How To Take The Strain Out Of Pastoral Care


Simon Antwis has been a Headteacher of three schools, as well as a school inspector. He is now Senior Business Development Consultant at STEER Education.


Some senior school leaders ask me about the extra work it requires to launch and embed STEER Tracking – our tool – in their schools.  They worry about adding to already creaking staff workloads, including their own. 

What seems like a hundred years ago, I taught A-level Biology and, of course, loved it!  The curriculum at that time was changing rapidly to reflect the progression of the subject.  A lot of biotechnology was popping up at both GCSE and A-level, which made teaching the subject really interesting and more relevant for students. My constant advice to students was: “Get a job in biotech!” One of the concepts we were required to teach was a particular part of the fermentation process, known as  “upstream and downstream processing”.

Upstream bioprocessing involves the screening and identification of microorganisms, media preparation, the multiplication of microbes inside a bioreactor, and incubation, while downstream processing involves extraction, purification and packaging of the product resulting from the fermentation.

To help the students understand, I used the analogy of an entrepreneur who wants to produce – and then sell – the best strawberry jam in the country. They have the vision to make millions, but to do so, it will require some “upstream processing”: building a factory, training staff, sourcing the ingredients (amazing strawberries!), making the machinery, marketing the jam etc, etc, etc.  Once all this is set up, you can press ‘go’, open the factory and watch jar after jar of the jam pour out.  This is your “downstream” benefit.  After a short time, any upstream effort is far outweighed by the downstream benefit.

If the person I am talking to is a Vice Principal or a Deputy Head, I explain that for minimal “upstream processing” you get maximum long-lasting “downstream” benefit.  In other words, your daily life will change from racing around with your tie flapping over your shoulder trying to spin the pastoral plates of one crisis followed by another, to a situation where you have everyone in the organisation predicting – and solving – early challenges before they even get to you.  This allows you to deal with crises that really require your expert attention and level of seniority.  They always look relieved and interested!

At STEER, we completely understand the importance of supporting schools to get this ratio exactly right.  As a headteacher who launched and embedded STEER in two schools, I can assure you that I didn’t have to do any of the following:

  • produce one single letter explaining how STEER works for any stakeholder – be it parents, staff or students;
  • produce one single powerpoint to deliver an assembly or parent meeting;
  • produce a pastoral narrative to explain the great things that were happening with pastoral care to the Governors;
  • put together a training programme for my staff to understand how to use the tool and interpret the data;
  • put together training to help staff produce action plans for students, groups of students or year groups of students;

STEER will do all of this for you.  

You will get the support of an expert Consultant, who has worked in schools at a senior level and has launched STEER themselves, for three years from launch to accreditation.

In short, let STEER take the strain out of the upstream processing required for your pastoral care vision, leaving you, your colleagues and more importantly, the young people to benefit from the improvement in their mental health and well-being. 

More lovely jam for everyone!