The Importance of Great Pastoral Care
A recent ISI Report on Downside School found that the “quality of the school’s arrangements for pastoral care is excellent” and that the attention placed on providing “excellent support and guidance for all pupils” is outstanding. This is unsurprising; growing out of a Benedictine Monastery where a strong sense of a supportive community is at the heart of all that we do; excellent pastoral care truly is at the heart of Downside.
What is Pastoral Care?
By definition, pastoral care is a specialist type of care geared towards “support for and commitment to enhancing the social, emotional, physical and moral well-being of all members of their school community.”
Historically, pastoral care is an ancient Christian model of emotional and spiritual support that paid particular attention to the care for the soul. However, since its ancient origins, pastoral care can be found to span pretty much every culture and tradition. In traditional Catholicism, pastoral care is considered to be the responsibility of all the baptised and is understood in the most basic sense as helping others.
Today, in a Catholic boarding school environment, pastoral care hasn’t diverged much from its origins: Pastoral care at Downside School involves supporting and encouraging our pupils, physically, emotionally and spiritually, whilst at the same time striving to create and maintain a Benedictine Community where all involved feel happy, secure, confident and above all, valued.
‘Any guest who happens to arrive at the monastery should be received just as we would receive Christ himself, because he promised that on the last day he will say: ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me’
Rule of St Benedict 53, 1
Boarding School and Pastoral Care
Where pastoral care is most strongly visible is in the boarding houses. Being a traditional Catholic full boarding school, Downside’s pupils are seven-day-a-week boarders who require support, guidance, care and parental understanding around the clock. The day doesn’t stop with the bell signalling the last lesson of the day. We pride ourselves on the on-going care that we provide beyond the classroom too.
The House structure has been carefully developed to care for pupils at every stage of their time at Downside, to provide them with the opportunity to form life-long friendships and to grow in self-confidence and pride.
Boarding at Downside enables pupils to learn to live alongside and support each other with a Christian spirit of compassion and understanding. This naturally encouraging environment, guided by our dedicated boarding staff, who are on hand at every hour of the day or night, results in a hugely special atmosphere, and one where Downside, for our pupils, really does become a home from home.
Day pupils also belong to and are warmly welcomed and supported within one of the boarding houses and are able, and indeed encouraged, to stay after the working day to do their prep, have supper and join in activities with the boarders.
In school, pastoral care is also very apparent. All members of staff working and living in the Downside community have a specific role to play in guiding, nurturing and supporting our pupils. Whether this is in the form of listening and comforting, spiritually guiding or simply by providing the wholesome, well balanced and delicious school meals that we are famous for!
From academic, emotional, physical and medical support, here at Downside School, we are all fiercely proud of the outstanding levels of pastoral care that collectively, as a community, we provide for all pupils.
Downside’s Philosophy on Pastoral Care
Being a part of a historic monastic community, Downside School’s pastoral care also takes up a strong residence in the spiritual world. We have a full-time Chaplaincy team who are on hand to lead and nurture our pupils’ Catholic understanding and spirituality via prayer, retreats, house masses and reconciliation services. Our Chaplains strongly support school life and the pastoral team, often acting as points of contact that are seemingly unrelated to the school. They play a key part in Downside’s functioning and serve the wellbeing of our boarding school – for both current and past pupils and families.
Another aspect of Downside School life which proves invaluable for the spiritual development of our pupils is the opportunity to practice Lectio Divina. This is a very personal activity which allows children to take the time to consider how the Bible resonates on a personal level with us, as individuals; it is a time for meditating and connecting with others through a personal connection with God.
Great Pastoral Care Helps You Achieve
Every year, our pupils go on to achieve hugely impressive results. Whether that is excellent GCSE results, outstanding A-Levels, making the sports teams, forging remarkable friendships, experiencing new activities for the first time or securing high profile university places. We know this success owes a huge amount to the remarkable special environment that we have created here at Downside.
This environment allows our pupils the space to breathe and reflect and the comfort to be themselves, which, in turn, gives them the confidence and focus to be the best that they can be
If you think that your child would like to try boarding at Downside School or you would like more information, please visit our website or contact us today and we can arrange a tour or taster visit (including an overnight stay) to help you with your decision.