From bullying to family breakdown, the issues that can make life tough for schoolchildren are many and varied.
Which is why the Kent Teacher of the Year Awards have a category dedicated to pastoral workers – the people in a school who children can turn to when they’re struggling with more than their maths homework.
It’s something Sally Williamson of Salus – a social enterprise which supports young people and families in Kent who are struggling with a variety of issues – sees all the time.
“We work with a huge number of schools across Kent, and with children and young people who are having to deal with some quite serious issues,” she said. “There are pastoral workers who are going above and beyond every day to make sure those young people have everything they need to be in school and learning.
“They are making school somewhere that is safe, where the children can come for advice and support. They are very special people and unsung heroes. The fact that there are people in school who offer warmth, nurture and care is really reassuring to me for the welfare of all our children.”
She herself found those qualities in her Year 6 teacher at St Leonard’s Primary School in Hythe, Miss Goodwin – who, as Mrs Tait, went on to become headteacher of Sandgate Primary School.
“I loved her because she was so inspirational. She got us doing stuff we didn’t think we would be able to do,” Sally recalled. “She got us making big puppets and doing poetry readings – we performed at the Metropole [a former arts centre in Folkestone]. At that time, teachers didn’t really do that. Kids were expected to be in classrooms.
“It’s easy to motivate the able children, but she was really motivational for all children. Later in my career I met her again when she was a head teacher – she really believed in the community.”
The Kent Teacher of the Year Awards are open to anyone who does paid or unpaid work in a school in Kent, Bromley or Bexley.
Nominations must be in by Thursday, March 1. You can nominate one standout person, several individuals, or a whole team at once. The winners will be invited to a glittering awards dinner at the Mercure Great Danes Hotel in Maidstone in May.
The awards are organised by the KM Charity Team and supported by Kent County Council, the University of Kent, Kent Sport, Canterbury Christ Church University, the University of Greenwich, Three R’s Teacher Recruitment, MY Trust, Social Enterprise Kent, Beanstalk, the Mercure Great Danes Hotel, CXK, Salus, LoopCR, Kreston Reeves, Kent Further Education, and Diggerland.
For more information or to make a nomination, visit www.kentteacheroftheyear.co.uk.