Care and attention

16th February 1996 at 00:00
THE PASTORAL AND THE ACADEMIC. Contradiction and Conflict in Education. By Sally Power. Cassell Pounds 12.99 PASTORAL CARE AND PERSONAL SOCIAL EDUCATION: Entitlement and Provision Edited by Ron Best, Peter Lang, Caroline Lodge, and Chris Watkins . Cassell Pounds 17.99 CARING FOR CHILDREN. INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVES ON PASTORAL CARE AND PSE.

Edited by Peter Lang, Ron Best and Anna Lichtenberg Cassell Pounds 15. 99 ADDING VALUE?

SCHOOLS' RESPONSIBILITY FOR PUPILS' PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT. Edited by Sally Inman and Martin Buck. Trentham Pounds 12.95

Graham Handscomb on the place of pastoral responsibilities in the curriculum

The national curriculum has marginalised pastoral care and personal-social education, representing a challenge to the principles underpinning the education of the "whole person". Such is the common perception of these four books which attempt to regain some of the lost ground and, in the new flexibility afforded post-Dearing, to establish once again a high vantage point for "affective education".

This campaign raises fundamental questions, not just about the nature and purpose of pastoral care and personal development, but also about basic tenets of school organisation and curriculum planning.

The military allusions are not accidental. Sally Power characterises the pastoral and the academic as locked in conflict where "the drawing of a boundary between the two areas does not represent mutual acknowledgement and accommodation, but constitutes a battle-line". Both she and Best et al describe the anomalous growth of pastoral care during the 1980s despite lack of specific legislation. However, Power draws attention to the dearth of research in this area and reflects on suspicions about pastoral care from the left ("social control rather than pupil welfare") and the right ("caring at the expense of attainment").

Power identifies pastoral care as that which "caters for the social and emotional needs of pupils" and charts its antecedents from the predominance of moral value education in church schools, through the grammar-school tradition to comprehensivisation. Intriguingly, she pinpoints the emergence of modern pastoral care as being "the means by which the extensive and hierarchical nature of the academic (grammar) tradition could survive within the inclusive ethos of the comprehensive school".

Investigating the resulting tension is the central theme of the book in which she uses Basil Bernstein's theories to explore two school case-studies. Using a qualitative research approach, she demonstrates in the first case-study "how the boundary between the pastoral and the academic is constantly maintained and defended". In the second, larger, school, efforts were made to break down the barrier and heighten the priority of the pastoral. This merely served to erode away at "marginal subjects", leaving the academic intact and strengthened. Ironically, increased emphasis on the pastoral gave greater definition to the academic.

Far from resolving tensions in comprehensive schooling the pastoral had created sharper divisions by its very existence. It is a potent argument and Power's book is scholarly stuff. Regrettably, its sociological jargon may result in a restricted readership and she does tend to impose Bernsteinian theory upon the case studies. This, together with little detail of research methodology, restricts the reader in arriving at a degree of independent judgment.

Power's solution to the pastoralacademic gridlock is to view the whole curriculum as a battlefield with many warring factions, and to forge alliances between the pastoral and other marginalised areas such as cross-curricular themes. More fundamentally, she also argues for a broadening of the influence of the pastoral pedagogy.

These issues are similarly taken up by Best et al. Pastoral Care and Personal-Social Education comprises a range of articles written by lecturers, psychologists and headteachers and is, inevitably, of varying quality. A number of chapters deal with the issue of care verses control. John McGuiness cogently argues that "no teacher can opt out of PSE and remain fully professional", and for PSE to influence behaviour it must concentrate on "pupil attitudes, values and feelings". This, in turn, means that teachers themselves need to undergo personal exploration, a theme developed by Phil Griffiths in his excellent contribution on guidance and tutoring which proclaims "proper care for students depends upon proper care for staff".

Tutors are seen as vital in promoting a rich range of teaching and learning styles to secure pupil autonomy. In particular, the importance of group work and the seminal influence of Slavin's research are discussed in a number of articles. Brenda Hopper's account of using groups to develop pupil learning is an invaluable resource. Less significant are the contributions of Stephen Munby on assessment and Chris Watkins on PSE within the whole curriculum.

Michael Marland gives good value in exploring the tension in curriculum planning between "breadth and balance on the one hand and depth and specialism on the other", but the highlights of the book are the sections by Martin Deforges and Patsy Wagner, who deal, respectively, with pupils' responses to divorce and bereavement. These sensitive chapters are grounded in teachers' concerns and give a comprehensive guide to resources and practical activities.

Towards the end of the book Peter Lang surveys international perspectives on pastoral care, devising a very useful framework with which to examine varied practice around the globe. This exploration is given a wider platform in the companion volume Caring for Children, a collection of articles on pastoral care in six countries arising from conferences in Australia and Singapore. The common ground as well as the diversity is intriguing but the book reads as a rather disparate series of seminar papers, lacking any detailed comparison. The most illuminating sections are the description of the Danish Folkeskole, where a form group stays with its tutor throughout nine years of schooling, and the Singapore "two-tier guidance system", which is a hybrid mixture of North American counselling and British tutorial work.

Taken together the Cassell titles represent an important contribution not only to thinking on pastoral care but also to the wider debate on curriculum planning and organisation. Sadly, the same cannot be said of Adding Value, a volume of papers published in the Goldsmiths College series on Curriculum Guidance. Putting aside the irritating lack of proof-reading, this work is characterised by absence of intellectual rigour and searching analysis.

Many of the messages echo the Cassell writers but whereas Best et al vigorously challenge government policy in a measured way, from a position of scholarship and authority, Adding Value takes on the tone of political diatribe with little substantive depth.

At the heart of the book is a "framework for personal development" devised by Sally Inman and Martin Buck. This consists of a tiered series of questions whose application to school cross-curricular work is less than clear.

Notable exceptions to this sorry scene are Elizabeth Plackett's valuable demonstration that the development of fluent and competent readers is a personal rather than a mechanical process. She argues powerfully for the need to nurture "critical, versatile and independent readers" in the information explosion. David Hicks provides a thought-provoking discussion of "futures education", and Michael Young forcefully challenges "traditional concepts of a curriculum where subjects define purposes", with pastoral work somehow fitted in.

In arguing instead for "curriculum purposes to define subjects" Young joins the Cassell writers in calling for post-Dearing curriculum planning to rise above a mere quart into a pint-pot exercise. Above all, the new flexibility should be seen as an opportunity for radical thinking based on first principles to ensure genuine breadth and balance in children's educational development.

Graham Handscomb is deputy head of Tabor High School, Braintree, Essex.

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