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Capitalise on collegiality

Guidance staff should be recognised for what they are - the pillars of support in schools

THE EDUCATION system would "collapse" if the work of guidance teachers and other providers of personal support were removed, a former education leader has said.

Bob Cook, previously director of education and cultural services at West Dunbartonshire Council, said guidance teachers had been undervalued by their bosses, but this had not always been recognised. "Maybe we - leaders and managers - have not been good at giving you your place, telling you how fundamental and important your contribution is."

He was talking at the Personal Support in Schools' national conference in Glasgow last week. But he insisted attitudes had changed: "I don't think you'll find any director of education or anyone else in a leadership role who will say that you're not an absolutely essential pillar of support for the school."

Nevertheless, Mr Cook believes some problems continue to hamper guidance and personal support. He feels the teachers' agreement has not done all it should have, arguing that "collegiality" was an idea some warmed to more than others: "I'm not even sure if we know what collegiality is."

The conference was promoting Happy, Safe and Achieving their Potential, a programme bringing together personal support staff - which can include behaviour support, learning support and specialist units - and letting them exchange ideas. Although this took place in pockets across the country, efforts were previously undermined by the lack of a national forum.

The programme, led by Aber-deen City Council, was last week boosted by a new section on the Learning and Teaching Scotland website, designed to stimulate national debate.

Terry Ashton, the council's guidance and careers adviser, said everyone who worked in schools had a responsibility to support children.

The Scottish Executive is providing funding until next year, but Mr Ashton is hopeful that, by then, there will be enough momentum to carry on the work.

* www.ltscotland.org.ukpersonalsupportinschools

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