School pastoral systems; time to reform form time?


Whilst I’ve worked and seen working several types of pastoral system, I’m not convinced that we have them right in many ways.


Heads of year, heads of house, heads of community, progress leaders, heads of key stage, call them what you want, their role is one of the most ambiguous in a school. Do they deal with behaviour or not? Are they in charge of progress? Really? Are written job roles really followed?

How can a progress leader be accountable for results? Surely that’s the teacher and head of subjects’ job? Is it a poisoned chalice? Can they really make a difference? How? 

I’ve seen schools change names to try and make these roles more accountable for learning but they still end up dealing with behaviour. Is it that simple to divide the two and if not, why bother trying to pretend?

I’ve also seen some schools go down the route of non-qualified teacher roles including heads of year and assistant heads of year. Do they need to be teachers? Why?

The role of form tutor

  • Are they really the first point of call? 
  • Do they actually have the time for this role? 
  • Do they really have an overview of their students? 
  • Are they given the tools needed to do this effectively? 
  • Do children need form tutors? Why? 
  • If so, do they really need to see them as a form group or individually? 
  • Is it possible for a tutor to me to students effectively? Or will only ever be light touch, superficial?

Horizontal, vertical, whichever way children are organised, does it matter? 

The use of pastoral time

I have seen this used in so many ways including:

  • Completing homework (which makes you wonder why it’s called homework)
  • Private reading
  • Watching videos (purpose?)
  • Reading newspapers
  • Playing games
  • ‘Mentoring’ ( anyone that really believes it is possible to mentor individuals effectively when you are also supervising 28 other students clearly needs to remind themselves of the tutor role ASAP)
  • Literacy & numeracy (and the tutor is responsible for their form’s progress in these subjects…..I kid you not)
  • Giving out letters
  • PSHE
  • assemblies
  • Checking uniform
  • Checking equipment

I’ve heard people saying that the time has to be ‘filled’, and that it is a burden to think of things to keep the children busy in this time.

I’ve heard that teachers let children sit on desks, chat, eat and play on their phones.
The point of this blog is to say that I think pastoral systems in schools need an overhaul or at least a review. Are they effective? Who ever checks the quality and impact? What IS the intended impact?
We spend a lot of time looking at teaching and learning and try to evaluate if it’s effective or not, what about the pastoral systems?

Where’s the research on pastoral systems? What does it say? How different schools/countries do it? Are our schools missing some great ways to use pastoral systems?

I don’t have an answer but would question if we gave subjects those 30 mins a day back into teaching time would this have more impact on students than form period time each day?

I can’t help thinking that we’re really missing something here. Time to reform form time?

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