Pastoral Care at Epsom College in Malaysia
Parents often ask what ‘Pastoral Care’ actually means. Early definitions of ‘Pastoral Care’ were influenced by religious philosophy, and in particular the development of an individual’s general and moral welfare. This has been adopted and adapted by the educational sector, to include the cultivation of values, respect, responsibility and service to the community. These can be achieved when schools and colleges create an environment and culture that supports the physical, social, emotional and intellectual development of each student.
At Epsom College in Malaysia, we believe that growing up should be a wonderful experience, but we also recognise that at times it can be challenging. There will be occasions when our students feel misunderstood and alone, and may occasionally need a little extra help. We make it our priority to ensure that there is always somebody available to our students when they need somebody to listen, or require some extra support. At ECiM, we have a highly experienced and dedicated team of boarding staff. The Housemasters/mistresses, Assistant Housemasters/Mistresses and Resident Tutors, all live in accommodation that is attached to the boarding houses. They work on a rotating basis during term time to allow 24 hour accessibility to pastoral care to our boarders. Boarding staff also receive ongoing professional development opportunities, to ensure they can give the best support possible. In addition to this, every member of the academic staff also has a pastoral role to play within the College, whether it be as a Form Tutor, helping with evening supervision in Boarding Houses, or helping to supervise on boarders’ weekend trips. We also offer 24-hour medical care, and have a presence in our Counselling Department, 5 days per week. In this respect, Epsom is more than a College, it is a community. This aligns with an African proverb that I very much believe in, ‘It takes a village to raise a child’. This approach to the well-being of young people, has never been so necessary in these fast-paced, media-driven, pressure-packed times that we live in.
Of course, parents also often ask how pastoral care links to academic achievement. There is recognition that pastoral care and academic progress are linked. The physical, social, emotional and cognitive elements of a student’s life, can’t be treated in isolation. If an individual is struggling in one domain, this will almost certainly impact what happens in another. If a young person is emotionally healthy, they are more likely to fulfil their academic potential and deal with those issues that might act as barriers to their learning, such as anxiety, stress and unhealthy relationships. Personal, Social, Health, Economic (PSHE) also helps young people to develop skills and aptitudes that are desirable to future employers, such as teamwork, communication and resilience. This is why at ECiM, our PSHE Education programme, is given allocated time within the academic timetable. There is one dedicated teaching period per week, aimed at developing the skills and attributes that our students need to manage their lives both now and in the future.
To conclude, Leadership speaker and author, Sheila Bethel, in her book ‘Making a Difference’, has suggested that students “don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care”. This is a sentiment that I wholeheartedly agree with and therefore outstanding academic progress can’t be achieved unless it is supported by a commitment to outstanding pastoral care. At ECiM we take this commitment extremely seriously and are constantly striving to improve our pastoral provision to ensure that our students can reach their full potential.