Pastoral staff from schools and clinics in the Middle East came together last weekend for a conference held at Doha College in Qatar in association with the British Schools in the Middle East (BSME) and Place2Be.

This inaugural Counselling and Safeguarding conference was attended by over 50 members of staff responsible for student welfare in schools within the BSME network. The conference was led by Place2Be, a leading organisation based in the UK who provide emotional and therapeutic services in schools. Place2Be are supported by their Royal Patron HRH the Duchess of Cambridge.

Counselling and safeguarding are crucial in any school setting to ensure the welfare of all students. Doha College wanted to allow colleagues to share good practice which is how the conference evolved. Through close collaboration with Pace2Be, the themes and content were chosen to reflect local working practices.

Conference organiser and Doha College Counsellor Kathleen Swords said:

There is a growing interest in school based counselling in British schools which, together with Safeguarding, fall under the umbrella of Pastoral Care. The conference set out to highlight that the wellbeing of children and young people should remain the principle focus of every school. This is particularly important for expatriate families who are often isolated from extended families and outside resources and therefore struggle to find support in difficult situations. International schools often become the support system families need.’

Teresa Woulfe, Senior Vice Principal and Head of Secondary at Doha College said:

Judging by the engagement of staff who attended this conference, there is a clear commitment to safeguarding and supporting the children in our care. School should be a place for children to develop and learn within a safe environment, conferences like this demonstrate a sharing of best practice amongst schools in the Middle East. Many thanks to Place2Be for sharing their expertise and I’m sure this will be the start of a very productive working relationship.’

David Excell, a Head Trainer at Place2Be who delivered the Key Note speech said:

It was a real privilege to be invited to the conference hosted by Doha College and BSME. It is part of our mission to disseminate ideas, practice, strategies and approaches and Place2Be is pleased to be able to offer support based on twenty years of working in partnership with schools for all professionals who work with the emotional wellbeing of children. It was humbling to meet so many dedicated and self-aware professionals willing to add to their repertoire of skills and experience and work as a team to improve children’s mental health. It was a highly enjoyable, enlightening and inspiring two days which involved highly creative thinking and methods that will enhance the work of all in schools.’

Doha College have already set in place additional initiatives to support their comprehensive pastoral care programme. The student mentoring programme was establish last year to promote a proactive response to student well-being on a different level. 6th Form students work alongside younger students to compliment the role of the Form Tutor by engaging them in activities which foster a sense of belonging within the tutor group. There is also the opportunity for students to meet with their mentors individually if they request. Mentors undergo substantial training which continues throughout the school year in order to ensure they have the required knowledge and skills to work safely with younger students.