Starting out as a HoY is a really exciting time. You’re about to step up into a role that changes lives. It’s the greatest role in a school and an absolute privilege to do. You get to support students through all manner of things that happen, both in school and out of school.
But where you do you start? Here are the key things you should think about as you prepare for your new role
When you first start teaching a class, everything you do is about asserting yourself as the class teacher, establishing your boundaries, your routines and your expectations. The same is true of starting in role as a HoY, or when you get a new year group. Some things to think about are:
1) What opportunities are there in the first week to assert myself?
Think about practical opportunities – assemblies, form time, first interactions with students. You’re being tested by a big group of students – find ways to show what you’re about straight away.
2) What key things do I want students to notice about me?
For me, this is about knowing that I care and want to support students, but I also know that you need to show you’re organised, you know what’s happening in your year group. You also need them to know that there are consequences to their actions – hold the line, stay firm, don’t give in. The first half term is all about showing those key things.
3) What expectations do I have of pastoral time?
Each school will have different systems here, but when students are in registration/form time, this needs to be clearly controlled by you. You will have a team of tutors, all of whom will have different ways of doing things. I find preparing resources for tutors effective – teachers are busy people and the first thing to go when things get busy can be their pastoral commitments. I do this in bulk and have a term’s worth of resources ready and printed in advance. I also pre-prepare first day resources – behaviour, expectations, routines, systems etc. It’s your year group and you say how it’s run, but you just ensure this is communicated with students. Have clear expectations of work they’re completing. Ensure that you’re regularly in classrooms and noticing students meeting your expectations. Some key questions to help you prep this might be: what do I want a tutor classroom to look like during registration? If students need to see me in a morning, what process would they follow? What are my red lines, things I don’t want to see happening (for me, it’s kids sitting and chatting randomly in reg time. A tutor discussion is fine – kids sat chatting about the weekend is not. Every minute matters in education – how are you using them? That’s a hill I will die on.)
4) What behavioural expectations do I have and what routines do I need to establish and model to create this?
There are key moments you will oversee in the operational running of a school day – pre school, assemblies, social time behaviour, lunch queues. Put some thought into how you want these to run. For me, silent entry to assembly and silent queuing for lunch are two things I believe are important, so I ensure that this is made explicit, but also that the focus in the first few weeks is teaching these routines, reinforcing expectations and taking responsibility for the calm running of your year group.
You now have a whole chunk of school time – normally at least an hour a week in most schools. Kids only get one shot at an education – how are you using this time to make the most of their opportunity? I spend time planning what I want this to look like, mapping it against key moments in their school career. For example, at KS4 you need some time to help support behaviours for success at GCSE, but you also need to have time on careers, on post 16 preparation, on revising for mock exams and so on. Get a copy of your school calendar and identify all the key points in your year group’s year and ensure your pastoral programme is informed by this. Got a parents evening coming up? What prep do your year group need for that? Post 16 event coming up? How are you preparing students to attend those successfully, asking the right questions for them?
Planning ahead/time management:
One of the best things you can do to help yourself is to ensure that you plan as much in advance as you can. That’s because pastoral work is so reactive – you can never guarantee yourself any time in the school day. I do all my planning and printing in termly batches, as much as I can. I make sure that my school day doesn’t need to give any time over to my classroom teaching where possible. There’s a lot you can’t plan for being a HoY, so the best thing to do is to lift as much out of your days as you can. I tend to operate on the understanding that when the kids are in the building, it’s my HoY time, and when they’re at home, it’s my teaching time. I find that balance efficient for getting things done well. When scheduling your time, try to make sure you have a slot of time most days to do proactive work. It’s really easy to be consumed by the reactive in pastoral care – it’ll swallow up every second you give it. But that doesn’t lead to school improvement. I try to make sure there’s at least half an hour most days for proactive work, in which time I will do something like:
• proactive attendance work with families.
• proactive behaviour work with students.
• school improvement work – focussing on my areas of responsibility. My role also has whole school responsibility for behaviour, which is where this comes in, but you can use your time to improve your systems. Need to track attendance more effectively to help you be more informed? Devote some time to it.
Try to have an eye on what you’re doing and what could be better. Proactive work with both students but also your own school and your own professional practice will help you keep growing, improving and contributing to the school in a positive, focussed way.
One last thing:
The biggest tip I have for HoYs is to respond to everything. Staff member tells you a kid doesn’t look quite right today? Seek them out. You notice an argument between two students? Speak to them. Student’s attendance dipping out of their normal pattern? Speak to them. Anything that comes your way – make time for it. In my experience, issues just build, and being able to get in quick makes your job infinitely easier in the long run. I also NEVER leave something to the next day that could be done today – it’s a cliche saying but as a HoY, you can guarantee that if you leave something until tomorrow, all hell will break loose instead. It’s the somewhat irritating law of pastoral work!
There are a million other things you’ll be doing as HoY – safeguarding, student support, attendance, behaviour, sanctions. All of that you will learn as you go – pastoral work is often unique to a particular school and you will all have different systems in place. Find them out as you go – you’ll need to ask questions regularly. Pastoral teams all row together on this, or they should! Ask questions. You’ll almost certainly find yourself dealing with an issue and you have absolutely no idea where to go with it. Speak to your pastoral team and learn from their experience. It’s really easy to look at experienced pastoral leaders and feel inadequate, and think they know so much more than you. I still feel that now! But don’t get it personally – we all start out the same, and, unlike other jobs, so much of pastoral development is learning as you go. You’ll get things wrong, you’ll say the wrong thing, you’ll upset someone on the phone – but you’ll also learn from it, and do things differently in the future. And that’s perfectly fine – no one is ever a finished product in pastoral care. We’re all constantly learning in this job – embrace that and enjoy the very best role in a school! You won’t regret it!