2.1 Policies, Pastoral Care and Practical Applications
An important element of classroom practice is child welfare and pastoral care. It is important to be aware of the primary policy initiatives, standards and expectations in this area before entering a classroom. The aim of education is not only subject-specific knowledge, but also the education of the whole child, and this aim can only be achieved when learners feel safe, valued, respected and nurtured. Most schools appoint specialist teachers with specific responsibility for the pastoral care of their pupils, however pupil welfare is the responsibility of all teaching staff and it is critical that newly qualified teachers recognise its importance and are aware of policies and frameworks designed to promote the wellbeing of children in schools.
Specific national initiative and policies have been developed in this area and it is important that practitioners have a familiarity with them as well as being aware of where to find out further information should they require specialist advice and guidance. Some of the policy areas and statutory obligations in this area that we will look at in this module include:
- Safeguarding: Safeguarding is action that is taken to protect children from abuse and neglect and promote their wellbeing, ensuring that all children experience safe and effective caregiving. National and local policies on safeguarding will give guidance on how children can be kept safe within educational establishments and other institutions as well as advice on procedures to be taken when it is thought that a child may not be safe or well cared for.
- Equality and Diversity: Schools, along with other statutory bodies, have a legal obligation to promote equality and diversity and ensure that individuals are treated fairly and equally regardless of their race, gender, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation or marital status. Schools are also required to identify children at risk of radicalisation and take steps to prevent them from being drawn into extremism.
- Data Protection: By necessity, schools hold a great deal of data on children and their families. Some of this data is considered "sensitive personal data" which there are particular rules around its security - processing schools and teachers are obliged to hold this data securely, and ensure that any sharing of information is processed in accordance with the law.
- Health and Safety: Schools are responsible for the health and safety of pupils while in their care. In addition to a general duty of care, this means that certain activities, such as science experiments or school trips, may require risk assessments to determine how risk can be minimised and how students can be kept as safe as possible while also maximising educational opportunities.
It should be remembered that schools are not just institutions for the transfer of knowledge, but are there to educate the whole child and have a responsibility for promoting their wellbeing and safety. Schools have legal obligations under each of these areas as institutions and teachers also share some of these legal obligations individually. These obligations must be taken seriously to ensure that this responsibility is adhered to. It is important that practitioners are familiar with their legal responsibilities and committed to upholding them. On occasion, some of these responsibilities may come into conflict and you may feel tension between your different responsibilities. Through this module, you should be able to identify the underlying principles of the legislation and where to seek support and guidance should you feel that you require additional support to meet your obligations.
Teachers should also be aware of, and sensitive to, the "hidden curriculum": the transfer of norms, values and beliefs which are not explicitly taught, or are not necessarily intentional - and may even be operating against the expressed intentions of the teacher - but which is implicit in interactions and reward structures. For example, a teacher may verbally tell pupils not to shout out and to raise their hands instead while simultaneously rewarding those who do shout out answers with praise and acknowledgement, tacitly conveying that aggressive pushiness will be rewarded even where it is officially discouraged. The social and moral values which are conveyed through pupil experiences should be reviewed to ensure that what is unintentionally being taught is in alignment with the lessons that the teacher actually wishes to convey.
Before you begin this module, we should ensure that it's clear what we would like you to take from it.
Goal for this module
To be aware of the wider remit of schools and their role in the promotion and protection of child welfare beyond the narrow focus of education, as well as the responsibilities that schools have to follow legal guidelines on keeping students healthy, safe, nurtured and protected.
By the end of this module, you should be able to:
- Identify and explain the importance of pastoral care within schools and its role in the promotion of the wellbeing of pupils.
- Identify the main policy areas and initiatives which are designed to ensure that children are respected and nurtured within schools, and where further information on each of these can be obtained.
- Understand the legal responsibilities of a classroom teacher under a variety of legislation as it pertains to the welfare, safety and protection of pupils.
- Apply your knowledge and understanding of your legal responsibilities to a range of situations ensuring that your teaching is both legally compliant and in line with best practice.
- Acknowledge where responsibilities under different areas of policy may be in conflict and evaluate how best to uphold the underlying principles as well as when to seek guidance from specialist practitioners.
- Be aware of the existence of the hidden curriculum and develop a reflective approach to ensure as far as possible that the values, norms and beliefs that you are subconsciously transmitting are in line with that which you wish to convey.