Pastoral care in Catholic schools

Chris Richardson
Pastoral care has always played an important part in Catholic schools. At a time when academic achievement seems to dominate the national educational agenda, this article offers a reminder of key elements of Catholic pastoral care that are in danger of being forgotten. Chris Richardson is a retired Catholic secondary headteacher and diocesan commissioner.

Developments in pastoral care over time
When I started teaching in the early seventies pastoral care was beginning to become a major focus in state schools. Arguably it had always been a significant component of Catholic schooling. Through my career in Catholic education the focus of pastoral work in schools changed. Faced with large comprehensive schools where students could become anonymous, pastoral structures were put in place to create manageable cohorts and facilitate social control. Working more closely with individual students sensitised pastoral staff to individual needs. If a child?s life was in turmoil, it was not surprising that they failed to participate appropriately in school. Schools began to see pastoral strategy as providing support-giving structures, which would allow the fullest development of the students.

In trying to support students educationally, socially, emotionally and vocationally, pastoral staff began to provide something akin to ?counselling? and helped students develop strategies to help themselves.

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