The advantages of guidance

When I first read Douglas Osler's Platform article (TESS, November 26), I was reluctant to give those parts which constitute a snide belittling of guidance provision the dignity of a response. But the article contains so many inaccuracies and failures to recognise the progress made over the last 30 years that even the former head of the educational inspectorate should not get off with a "free swipe".

Mr Osler finds the title of the 1986 guidance report More Than Just Feelings of Concern "pious and banal". The report was in fact seminal in establishing important principles in the development of guidance, including the reaffirmation of the role of all teachers in pupil support, the importance of effective liaison with welfare services and the necessity for a whole-school ethos.

Any resentment from principal subject teachers at the promotion of colleagues to guidance posts cannot be simply because those people do not have a specialist qualification, as every teacher in a secondary setting has a subject specialism. Guidance colleagues go on to gain additional specialist qualifications, and here I agree with Mr Osler that these would be best acquired before taking up a post.

In some schools nowadays promoted guidance staff also co-ordinate the pastoral care work of several other teachers and are usually responsible for personal and social development courses, whereas in small subject departments principal teachers work with one or two colleagues.

Most disturbing of all is that Mr Osler does not seem aware of the significant advances made by guidance staff in negotiating the use of professional skills from partner services on behalf of pupils, especially within a community school context. In the north-east, we are certainly not pretending that a "converted teacher" has all the skills required to "resolve the complex problems today's pupils bring to school or develop in school".

Undoubtedly, as we move towards a more holistic approach to personal support, a careful review of our structures within secondary and primary schools will be required.

However, if any authority intended to reduce the number of promoted teacher posts in pastoral care solely to save money, this could prove costly in social terms and could lead to a diminution of the support for pupils rather than the enhancement today's society require.

Sheena Taylor Newmachar Aberdeenshire

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