of every result – entrance exams, future school interviews, scholarships, relationships, discussion and debate, demonstration of values, to name but a few. Academic goals and pastoral care are not separate entities but intertwine on a daily basis.

The second point that arose was around legacy and impact. As Maya Angelou said: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”. When supporting pupils, whether as a teacher or a parent, we can recognise the impact we can have on a child’s day, perhaps providing a space and time where they can feel seen and heard.

“Education is not a race, but a journey, and we design curriculums to inspire, encourage and develop free-thinking, confident young people”

The third point was around character development and emotional intelligence. Our PSHEE/RSE curriculums, as well as assemblies and tutor time, are the game-changing moments where we can support pupils in building positive character traits. Promoting these personal development skills is critical, and every school can encourage emotionally intelligent individuals who are able to positively influence the future relationships they will have, the industries they’ll contribute to and the way in which they treat the world around them – long after their time at school.

Behind every child is not simply the teacher who imparts knowledge but the teacher who builds connections, settles their nerves and fosters confidence, lesson by lesson. The world is moving on from the belief that children should learn what they need to, sit the exam, get the desired result, then on to the next thing. Particularly since lockdown, but also as the world evolves, we are all more acutely aware of what coping strategies may be required in certain situations. Education is not a race, but a journey, and we continue to design curriculums that are holistically driven and in line with our aim: to inspire, encourage and develop free-thinking, confident young people.

So, back to our original question. Maybe it’s not possible to measure pastoral care in the sense of data capture and ticking boxes, but when, together with our Dragon parents, we stand back and look at the children in our care and feel pride as we see them navigating emotionally testing situations openly, confidently and without fear of making a few mistakes along the way, that is when we know we are on to something that really works. The same is true when we meet Old Dragon alumni who have grown up into emotionally intelligent young adults who have formed wonderful and heathy relationships with friends, partners, colleagues and bosses. Perhaps that is how we can truly measure our success.

Dragon School dragonschool.org

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