In many schools pastoral work has taken a new twist as tutor groups are arranged vertically with a few pupils from each year. I cant really comment on that , others might by clicking reply. My experience is in schools with horizontal pastoral work, tutors caring for a tutor group of 25+ pupils and a Head of year possibly an assistant head of year working with them. So this short post is to give a few reasons you might consider this middle leader role:
Pastoral experience is useful if not essential for senior leadership posts and hey a Head of Year role brings a TLR, more money and a title. Unlike a Head of department you will almost certainly get an office, in my school that is usually a converted wardrobe/cupboard with enough room for a computer, a desk, a filing cabinet, a box of tissues, a notepad, a phone and second chair. In some ways that sums up the role of HoY
If middle leaders subject staff are the engine room of a school this role is the engine oil keeping the school running smoothly. You will be expected to help monitor and to intervene in behaviour issues, attendance issues and a broader view of pupils achievement. These aspects lead you into a new understanding of the background of your pupils and definitely a greater understanding of subjects and staff. our Heads of year are actually called Progress Co-ordinators which I think is a bit clumsy but sums up the expectation.
One way or another there are simple things you can nip in the bud, but soon issues will bring a level of complexity. HoY are expected to intervene, to work to improve attendance, punctuality, performances and to do so without a magic wand. It’s about wisdom, experience, problem solving, oh and infinite patience.
It’s sometimes complicated.
Lets consider punctuality, some pupils are just lazy and late and a HoY can sort this either directly with the pupil or by speaking with home and a balance of discipline and reward. However some lateness is more difficult, dropping off a younger sibling at a local primary, caring for an ill family member. So what the HoY begins to notice is the complexity of family life and what some young people face from home. You’ll be surprised how an appropriate conversation can actually improve matters.
Great training to be a diplomat or peace keeper. HoY sometimes have to advocate on pupils behalf, see them through a rough patch, and get work sent home and check they settle back in on return, and don’t forget them, Try and note or remember a significant anniversary. Sometimes a teacher complains and there is another side. Sometimes a parent has heard one side (!) and wants to tell you so
Sometimes the HoY has to help reintegrate pupils after incidents, maybe from being withdrawn from lessons or back from exclusion. Staff will be watching, other pupils too, as a HoY maintains some sort of bridge back into the school community, not at any cost but trying to ensure the issue is sorted and of course the issue does not raise itself again. Learn from senior staff.
One of the most rewarding tasks is too help see a pupil “turn the corner” it might be a report card, it might be a conversation where a colleague tells you how well X is now doing. It might be a successful way to help a parent with a challenging child. Working that team to success is very rewarding.
Never underestimate the letter home, the positive call home, the quiet word on a corridor to say you’ve heard how well… But you might have to seek that out. A proper scheme of merits or a reward system can help and if you get it right enjoy the rare staff confessional “your new rewards – that is really working well”
I think effective HoY set out their expectations and those of the school clearly and keep referring to it over the year. Assemblies, gatherings individual conversations. Scanning reports and data, maybe the rank order of effort for your year group is compared at each report and you seek out those who climb and …well, yes decide what to do about those who fall.
The go between
In particular parent – pupil. When a parent is worried they are likely to contact you, when you have a concern you contact them. You sometimes have meetings with parents and might actually chair the meeting between a colleague and parent and pupil. You will learn a lot but observe how experienced staff do that. There will be formal meetings too like parents evenings , you’ll prob get a bit of extra stuff to follow up from them. Oh and of course there are very difficult meetings with parents, observe and learn.
Running a team
Your tutor team unlike the subject staff you probably didn’t choose them, you have some you are pleased to see on your list and you have others. There is the pastoral work and in many ways the standards of behaviour uniform and so on at least set out clear expectations and get tutor support and support them when they crash into issues. You might have a bit of pastoral curriculum (PSE /PSHE) to plan and this is a big challenge, prepping a topic for others to use. Plan carefully, look for big impact and get the feedback, above all show gratitude.
Dealing with SLT
Inevitably as a HoY you need some help some coaching and some ideas. I recall thinking myself that I had seen every situation a pupil might encounter after about 15 years in the job, and then around the corner would be an issue I had never dealt with. You need wisdom and help but also sometimes need their support. A good relationship with your line manager eg your Head of school is critical but nothing better than solving a tricky issue between you.
Dealing with agencies.
A host of outside agencies look to a HoY to help on a host of issues, from looked after children, through children’s services to support agencies possibly the police. Learn the proper protocols, systems and statutes.You will learn how some are really good and others surprisingly poor. However they performed you still see a pupil every day and therefore might be the most important part of a jigsaw in their life. Try never to forget that some pupils have complicated lives and perhaps we should be kind.
Keeping a perspective
Be prepared – some colleagues will think you are too soft, that cup of tea in your office after Rudolph did that; others will be the opposite and think you were ridiculously harsh to force the detention over that so called trivial event. So sure sometimes you can’t win but you are the reality of loco parent is and tough love needs mixing up with the bridge back.
Advice and help
Pupils will come to you for advice maybe careers maybe personal. After all you it was you who actually said if they had any problems to come and talk to you, but you just didn’t think they would talk to you about that! Listen, listen a bit more and then help, just that and if you can’t help it’s fine just be prepared, like we always should be, to pass it on.
Ultimately the success of a number of pupils is definitely down to the pastoral system of which they hoy is the critical position. Knowing your pupils and families. This job is about relationships relationships relationships and a frequent stepping stone into more senior roles in school.
Nice blogpost reflecting on this role from Andy Lewis.