A Philosophy of Care
Benenden prides itself on giving bespoke pastoral care to all students and on supporting their family ties. Rather than regarding boarding as separating students from their families, we prefer to see it as parents allowing us to share in their daughters’ formative years. Home will always remain the most important place in girls’ lives and their parents the most important people. We work together with parents and keep in regular contact with them to ensure students have the opportunity to flourish.
What is Pastoral Care?
Pastoral Care is about looking after students so they can lead fulfilling and balanced lives at school and beyond; it is about showing students how to look after themselves and others; it is about encouraging them to seek help or support or advice when they need it and it is about helping them to be ready to become fully fledged adults who are comfortable in their own skins when they leave school. Pastoral care underpins personal development; where there is outstanding pastoral care and students feel they belong and their self-esteem is able to grow because they feel valued.
Pastoral care begins with an underlying ethos of consideration and kindness and is promoted when the staff work collaboratively for the good of the students. If the ethos supports students’ personal and social development and where a culture of encouraging good behaviour and taking on responsibility exists, students can be given the opportunity to develop self-confidence (not arrogance), to learn to keep things in perspective and to be resilient.
All staff have a role in supporting students; indeed we share the responsibility for ensuring students are safe and that their welfare is promoted. Key figures with specific responsibility for student welfare are the Hms and their House teams of matrons, tutors and domestic staff. Medical Staff and teachers play a significant role too as do many other staff. The students are fortunate to have a dedicated team of supporters looking out for the welfare.
Pastoral Support in House
In Houses, students have a team of staff who offer them emotional, academic, social and practical support. Staff set out to develop firm, meaningful, nurturing relationships, beyond the normal realm of adult/student contact seen in many schools. Because the House acts as a second home and the students spend a great deal of time in it, House staff try to get to know their charges and their families extremely well. When we take on a student, we try to understand her background, her behaviour, her abilities – strong and weak – and her potential. Each student is an individual, as well as part of a House. Each needs an individual approach, which can only be developed through open channels of communication and time spent getting to know one another. From the meeting and greeting at drop off and pick up times, the regular email and phone conversations between school and home and the informal chats at school events, we aim to establish, warm friendly relationships with parents which often help us to understand their daughters and certainly help us to deal more effectively with difficulties when they arise.
Pastoral Support in School
Heads of Years and Tutors, Medical Staff and teachers, coaches and escorts, domestic and administration staff, in fact all adults who work at School have their role to play in supporting students. If the adults take a proactive approach to student welfare - helping them to stay safe and healthy, encouraging them to care for one another, showing them how they might contribute to School and the world beyond, teaching them to stand up for what is right and to voice their concerns when things are not - we will have a vibrant and enriching community life, from which we all benefit.
Where to Seek Help
Our aim is that all students will have a choice of members of staff to go to when they need advice or guidance. No one should feel completely alone and there are posters on House noticeboards making suggestions where students might seek help. In addition to staff already mentioned, there are Prefects, other House Officials and Big Sisters too.
When a member of staff needs advice on how to give a student pastoral support, the first person to speak to is the Housemistress/master (Hm). Normally the easiest thing is to chat with the Hm over break in either the morning or afternoon or to email. The Tutor is also an important point of contact, especially for academic matters. The Hms and Tutors are the best people to have an overview of the issues which may affect a student and they are always keen to hear from colleagues about joys as well as concerns. Each Hm has a day off on either a Tuesday or a Thursday and on their day off their deputy stands in for them in all aspects of the day to day care of the students in the House. The Matron is another point of contact when the Hm or their deputy is not available. The list of Hms, deputies and matron by Houses and with contact numbers can be found on the portal.