Understanding and addressing the pastoral needs of students in high achieving schools


I know we’re all a bit COVID fatigued by now, but there’s no denying that the past 18 months have been physically and emotionally challenging, to say the least. As educators, we have always cared about our students, but as the stigma of mental health has begun to wane and we’re talking more openly about it, student wellbeing is finally being placed exactly where it should be - at the very heart of education. 

Although strong pastoral systems and support have always existed in our school, we recognised we were often reacting rather being proactive and we were looking for ways to support the emotional well being of students in a more rigorous, preventative way.

The number of safeguarding concerns linked to mental health rose by 140% from Term 1 and 2 in 2019/20, to Term 1 and 2 in 2020/21 and we were aware that the ripple effect of COVID would be felt for many months and years to come. 

Dr Suniya Lather’s research indicates that adolescents at high achieving schools (like ours) suffer from symptoms of depression and anxiety at rates three to seven times higher than national norms for children their ages. The research also states that “ data suggests that educators in High Achieving schools would do well to assess their own schools’ students”. We knew we wanted to find a cost-effective way of assessing our students’ wellbeing and attitudes to learning enabling us to target interventions and support in the short term, therefore leading to longer term positive impacts on progress and attainment. And PASS was the perfect solution!

It’s true that PASS is a bit of a beast! So many schools are doing so many amazing things with the information it generates. But this can leave schools feeling overwhelmed, and tempted to park the idea on a shelf because it all feels like too much.

I’m hoping that by sharing what we have done at the start of our journey, as a step-by-step guide, it will inspire some of you to dust off that PASS manual and make a start, because the impact has already been incredibly positive. 

Step 1: Gather the data.

As our students have personal tablets, we decided to survey all students at the same time, on the same day, We provided a brief guidance presentation for staff to use, as well as the translation of questions into our students’ native languages in case of any comprehension issues.

Step 2: Give yourself time to look at and understand the data. 

But don’t look at everything! We focused initially on the individual RAG report, identifying students who needed more immediate intervention - those who were red and/or orange across the majority of factors. 

Step 3: Create time for staff and students to meet.

Meaningful conversations take time. Our support tutors covered registration for one week, while Tutors used this time to meet one-to-one with priority students. 

Step 4: Just start a conversation

This was a crucial point for us. We didn’t want staff to feel like they had to have all the answers and we didn’t want workload to become unmanageable. We just wanted staff to use this as a way to open up a conversation with students. Because sometimes just knowing there is an adult who cares is enough to make a positive difference. 

The PASS Interventions tool was helpful for this, because it provided some ideas of questions Tutors could consider for each factor. In total, in just one week, Form Tutors held meetings with 12% of our entire student body with many Tutors organising to follow up with students every two weeks.

Whilst PASS has so much potential, the most important point is just to start somewhere!


Find out more in the forthcoming webinar!

Jacqueline will go into further detail about the changes to the school's pastoral programme in a new webinar taking place on Wednesday 23rd February at 9am UK time. She will share:

  • Their four-stage process for surveying and analysing PASS data
  • The positive impact in the classroom
  • 8 top tips for implementing PASS

Find out more and register here.



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