Home / Education / The role of Pastoral Care in delivering quality Education

Quality pastoral care has always been a key requirement for success in schools.

This is a guest piece written by Matthew adshead, Headmaster/Proprietor of The Old Vicarage School, Darley Abbey.

In an educational environment where pupil achievement and personal development is in equal measure, Independent Schools thrive best through the creation of a positive and supportive community, where all stakeholders actively engage and unite in the delivery of excellent education, built on the foundations of exemplary pastoral care.

As the proprietor and Head of an Independent School based in Derbyshire, we implement policies on pastoral care, communicated clearly to children of all ages.

The following examples of pastoral care policies have been key to our success in establishing a nurturing educational environment, which continues to aid both personal and academic development across all year groups:

  1. The Three Knock Rule: At any time of the day a child can ask the teacher, “Please can I use the Three Knock Rule?’’ The teacher knows that a child is worried and their response would be, ”Of course. Would you like to go on your own or would you like to go with a friend?” The child would knock on the Head’s door three times. This immediately alerts the Head that it is a child who is worried. The Head stops whatever they’re doing and invites the child inside to discuss the problem. This system allows the child to exit themselves at any time from a situation where they feel worried, overly anxious, angry or unhappy. They may have an issue with one of their peers, feeling anxious because they don’t understand the work, or are even struggling with the relationship with their teacher.



  1. The School Listener: One of the most destructive human emotions can be guilt. A child may feel they have got it wrong. They may have said or done the wrong thing to upset one of their peers. They may have fallen behind with their work through their own fault. The School Listener, will listen without prejudice and then offer advice to the child on the next steps they should take to resolve an issue.


  1. Speaking to any Teacher: Children understand they can approach any adult in school to receive help with the problem, knowing that the action will engage the worry procedure, giving them the security and peace of mind to know the problem will be listened to and a solution will be sought.


  1. Speaking to Parents: Children are encouraged to involve their parents in any worries or concerns they may have. In the event they feel unable to speak to School adults directly, they know that it is acceptable and a common practice for all children to ask their parents to speak up on their behalf if the child feels unable to. This encourages open dialogue at home.


  1. Writing a Letter: There is a post box in the main hall of the School which is checked on a daily basis. Children with problems or worries can leave a note in the post box, safe in the knowledge that this will be picked up and dealt with directly by the headmaster, or the teacher they may require.


  1. Speaking to an older pupil. Creating a family environment, where the pupils feel like siblings, who understand they must look out for one another, especially those younger pupils, engenders an excellent pastoral spirit in school. Carefully monitored, appropriate peer to peer coaching and tutoring offers a highly effective way of dealing with emotional issues for children. The natural mentoring that goes on in school adds hugely to the positive atmosphere.


Ultimately, we have found children struggle most in school when harbouring their emotions. Whether this prevents them from developing relationships with their peers and teachers, or distracts from learning, suppressed emotion can be destructive.

Helping children thrive in all areas of personal and academic development is, therefore, key to their success as pupils and to our success as an Independent School. Contented children who feel able to speak up if ever they are struggling, with anything, breeds a very positive atmosphere, creating a perfect learning environment.

Matthew Adshead,

Headmaster/Proprietor of The Old Vicarage School, Darley Abbey.


Matthew is the Chairman of The Independent Schools Association for 2018-2019, which has 506 member schools nationwide.



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