Document Type



Child Health Promotion Research Unit, Edith Cowan University

Place of Publication

Perth, Western Australia


Child Health Promotion Research Unit


Hearn, L., Campbell-Pope, R., House, J. & Cross, D. 2006. Pastoral Care in Education. Child Health Promotion Research Unit, Edith Cowan University, Perth.



1. During the past decade, there has been growing recognition the school environment plays a major role in the social and emotional competence and wellbeing of children. As a consequence, increasing national and international commitment has been directed towards the development of Health Promoting Schools2, with efforts being made to assess how curriculum and pastoral practice can best contribute to students’ social, emotional, physical and moral wellbeing. Within Australia, the National Safe Schools Framework3 has set as a key priority the importance of achieving a shared vision of physical and emotional safety and wellbeing for all students in all Australian schools, as well as identifying guiding principles and standards that can inform practice and assist school communities to build safe and supportive environments.

2. Within this context, the present report investigates current empirical and theoretical literature describing pastoral care standards to inform the development of new guidelines for all Western Australian government schools. The first section of the report begins by reviewing definitions of the concept of pastoral care, and what it implies for the process of implementing successful strategies. The second section examines a number of best practice pastoral care standards developed nationally and internationally, and assesses their implications for Western Australian government schools. In doing this, the report analyses the impact of these policies on: developing supportive processes for children, teachers and schools; shaping teaching and learning; encouraging dialogue with the students; developing partnerships with other services within the community; shaping the school organisation, ethos, and environment; and developing tools for evaluating pastoral care standards. Finally, the last section draws on the findings of both the literature review, as well as an audit of Australian government and non-government education sector pastoral care policies and standards, to compile a series of recommendations to inform future practice of pastoral care standards in schools by the Western Australian Department of Education and Training.

3. In reviewing current literature, four factors continually emerge as core components in pastoral care, namely: the promotion of health and wellbeing, resilience, academic care, and social capital. While traditionally, definitions of pastoral care have been associated with the fostering of children’s moral welfare and values of mutual respect through extra-curricular activities, today the health and wellbeing of students is increasingly being attributed to school conditions, school relationships, means of fulfilment, and health status4. Subsequently, pastoral care has taken on a more inclusive function, being seen as inextricably linked with academic curriculum and the structural organisation of the school, thereby promoting: “pupils’ personal and social development and fostering positive attitudes: through the quality of teaching and learning; through the nature of relationships amongst pupils, teachers and adults other than teachers; through arrangements for monitoring pupils’ overall progress, academic, personal and social; through specific pastoral and support systems; and through extra-curricular activities and the school ethos”. From this perspective, pastoral care can assist adolescents to develop positive self-esteem, healthy risk taking, goal setting and negotiation, enhancing protective factors contributing to their resiliency as well as developing a sense of social cohesion that together can improve their overall health and wellbeing.

4. In section two of the report, an overview of best practice models of pastoral care in Australia (the Gatehouse Project, the K-10 Framework, the New Basics Project, MindMatters, the Community Care Project, and the Catholic Sector model), Great Britain, Canada and the United States, draws attention to core principles and standards which form the basis upon which to develop appropriate approaches to improving student health and wellbeing. Notably, past experience points to the need for comprehensive, multi-level interventions which incorporate whole school approaches, group targeted approaches, individual target programs, and casework, focusing on:
- Primary prevention - to promote health and wellbeing and build a sense of belonging;
- Early Intervention - to strengthen coping and reduce risk;
- Intervention - to build networks to access support and treatment; and
- Postvention - to restore positive relationships.

5. Nevertheless, an audit of the use of pastoral care policy by different school sectors across Australia indicated that only 4 out of 29 sectors reporting having a pastoral care policy for their schools. Moreover, while sectors recognised the strengths of pastoral care policy, key perceived weaknesses included their fundamental complexity and the burden of overload in meeting these obligations, as well as the lack of professional education and guidance for teachers and parents, student staff relations, and how policy may be operationalised by schools at the local level. Thus much remains to be done with regard to developing and implementing effective regional/national standards for effective practice, and any real change will require long-term commitment from both the government and schools.

Additional Information

Prepared for: Department of Education and Training Western Australia

Authors: Lydia Hearn EdD, Renee Campbell-Pope BHSc, Joanne House BSc, Donna Cross EdD

Investigators: Donna Cross EdD, Stacey Waters MHP

Contributors: Lainie Hondris, Elena Lindgren


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