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Pastoral reflections April 27, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Leading Schools of the 21st Century, New releases, Pastoral issues.
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Co-editor Nigel Richardson introduces the latest book in the Leading Schools in the 21st Century series, Pastoral Work, in an article that first appeared in the summer edition of Boarding School magazine.

In a hundred years time what will historians write about UK education in the early twenty-first century? Technological advances in teaching, from audio and videotape to DvD and Internet? The shift in preoccupation from teaching to learning? Ceaseless exam reform and dumbing down? Worrying parents, and websites such as Twitter and Mumsnet? Hugely increased inspection and regulation, and (for boarding schools) the OFSTED/ISI and social services double-whammy, stemming from the Children Act 1989?

But many of these things are essentially administrative and procedural. More interesting for more perceptive scholars of the year 2100 will be the pastoral issues and what has shaped them.

Puberty comes increasingly early, and apparently more rapidly once it starts. Teenagers are much taller and heavier than even forty years ago. The disciplinary problems once seen in Year 11 now appear in Year 9 or even earlier. Children are more worldly-wise than when Enid Blyton was required reading up to 12 or 13 and young lives were centred around dolls, model railways and Meccano. Childhood has become foreshortened: some children are too precocious for their own good. Other wilt under the remorseless pressure of expectation about academic, university and eventual career success.

Meanwhile we have relaxed what might loosely be termed as censorship controls, believing that treating children as young adults and not wrapping them up in emotional cotton wool is a laudable philosophy. They are thus exposed to a huge range of information, which they may be able to handle intellectually but not emotionally. This situation is fed by impact of television, advertising and the Internet, e-mail and the mobile phone – much of it very beneficial, but some of it manipulative, exploitative and deeply worrying.

Bringing up young people in the broadest sense has become more child-centred.  Within the wider family there is less of a hierarchical style: a greater use of first names by children when talking to adults.  We have recently become increasingly preoccupied with the concept of ‘emotional intelligence’.

Click here to read the remainder of the article on the Boarding School ezine website…

  • Pastoral Work and Those Who Practise It: Essays in leadership for changing times. Edited by Hilary Moriarty and Nigel Richardson. Published for the Boarding Schools’ Association  and the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference by John Catt Educational Ltd, 2010
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