"Confident, resilient adolescents don’t just cope better with emotional troubles: they learn more effectively too"

Posted on: 09 Sept 2016

Bernard Trafford, Headmaster of RGS Newcastle, discusses the contribution of proactive pastoral care to mental wellbeing in schools.

What makes great pastoral care? Having the people and systems in place to support our students. Obviously that requires excellent communication between the pastoral team and students, teachers and parents alike.

Ultimately, though, great pastoral care is achieved when a school manages truly to amalgamate that necessary focus on student attainment with the ability to listen to individual children and their needs, and to understand them beyond the grades.

With more and more schools understanding how growth mindset can inform their teaching and their pastoral support, the momentum is building - now, more than ever - for schools to embed the highest-quality care (both academic and pastoral) actively in their ethos. Thus it becomes more than wishful thinking, or any kind of add-on, rather a central focus for all the school’s work.

Achieving this isn’t necessarily easy in busy and demanding schools where teachers feel the pressure to do the very best for their students and feel driven to deliver the sort of conventional push or “support” which they know to be unhelpful: is there, for example, any sixth former (or parent) in our world who doesn’t believe that “the thicker the notes, the better their learning will be”? How can pastoral staff stand back and see the bigger picture for their students when the problems that need real help now are arriving at their door daily?

As all of us in schools are coming to realise, one way is to arm our students with the qualities of resilience, compassion and perseverance which will enable them to take more control of both their academic and personal lives and simultaneously help positive mental health.

Confident, resilient adolescents don’t just cope better with emotional troubles: they learn more effectively too. That’s the focus of ReTHINK16, RGS Newcastle’s pastoral conference which looks specifically at practical ways to support students with mental health issues.

For more information about the conference, see here.

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About Bernard Trafford

Bernard Trafford is Headmaster of the Royal Grammar School a selective, co-educational day school in Newcastle.