We are often asked how we balance high academic expectations and achievement with pastoral support and care. This question is, however, a non-starter: we simply do not believe that excellent academic outcomes come at the expense of the wellbeing of pupils or that providing excellent pastoral care somehow diminishes academic outcomes. There is no ‘balancing act’ because there is no sliding scale with pastoral care at one end and academic excellence at the other.
At STAHS, pastoral care and academic excellence are not competing factors – they are two sides of the same coin. We recognise that the young people most able to pursue their educational ambitions, take calculated academic risks and achieve top outcomes are those who feel happy, secure and supported at home and at school. This is why we take our responsibilities to nurture and care for our pupils very seriously.
Somewhat unusually for a day school, STAHS operates a House system very similar to that which is offered at the best boarding schools. All pupils are in one of four Houses,
Julian, Mandeville, Paris and Verulam, and the Houses really are like families within the School. The House Tutor, Housemistress and Assistant Housemistress are fundamental characters in a STAHS pupil’s life.
They have the time and structure to really get to know each pupil as an individual. They understand their strengths and areas for development, advocate on their behalf, push them when they need a push, celebrate their successes and encourage them when things don’t go to plan.
We know that resilience in the face of set-backs, self-belief and confidence, and the ability to understand one’s own and others’ emotional and mental health needs are essential skills for a happy and successful adulthood. We also know that these skills are not necessarily innate, but can be learned. It takes time, excellent modelling of behaviours and a deep and school-wide commitment to pastoral care and character education.
STAHS makes this commitment to our pupils and the proof is in the end product: every year, our leavers enter the world of university and work as settled, calm, enthusiastic and self-possessed young adults ready to take on the world. They know their own minds, know how to work with and understand others, and want to leave a positive mark on their world. Most importantly, they leave with the confidence that they can and will do just that.