An exploration of pastoral care as an activity in a secondary school setting

  • Nicola Treby

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This research study explores pastoral care as an activity within a secondary school setting. A qualitative case study approach was undertaken with one school acting as the case. Fourteen members of staff were interviewed and over sixteen hours of observations were undertaken. The data were collected over a period of three school terms. The research project offers an original contribution to the field as it explores what is understood by pastoral care in a school setting. The research also explores how pastoral care is enacted at a time when the socio-political context of education is dominated by neoliberal philosophy. A dominant neoliberal philosophy has resulted in educational policy being reorientated from social to economic priorities. An agreed definition of pastoral care is difficult to identify despite young people presenting with pastoral care needs in ever increasing number and complexity. A Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) theoretical framework is utilised as a sociocultural lens to analyse what staff say and do. The analysis includes consideration of how culture and personal beliefs affect how pastoral care is understood and enacted. The research study findings suggest that pastoral care is being understood in a number of different ways, influenced by personal beliefs and in relation to the academic function of the school. However, all staff sought ways to integrate their personal beliefs with their professional role. The thesis contends that staff need opportunities to explicitly negotiate their understanding of pastoral care. The findings suggest that opportunities for this may be important for staff to develop pastoral pedagogical expertise. This in turn, may support the retention of teachers in the profession.
Date of Award4 Oct 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Roehampton
SupervisorAlaster Scott Douglas (Director of Studies) & Julie Shaughnessy (Co-Supervisor)


  • Pastoral Care
  • Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT)

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