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'Baffled' by pastoral shake-up

David Henderson at the Headteachers' Association of Scotland conference in St Andrews.

THE Education Minister last week stepped into the row about revised guidance structures under the post-McCrone agreement but left secondary heads with no more than an opaque vision of the future.

Cathy Jamieson's first major intervention failed to offer a clear route for reorganising advice and support services to pupils. One head told her he was "utterly baffled". Heads knew the long-term plan for schools but could not work out how they were going to get there.

Mike Doig, head of Bearsden Academy and incoming president of the Headteachers' Association of Scotland, said: "What we are facing in the coming months could be the best thing since the initial pay rise or the worst guddle since the Scottish Qualifications Authority meltdown."

The original McCrone report had virtually ignored guidance and heads had been concerned ever since, Mr Doig said.

In her address, Ms Jamieson said the national agreement did not put "a straitjacket" on schools or authorities. "That would risk replacing one rigidity with another. In some schools, in some authorities, new PT (principal teacher) posts will be created. Some of these will be in pupil supportguidance.

"But whatever the precise reaction of authorities, reflecting their different needs, a very significant amount of guidance APTs'(assistant principal teachers) workloads continues to be appropriate to the classroomchartered teacher role. Indeed the bulk of their work will be so."

She admitted some guidance staff may want to move away from their guidance caseload when APT and senior teacher posts vanish. "But let me be clear, there is no reason why staff who are already trained and experienced in guidance work should not continue to undertake their guidance work after August next year," she said.

Ms Jamieson said there was a compelling case to retain sufficient promoted posts in guidance and pupil support, although care and support of individual pupils was everyone's responsibility. Annex B of the agreement made it clear teachers can be expected to provide advice and guidance. "The role of the teacher needs to be seen in a wider sense than simply the subject expertise they bring."

In a key section, Ms Jamieson stressed: "It was never the intention that all pastoral duties would be undertaken at PT level, otherwise there could be no staff to develop." The PT's role was to deal with policies on guidance, pastoral care and pupil welfare and to lead, manage and be responsible for the development of pastoral care staff.

Ms Jamieson accepted that not all teachers will be cut out for a guidance role. "Certainly, some teachers who bring real excellence to the classroom will not have the approach for specialist guidance work. But every teacher has significant first-line responsibilities for the care and welfare of pupils and for spotting issues among their pupils, even if there are others in the school who can give more detailed help."

* The review of guidance following the recommendations of the discipline task group will not be affected by the row. "While the national review must take cognisance of the new structures implemented as a result of the teachers' agreement, it is important to keep in mind that the focus of the review is on the service delivered to pupils. In other words, the what and not the how," Ms Jamieson said.

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