It may take a village to raise a child, but now it takes a school...

Posted on 6th Mar 2018 in Which School?, Boarding, School News

Regan Schreiber, Head of Boarding at Hazlegrove Prep School, writes on the importance of pastoral care and how schools are taking on a greater responsibility...

An African proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child”. In our ever-changing world, it now takes a school to raise a child. With the alarming statistics of children being diagnosed with depression at a young age, and resilience and well-being becoming the new “watch words” in schools, there is an ever-greater need for schools to be aware of the roles that they are to play in raising a child. When looking at ‘which school’ to choose, I urge you to look beyond the outstanding facilities, the superbly equipped classrooms and the extensive playing fields. What really matters is the school’s interpretation of the exceptional pastoral care it promises to deliver and to discover what this really means for the children in its care.

John Newman once said that teaching requires a moral dimension otherwise it is cold and arctic. Well, never has this been more relevant than today. Teachers have always been story-tellers, carers, educators, coaches and a myriad of other roles (too many to mention), but one which has to be a priority is that of being a parent and role-model to the children.

My philosophy, which has always guided me in teaching and indeed boarding, is that every child should be “parented” each and every day. Allow me to expand on this notion: children should not be allowed to get through a day without an adult asking them how they are feeling and digging a little below the surface in order to get to know the child better and help the child feel appreciated, loved and cared for. This is even more pressing in today’s times, where life has bombarded and stolen that precious time that parents and their children were able to enjoy in the past.

This is where schools come in. And by schools I mean the staff – the men and women who work with your children day and night. This includes the administrative staff, the domestic staff, the grounds men, the matrons and the teachers. We all have a role to play in the lives of the children in our care.

Communication is key. Schools need to ensure that they have created an environment that encourages adults to talk freely and warmly about children, to discuss their concerns and there should be a philosophy of believing that childhood is precious. The bottom line is that children need good role models entwined in their lives.

This healthy communication needs to exist between the children and the adults too. The children need to believe that they have a voice and that we are the ears! Children at school will be looking to the adults for guidance, support, advice and dare I say, love and a sense of belonging.

Teachers have always had an enormous responsibility in looking after children and that level of responsibility has increased further to include making sure that a child is learning valuable life lessons. From being able to tie shoes to ride a bicycle and to learn to read – these are many of the skills that children were taught by parents. For whatever reason, the responsibility for some of these skills has fallen on the shoulders of schools. And we teachers are ready for this. Teachers have always believed that there is more to merely teaching lessons. Only now is it becoming clearer for all to see. Teachers need to help children build self-confidence, instil a sense of self-belief, foster an appreciation and tolerance for others, facilitate friendships, help discover new talent and that which makes a child’s tail wag, as well as to reinforce the importance of self-control and self-respect. Teachers and parents need to work together.

It is no longer the job of the village. The village has shut its doors and moved on. The village people are struggling to survive themselves. Schools need to now carry the banner for raising children. Schools need to shoulder even more responsibility in helping children to become well-balanced individuals. Schools need to shift the focus from grades to a holistic focus on the well-being of the child. So yes, we are no longer teaching children, we are raising children.

School and parents need to embrace the challenge and work together for the sake of our children. Teachers and parents must become partners. They can no longer wave to each other from the car park or the street, they need to meet face to face and celebrate their children and talk. They need to become active partners in the rearing of children.

So, when choosing which school, make sure you meet the staff who will be those all-important role-models for your children and who will be responsible for the delivery of that exceptional pastoral care.

Let’s start raising our children together!