Pastoral Care – what does it mean?

Posted: 25th April, 2016. Topics:

Well, we know that Independent School’s can really be a tricky minefield to negotiate: admissions processes, open days, forms, variety of choice, taster days, uniform purchasing etc, but none so than the incessant jargon that goes with Independent Schools.

Sometimes I think that schools forget that there are two very different markets looking at Independent Schooling for their child/ren: families have had had generations in independent schools (and are a dying breed), and first time buyers – the new target market. As a recent Independent School reporting summarised, the sector has gone from parents who were ‘Tim Nice but Dim’, to ‘Loads a Money!’

Unfortunately, schools themselves have not embraced these market changes as tight lipped, pearl-wearing admissions ladies (generally the Heads PA), continue as they always have in terms of their language and cold welcome (“….because in my day, cold showers and no heating was what it was all about…”)

So I am going to untangle the jargon starting with the number one jargon topping phase – Pastoral Care (Huuuuhhhhh?). What does it mean?

Google says, ‘Pastoral care is an ancient model of emotional and spiritual support that can be found in all cultures and traditions.’

ISBI says, “ To look after pupils personal needs, rather than their education. Making sure they are happy, comfortable, well-fed and have clean laundry, etc.”

Mumsnet users have also tried to debunk this jargon with the following: ‘emotional support and guidance’, ‘looking after the welfare of the child rather than just their academic side,’ and ‘When talking about a school it means things like, do they notice a pupil who is unhappy and would they know what to do about it, do they clamp down on bullying and help pupils to resolve their differences, do they have procedures in place to support a pupil who is struggling due to problems at home/illness/bereavement/etc.’

I think Mumsnet users have it right. Independent Schools do more than provide counsellors, they have a system of tutors, Heads of Year and boarding teams that care for the whole person – academic and emotional. Schools recognize that pupils could be having difficulties with academic work because of issues at home, or bullying from other pupils or a myriad of reasons. Independent Schools are about the whole person in many cases, so for a child to be successful and achieve, you have to consider all the various contacts that a child has both in school and at home. As Daniel Goleman put it in his bestseller Emotional Intelligence, “If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand… then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.”

Other jargon topping phrases:

Assignments – Homework

Absence – from school, morning or afternoon

Boarding (Full/weekly/flexi) – Boarders are pupils who stay at the school overnight. This could be one, two, or three nights a week which is considered as flexi boarding; weekly boarding is pupils who stay at the school overnight from Sunday or Monday through to Friday, and then full boarding is staying overnight at the school for the full week.

Bursary - Some independent schools provide bursaries, which are grants from the school to help pay school fees and may be means tested. They differ from scholarships, which are usually dependent on the pupil’s ability (eg: academic, music, sport, or art primarily).

CCF – Combined Cadet Force. The tradition of cadet units in schools goes back 150 years to 1860 and ever since it was formed in 1948, the Combined Cadet Force (CCF) has been recognised as a first class, extra curricula activity for the development of young people, and particularly to provide cadets with an exciting opportunity for teenaged cadets to exercise responsibility and leadership in a disciplined environment.

Co-ed – co-educational education whereby both boys and girls are educated at the school

Common Entrance - Common entrance examinations are sometimes required to be taken by pupils for admission to an independent school and is geenrally held at age 13+.

Common Room – This is generally referred as another collective noun for the academic staff in an independent school; or pupils may have a common room whetre they can meet in year groups during break times.

DofE – Duke of Edinburgh Award

Dormitories – These are boarders’/pupils’ bedrooms, usually shared by several pupils. This is becoming less and less the norm now, and certainly older pupils may have single study bedrooms.

Exeat - For many Independent Schools, exeat weekends are set weekends during the term (usually two – one per half term) where all boarding pupils go home or in the case of International pupils to a guardian. Generally these are the only weekends boarders can go home to see  their parents, and it also gives boarding staff some time off during the term time from their continual boarding duties.

ISC – Independent Schools Council, represents over 1200 Independent Schools in the UK, with the aim to promote the sector.

ISI – The Independent Schools Inspectorate is the body responsible for the inspection of schools in membership of the Associations that make up the Independent Schools Council.

Lent Term/Half – Easter Term or Spring Term / Easter Half Term or Spring Half Term

Michaelmas Term/Half - Christmas Term or Autumn Term / Christmas Half Term or Autumn Half Term

Mufti – Schools have mufti days which consists of pupils coming to school in their own clothes, as opposed to uniform. Mufti is also used for boarders own clothes which they wear in many cased in the evenings and weekends at school rather than the uniform.

OEd – Outdoor Education

Pre-Prep - Independent schools preparing children up to the age of seven for entry into fee-paying, preparatory independent schools, which may also be known as public or private schools. Abbotsholme is different because we have a Prep School for pupils aged between 4-11, we have decided to call our School for pupils aged 3-4 the Pre-Prep (the school before Prep.)

Prep – another word for homework; another word for Junior School usually for pupils aged between seven and 11. It is a shortened form of the word Preparatory.

Public School - Schools which are self-governing and funded independently of the state

Private School - Schools which are self-governing and funded independently of the state

The San – Health centre; shortened from the word Sanatorium

Tuck - Snacks and sweets, either brought from home or bought from the school tuck shop


So there you go – debunking the jargon within our sector. If you have any more, please add your jargon and
comment to this post.

Hirch – the Dog that Blogs



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