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Pastoral Care – combining theory and practice

How did pastoral care become pivotal to boosting and managing pupil wellbeing?

Pastoral care has come a long way since Michael Marland referred to the term for the first time in an educational context. Whilst others had referred to elements of what we now consider pastoral care, Marland provided the first working definition, and argued that pastoral care has a central educational purpose in itself and should not simply be viewed as a ‘bolt on’ to support academic work  [1].

Marland defined pastoral care as ‘looking after the total welfare of the pupil’. Whilst the experiences that learners have both within and outside schools has moved on drastically since 1974, the purpose of pastoral care as defined by Marland in the 1970’s remains a constant. The approach that Marland referred to, that pastoral care is not a complementary practice, but should be fully integrated, is also one that still rings true. For an approach to be effective for all members of the school community, pastoral policy and practices should be integrated throughout the teaching and learning, and structural organisation of a school in order to fully meet the needs of both staff and students [2].

With academy trusts growing in size, and in the aftermath of a global pandemic, pastoral care has never been more important. The number of pupils in schools in England reached 9 million in the 2021-2022 academic year, an increase of 88,000 from the previous [3]. Pastoral care compliments the safeguarding practices of the organisation. There is therefore a need within an ever-expanding education system to have clear and simple reporting systems. Having an accessible way to make concerns known and alert the right members of staff, whilst protecting the privacy of the individual, is crucial. Without this, a piece of the jigsaw may be missed and pastoral concerns may suffer from not getting timely attention [4].

Where pastoral care truly flourishes however is where it is given the opportunity to underpin and support best practice for teaching and learning. Good pastoral care ensures that all pupils can learn and gain life changing exam results to open doors for their next steps. The relationship between pastoral care and academic achievement should be harmonious [5].

BlueSky is pleased to launch a new module ‘Understanding pastoral care – responsibilities and strategies for school staff’ written by Amy May Forrester, Director of Behaviour and author of The Complete Guide to Pastoral Leadership. This module explores the very foundations of what pastoral care is, from examining the national changes that have taken place, through to what this means for all school staff in schools today. It then introduces key evidence bases that all those involved in pastoral care should be aware of; combining these with practical strategies that can be implemented to enhance provision for students. Watch the Taster and get started today.

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Discover more BlueSky Learning pastoral care and support modules here:


[1] Taiwo Ojewunmi, B. (2020). Pastoral care: a whole-school approach to creating the ethos of wellbeing that culminates in better engagement and improved academic achievement of learners. [online] Bera.ac.uk.

[2] Hearn, L., Campbell-Pope, R., House, J. and Cross, D. (2006). Pastoral care in education Pastoral care in education. [online]

[3] Department for Education (2022). Schools, Pupils and Their characteristics, Academic Year 2019/20. [online]

[4] Inside Government (2020). Pastoral Initiatives in Schools: What Should They Include? [online] blog.insidegovernment.co.uk. [Accessed 6 Mar. 2023].

[5] Helen Cowie (2022) Pastoral care in education today: its continuing role in promoting mental health in children and young people, Pastoral Care in Education, 40:3, 321-327.

Tamsin Denley

Author: Ally Sousa
Content Specialist, BlueSky Learning

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