The Role Pastoral Care Plays At Eastbourne College


Gwen-Taylor Hall, Deputy Head (Pastoral) at Eastbourne College, on actions taken inside and outside of the classroom to promote pupil wellbeing

How long have you worked at Eastbourne College and what initially attracted you to joining?

I’ve worked at Eastbourne College for 19 years now in various roles. I first took on the role of housemistress, opened a new girls’ day house and did some sports coaching and PE teaching – it was an exciting new challenge. My husband is also a teacher and it was a big change for us and our children, swapping the Yorkshire Dales for the sunshine coast – of course we love being so close to the beach! Over time my role has evolved, from senior housemistress and assistant head to my current role as Deputy Head (Pastoral).

Pupils Eastbourne
Pupils at Eastbourne College make full use of the seafront

Can you summarise your role at the school?

As Deputy Head (Pastoral) it’s a little bit of everything – looking after the welfare of pupils alongside our great pastoral team, supporting the housemasters and housemistresses, making sure everyone is safe and happy, and encouraging pupils to make a difference for themselves and each other. I also still teach PE and get to work with GCSE groups, which I love.

How key is pastoral care to Eastbourne College’s educational ethos?

Pastoral care is a crucial part of our educational ethos. If children feel safe they relax, and if they relax they enjoy themselves – and if they enjoy themselves they feel good about who they are. If a child is happy with who they are they will be an asset to every group, class or team they join and this can become infectious. 

‘The team around the child’ is a phrase often used in schools. When that team includes a child’s support from home, teachers who know their classes, close friends, senior pupils being top role models and support from the pastoral team, everyone is a winner.

What have been some of the biggest challenges you have faced in the role?

It is never easy dealing with children and families who are facing trauma that is impacting their day-to-day lives. Accepting that you can’t always solve everything can be tough.

An everyday challenge that has grown in my time will probably not surprise anyone – the increasing pressure children are subjected to by the online world and social media.

Gwen Taylor Hall
Gwen Taylor-Hall

Can you suggest some of the things you do to help a pupil’s wellbeing? 

Providing a safe environment where they know they will be listened to and guided is important. Encourage them to talk and keep talking to whoever they feel most comfortable with. Remove any stigma that might be held about seeking help or why help is needed. Take steps forward with them by looking at the positives, keeping perspective, then getting the right help. Children like to know what help might look like – whether this is bridging a gap at home, offering professional support like counselling or looking at their ‘to-do list’ and finding time for them to enjoy time out. 

Heading for a run along the beach, the South Downs or walking to the seafront can make a huge difference. Suggestions don’t need to be complicated and can turn into helpful solutions to boost wellbeing.    

Does a happy pupil potentially mean greater academic success?

It certainly helps. If a child is happy they are less distracted by worries or bigger concerns, which tends to mean they can stay focused and they feel OK about the inevitable ups and downs during a busy week.

Eastbourne College is wonderfully located – do you make use of the outdoors as a tool for pupil wellbeing? 

We don’t just talk about being a ‘blue health’ school – we action it with plenty of time spent outdoors exercising and learning. Research has shown that being outdoors and near water can be beneficial for health and wellbeing, so every day we encourage pupils to have a healthy balance of being inside and out.

The seafront certainly plays a big part for those keen on open water swimming, taking part in our annual aquathon or joining the sailing and windsurfing activity, while having the South Downs on our doorstep means pupils can enjoy running, walking or mountain biking up there – and when the sun is out, the joy of a lesson being delivered outside.

Everyone is encouraged to find ‘me time’ and we make the most of our seaside location for fun too – from tutor groups heading out for ice cream on the beach to boarders taking advantage of nearby crazy golf or enjoying House barbeques and games. Socialising outside around College Field is a big part of life here too. You’ll often find pupils sitting in the sun, watching sport or playing games there after supper.

Co Ed At
There have been record numbers of pupils this year at Eastbourne College

How does the pastoral support change as pupils progress through the year groups? 

Our pastoral support remains as tight in Year 13 as it is in Year 9 with confidence, trust and rapport growing as children progress along their teenage pathway. The focus can move from friendship issues to discussions about their future very quickly. Their tutor, housemaster or housemistress, teachers and matrons all play a key part in being there to chat, listen and guide. Many pupils will be challenged along the way with a worry or an issue to manage and that is when everyone leans in to provide the time and reassurance they need. The older pupils play their part too, taking on important responsibilities as a peer listener, house senior or prefect.

Are there many exciting things happening as we approach the end of the school year?

It’s non-stop at this time of year! We have the pupil-led thanksgiving service for our Year 13 leavers, our House end of year celebrations, a charity music night, in-house cricket and rounders games, inter-house matches, the arrival of our new intake for their taster day, MCC cricket day, our aquathlon for all year groups, a jazz singer songwriter evening at the bandstand, our summer concert, sports day and an outdoor drama performance with the Dell Play. That’s not to mention the Eastbourne International tennis tournament happening on our doorstep, which provides the chance for many of our pupils to be in the ball crew. We have all this before our last day of term with speech day, cricket and tennis matches and then the Cornflower Ball for all leavers and their parents.

How do you look back on how the 2022-23 school year has gone at Eastbourne College? 

Where did it go? It’s been a busy year and a very full school with record pupil numbers at the College. The words that spring to my mind are lively, exciting, challenging and hugely rewarding.

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