The role of the dean in the pastoral care structure of a secondary school
Pastoral care structures in New Zealand schools often include a middle management role of dean. This position has existed in New Zealand schools for decades, influenced by the existing systems and structures adopted from the United Kingdom. The responsibilities included in this role are often defined by schools at the local level in order to satisfy growing expectations of schools’ responsibility for student well-being and achievement. There has been little research concerning this position within the pastoral care structure of schools. This study aimed to explore the perceptions of members of the school community on the role of the year-level deans within one New Zealand secondary school. Senior managers, deans, teachers, and students from a state co-educational, urban, secondary school were interviewed regarding their views on the role, responsibilities, and effectiveness of the position of the year-level dean within their school. Deans also completed a daily log to record the nature of their tasks completed pertaining to this responsibility. Participants’ responses were analysed for major themes. The themes discussed include the intention of the role of the dean, tensions between the management of academic and pastoral issues, the exploration of the challenge in providing care for all students, and how resources available to the school and the dean can impact their role. A difference in the role between the junior school (Years 9 and 10) and senior school (Years 11, 12, and 13) was reported by all participants. Deans reported engaging in reactive tasks more than proactive, preventative tasks. Defining the role of the dean and its relationship to other roles within the school proved challenging for the perspectives, and this confusion was evident through a lack of clarity around lines of authority described in the job descriptions. Deans reported some difficulty in understanding their role in relation to managing form teachers, particularly where that staff member may hold a position of responsibility in curriculum. The reactive nature of the role was revealed. This indicated that deans continue to provide predominantly reactive care concerned with individual students, often meaning that only a small group of students receive direct care from deans. The predominantly reactive nature of the role creates implications for schools in the challenge of delivering care to all students. A more collaborative approach to pastoral care from all staff members may improve the provision of pastoral care for students. A proposed job description that may reflect the role of the dean more accurately is presented.