Different Worlds: Leading Pastoral Care In Contrasting Social Contexts

Year: 2015

Author: Gray, Sheridan

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Pastoral care, the work of discipline and care, is a generally accepted aspect of school life that occupies a myriad of administrative, disciplinary and student welfare tasks. Yet it is often absent from recent policy discussion and debates and there is a paucity of recent research about pastoral care in most national contexts as well. This paper reports case study research in two New Zealand secondary schools that focussed on their approaches to pastoral care. One was a large and affluent school that was perceived as traditional and aimed to maintain a competitive edge. The other school was in a low socio-economic area and prided itself on its care and inclusion practices. School leaders’ understanding of appropriate pastoral practice in these settings was heavily influenced by school context such as the socio-economic status of the school community, the historical practices of each school and their respective positioning in local social hierarchies. At the same time the schools had to respond to market competition and enact broader policy directives that had little cognisance of diversity. The study suggests that although pastoral care is seen as the key to managing to managing the problems of low socio-economic schools and communities, the current policy environment in New Zealand gives little recognition of the greater need for resourcing, professional development or guidance for pastoral practice in these settings. Meanwhile there can also be disturbing aspects of pastoral care in wealthier schools and yet these problems are not recognised by policy either. The study calls for renewed policy emphasis on pastoral care in diverse school contexts rather than leaving so much of it to the whims of individual school leaders operating in educational markets.