Best Practice

Case study: Boosting pastoral support using Maslow's hierarchy of needs

What does Maslow’s hierarchy of needs look like in the context of a specific school? How can it be adapted to ensure staff can support students? Gareth March reports on his work using Maslow as part of pastoral and SEN support, including during year 7 transition


This article has grown out of a project looking into supporting key stage 2 to 3 transition, in particular for those with traits of autism. The outcomes, however, have had an impact far wider than this initial study.

Abraham Maslow first presented his hierarchy of needs in 1943 and while it has been modified, updated and is not without limitations (in particular the difficulty in collecting empirical data to support its structure), the core principles have remained and it is a widely accepted model for motivation and self-development.

The hierarchy is a theory of motivation contending that people are driven by a hierarchy of increasingly complex needs (Maslow, 1943). It is often shown as a pyramid, with the basic needs making up the base and the peak being more complex needs. The five levels are:

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