Children will flourish when they feel happy, well settled and valued within the school environment. It is the quality of the pastoral care that they receive, in addition to academic and extra-curricular opportunities, that will aid them to achieve this.
As important in day schools as it is when children are boarding, parents should always ask about the pastoral care when visiting a potential school. Reading the most recent inspection report which you should find on the school’s website will give you a good insight into the pastoral care provision.
When you visit the school make sure you look at the boarding accommodation, or form rooms or house rooms if it is a day school. Do they look comfortable, welcoming and in good decorative order?
Some schools deliver pastoral care in a horizontal system via form and tutor groups which contain children who are all in the same school year. Others have a house system which is vertical and children from all years in the school will meet together. Evaluate the pros and cons of each system and decide which you feel best suits your child.
You need to know who your child will go to if they need help and assess whether you think this person is approachable and appears to know the children in their care. How much time do they spend with the children outside the class and houseroom environment and consequently how well do they know the children as individuals? You could ask the school how they might deal with particular issues that may arise and evaluate the response. If you are told who will be your child’s houseparent or tutor if you accept a place at the school, do you like them and feel that they will offer your child the right support?
Does the school have a system of prefects, mentors or ‘buddies’ and what responsibilities or expectations come with these roles?
How does the school deal with bullying in person or online as wells as smoking, drugs or alcohol?
How does the school communicate with the parents? Open lines of communications are vital in supporting a child.