Mentor with a spiritual edge

2nd February 2007 at 00:00
A pupil is always waiting for the new learning coach at a Barry school

The office is small and cluttered with paperwork. But the inconspicuous room off the main corridor of St Richard Gwyn RC high school in Barry, Vale of Glamorgan, has become a haven for pupils seeking out Nicola Price - the school's newly-appointed fulltime chaplain.

Within the four walls pupils feel they are safe to talk about anything that is troubling them.

It might be a forgotten English book, bullying, or maybe a traumatic family bereavement.

Mrs Price, 53, expects some tears so she always has a box of tissues and a chocolate treat within easy reach. According to the school, they are first to take on a chaplain five days a week.

Mrs Price describes her role as a learning coach, a new breed of pupil adviser, who offers pupils one-to-one mentoring but with a spiritual edge.

She left her post as head of RE in January after new teaching and learning responsibilities (TLRs) made the new appointment possible, taking a pay cut.

Previously, five heads of year looked after both the academic and pastoral care of pupils. However, TLRs have transformed their role to key stage leaders, purely with academic responsibilities.

Teachers often go to mother-of-five Mrs Price, voicing concerns about pupils that she follows up.

"It may well turn out that the pupil mentioned does have an enormous problem," she said.

The chaplain believes her work within the local community has gained the trust of many young people, vital to her new role.

She also has 16 years' teaching experience at the school. However, she believes her faith is the best qualification that she can bring to the job.

Mrs Price said: "I am available whenever I am needed. A lot of the job involves waiting for the children to come to me, but there is always a pupil outside my office first thing in the morning.

"Sometimes difficulties at school are caused by something much more traumatic. Bringing in the wrong books all the time could signal a major problem at home. Our young people carry huge burdens around with them - burdens of bereavement or parental separation and divorce."

Mrs Price oversees co-ordination of weekly worship at St Richard Gwyn. But her role also stretches to overseeing the student council, liaising with school charities and setting up an online mentoring service which pupils can access anonymously.

"I am worried that teaching has become too compartmentalised. Teachers should be able to think of themselves as professionals teaching young people, not simply teaching a subject," she said.


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