The origins of the concept of 'pastoral' care lie in the biblical idea of the 'shepherd' or pastor as one who cares for the flock. Within the early Christian community, the idea of Jesus Christ as the 'shepherd' developed, taking its best-known form from the image of the 'good shepherd' of St John's Gospel. Notions of 'pastoral care' derive ultimately from this model, as do specifically Christian understandings of 'pastoral ministry'.
Pastoral care in schools
The idea of schools as institutions providing 'pastoral care' as well as academic learning is rooted in the house system of independent boarding schools but is also very strongly represented in the year based and 'house' based pastoral support systems of many maintained schools and academies. A maintained school's or academy's pastoral system is most usually organised either 'vertically' in houses or 'horizontally' in year groups, with pupils belonging to a form or tutor group which may consist of pupils in the same age group or of mixed ages. Senior teachers in almost all schools carry out roles of pastoral leadership, which normally combine both a 'pastoral' and a disciplinary function. Many schools will have a deputy head or vice-principal heading up the pastoral system, also known in some schools as the 'student services' area.
SCALA is committed to a vision of education in which the support of the individual pupil and his or her relationships with others are central, and we therefore aim to foster the development of good pastoral practice in schools, through courses, publications and consultency work with individual schools.
A selection of relevant and reflective SCALA articles can be found in the Archive section of this website.
The pastoral role of the Chaplain
A school's pastoral staff seek to further the work of the school by caring for individual pupils – which may mean also disciplining them to keep them on track – and by supporting their academic learning. The role of the school chaplain is rather different. A chaplain usually has pastoral responsibility for the whole of the community, rather than (as in the case of pastoral staff) a section of it. His or her care covers pupils, teachers, school leaders, school non-teaching staff, and the extended school community – including parents. He or she may also double as a teacher, but instead of carrying a role which may also be disciplinary, like other 'pastoral' staff, the chaplain has a prior commitment to supporting the individual welfare of each person in his or her care.
In some schools the chaplain may also have a particular role in supporting the head teacher.
She or he will aim to represent the pastoral care and presence of Christ, and to bring religious awareness and the insights of faith to bear on the issues confronting both individuals and the school community. This may involve a 'prophetic' role, and the chaplain may find him - or herself both comforting and challenging the school community.
For further information on the role of the school chaplain, go to the Appraisal section of this website.