Teach First ambassadors Emily Heath and Theresa Ball
Emily Heath and Theresa Ball
Founders of the Teach First Pastoral Network

Pastoral care during COVID-19

The mental health and wellbeing of pupils is a top priority as schools rebuild from COVID-19. During lockdown, the Pastoral Network was founded to support this.

Our ambassador community is a powerful force for change, made up of talented teachers and leaders – in schools, education and beyond. By connecting, they unleash a world of opportunities for each other to learn, influence policy, support schools, and ultimately create the change our society desperately needs.

Emily Heath and Theresa Ball struggled to find advice and information about their new roles in pastoral care, so they began a network of their own. Here’s how it all began.

What made you decide to create a pastoral network?

Theresa: For pastoral, anything can just show up on your doorstep and you’ve got to deal with it. We’re teachers, we’re not trained counsellors, yet that is what we ultimately start doing.

Emily: Curriculum has lots of different stakeholders, and in the pastoral space there wasn’t much collaboration. I thought it would be great to have some sort of network, and then the first lockdown happened. People started to realise that the work pastoral teams do is so crucial in ensuring students can access their education.

How did your first online event go?

Theresa: Really, really well. We had over 70 attendees and people joined from all over the UK. Our Twitter following has swelled to over 750. Quite a lot of people joined because they felt a lot of pressure to look after the wellbeing of the students.

What have the main challenges been for pupils learning at home?

Emily: When it comes to helping children at home, it can be a challenge to explain the technology to [families for whom English is an additional language]. To help ensure fair access, we’ve been balancing live lessons with recording videos. Access to live lessons can be difficult for some families where devices or space are being shared, or a parent is trying to work in the one available workspace so students can’t always join.

How can schools help their pupils as they return to school?

Emily: I think it’s really important we create space for discussion and ask students to reflect together on what they have gone through and talk about their shared experience.

Theresa: We formed a mental health task force of staff volunteers and they have been trained on support - CBT therapy really - so they can partner with children that have been specifically affected. The message I’m putting to my staff is that we do have to talk about this all the time.

Find out more about the Pastoral Network and follow them on Twitter.

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