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How significant is pastoral intervention towards improving rates of progress using mathematics as an indicator?

 

This paper investigates the extent to which pastoral interventions supports the progress of students within the core subjects, English, Maths and Science. Rutter and his colleagues (1979) found that ‘schools do make a difference’ but recognised that this was in terms of attendance, behaviour and attainment – in essence, students performed better in schools that are effective social institutions. Pastoral support is manifested in the ‘loco parentis’ responsibilities of a teacher. Loco Parentis can be defined as the ‘teacher taking on the role as the parent whilst the child is under their supervision’. The Children Act 1989 provides that teachers have a duty of care towards the children under their supervision, as well as promoting the safety and welfare of the children in their care. The level of this duty of care is measured as being that of a ‘reasonable parent’, but it can be much more effective than just another, tacked on, additional task that a teacher now has to be a master of. Pastoral interventions in schools can often be categorised into Pastoral Support Programmes (PSPs) which are designed to support young people who are at risk of permanent exclusion or young people who are at risk of becoming disaffected through repeated negative and often erratic behaviour.

Often pastoral intervention takes a young person centred approach, to address the inclusion of young people with challenging behaviour from a range of perspectives. Key to any intervention used on any child/person is that the process must be regular with a review period that enables close monitoring and reflection of the young person within the school environment. Research from Silins and Mulford (2002) indicate that most school effectiveness studies show that 80% or more of student achievement can be explained by student background rather than schools. However it is important to consider that the social issues that are prevalent in today’s society are far wider than any school could cater for, and therefore managing the progress at the progressive and rapid rate that is currently stipulated by the governing bodies associated to education in this country can be seen as farcical. Reay (2006) believes that a working class identity does not fit with the education system in that it is not recognised at all within teaching, curriculum etc.  Therefore the school system and the current school system can be seen to rely heavily upon the need for teachers to become social workers as well as teaching practitioners in order to maintain the rapid progress to which their performance is measured.

My research uses mixed methods consisting of interviews and focus groups/case studies. This study shows that the students at my school are very responsive to pastoral support in particular, valuing the relationships built with their tutors or teachers of a specialist subject that they are particularly affectionate or fond of. Obviously the 80% that Silins and Mulford mentioned is a huge proportion, but it must not dismissed that the remaining 20% is the effect of high quality of teaching and learning. In essence it is viable to say the biggest proportion of effort and professional development is invested in the 20% (where most of the energy and intellectual investment is made) maybe in the incorrect percentile! Maybe there lies the problem of understanding how important the pastoral programmes are, within schooling today.

Struan Mitchell Head of Guild  (PE) 

Completed through the University of St Mark and St John