"There is great potential for harm," Terry Ashton, adviser in guidance and careers in Aberdeen, said. "In some areas we are going back to the days of the well-meaning amateur. Sometimes no help is better than help from people who do not want to give it."
John Burdin, a former HMI who is honorary president of the Scottish Guidance Association, predicted that some HMI reports on guidance in two or three years' time "may not make very good reading".
A catalogue of concerns by guidance teachers from across Scotland was raised during an open forum at the SGA's annual conference in Dunfermline last weekend. None of the teachers who spoke wished to be identified but among the patchwork of delivery patterns was:
* A school in Falkirk has appointed 11 curriculum principals and no guidance principals.
* A school in West Dunbartonshire where the personal and social education programme will be taken over by the senior management.
* A school in Dumfries and Galloway where PSE will be taught by registration teachers.
Schools with similar rolls in Renfrewshire will have different numbers of principal guidance teachers and the case workload per PT can vary in some authorities from 200 to more than 350 pupils.
The impact of the disappearance of guidance assistant principal posts was another major worry. "What have I been doing for the past 20 years?" an APT from South Lanarkshire asked. "My remit is going and no one is taking it up."
Barbara Clark, assistant general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association and a former guidance teacher, said a system that has served children well was being dismantled.
But Loretta Scott, adviser in guidance in Glasgow, urged teachers to "let go" of the present structures, of the idea that guidance staff are the only teachers with knowledge and concerns about pupils.
Ms Scott said: "Children will be damaged by losing a parent or by a bereavement or by being abused, not by losing their guidance teacher."
She called for "a new professionalism" and for the creation of a standard qualification for teachers involved in pastoral care.
Former APTs who have a certificate or diploma in guidancepastoral care, she suggested, should have these accredited as prior learning if they choose to go for chartered teacher status.