Skip to main content

A caring approach

By this time next year new management structures in schools will have changed the face of the Scottish guidance system as we know it. But what will replace it? A national review is to report in August 2003 but in the meantime local authorities have to devise their own plans. Raymond Ross reports on two different models

Like it or not, the disappearance of assistant principal teacher posts next August is likely to herald the end of the guidance system in Scottish schools as we know it.

For 30 years, Scotland has had its own system of promoted teachers in secondary schools who, in addition to their subject teaching, were responsible for the welfare and personal and social education of all pupils in the school. The national reorganisation of school management teams is set to remove these promoted posts and the big question is, what will replace that system?

In the wake of the teachers' agreement on pay and conditions following the McCrone report, and the discipline task group's report Better Behaviour - Better Learning, a national review is being set up by the Scottish Executive, but its status is unclear.

Alex Edwardson, president of the Scottish Guidance Association and principal teacher of guidance at Dumbarton Academy, says: "I'm supposed to be serving on the new review body but it's not been set up yet. The Executive's pupil support and inclusion unit were to gather people together, but the whole thing is being sent out to tender, whatever that means.

"It's disappointing nothing has happened because all of this should dovetail with the implementation of McCrone."

This feeling of being left in limbo ("The lines have gone silent," says Mr Edwardson) is being echoed by others and local authorities may have no choice but to go it alone next August.

A Scottish Executive spokesman says: "We are committed to the effective provision of guidance in schools and to a review of guidance, and we are considering how this review should be undertaken.

"Initial consultations have taken place with key stakeholders.

"The first stage of the review, which will research good practice in and outwith Scotland, should be completed by next summer."

He adds: "The review will not and should not alter the timetable for restructuring staff in schools under the teaching agreement, but we expect local authorities to consider guidance provision as part of the new structures."

So, what might the new structures be with regard to guidance? Glasgow and West Lothian are developing very different models.

The proposed Glasgow model replaces the term "guidance" with "pastoral care" and aims to set an authority-wide standard for pupil support. Designated depute heads would co-ordinate pupil support across their schools and full-time pastoral leaders (principal teachers) would be introduced, whose only teaching duties would be in personal and social education. All teaching staff would also have clear pastoral remits.

The model is already the subject of controversy (TES Scotland, October 25). The most contentious element is the proposed introduction of full-time pastoral leaders.

"We were going towards a model of full-time guidance before the McCrone review and this is the model out for consultation with teachers at the moment," says Glasgow's guidance adviser, Loretta Scott.

"The idea of giving more time to guidance or pastoral care has been very positively received, though the move to teaching only personal and social education has had a mixed response, as some staff are reluctant to give up their subject teaching. But we need to resolve the tension between pastoral and teaching duties because the pressure on guidance teachers who are subject teachers is unfair.

"However, this is a period of transition and if subject teaching is a major barrier for someone, we will be flexible."

Glasgow is in the process of writing flexible management structures along the lines of a best fit choice for individual schools, based on a standard for pupil support entitlements.

"The standard is based on a holistic view of the pupil. You can't divide a child into vocational, personal and curricular. Anything that is a barrier to learning impacts on pastoral care or guidance. Pastoral support is concerned with all issues which affect a pupil and his or her learning," says Mrs Scott.

The entitlements will be delivered at first level by students' tutors, who are also class teachers, each responsible to a principal teacher of pastoral care.

"Previously, first level guidance was a voluntary activity. Now, under McCrone, it is part of a teacher's contractual agreement," says Mrs Scott. "We have to train all teachers for the pastoral aspects of their role and this has to be part of initial teacher induction."

Glasgow is putting all of its 164 probationer teachers through an introductory pastoral care course, covering topics such as child protection, values and citizenship, bullying and circle time. Support for pupils is also being seen as an integral part of every Glasgow teacher's continuing professional development.

"Guidance or pastoral care is not an ambulance service and the best way to deliver it is through a full-time model," says Mrs Scott.

She also sees the establishment of principal teachers in primary schools as an opportunity for early intervention, with each having pastoral care as part of their responsibilities. She regards the integrated approach of the full-time system as dovetailing with the multi-agency partnership of new community schools.

"The status quo was never an option in Glasgow, where guidance has always been a necessity, not a luxury.

"The student tutor system means every pastoral care teacher will be supported by a principal teacher and the full-time principal teacher posts mean all guidance teachers will still be class teachers.

"The needs of the pupils must be met and we believe we will be able to accommodate the recommendations of any national review.

"Our model is robust and within current budgets.

"Glasgow doesn't want to lose the expertise of its guidance APTs. They are the future principal teachers. A lot have stressed they want to continue, but even if they all pulled out next August, we can still run this model," says Mrs Scott.

On the other side of the country, West Lothian is negotiating a very different provisional structure. It is focused on three areas: the educational progress of the pupil, the development of personal responsibilities regarding values and citizenship, and post-school opportunities for employment and higher or further education.

Using new community school and Scottish Executive support funding, each secondary school now has a pupil support team working alongside guidance staff. This team consists of a pupil support manager and at least three support assistants.

Initially, the pupil support manager posts are being filled by seconded guidance staff but within 18 months these will be non-teaching posts.

"Costed at senior social work level, these posts may represent a saving but this is not a cost-saving exercise and we are not getting rid of guidance staff," says John Irvine, West Lothian's education officer with responsibility for implementing the post-McCrone agreement.

"We are refocusing as part of an overall post-McCrone structure. The pupil support team is targeting pupils with acute needs and those showing barriers to learning, whereas guidance staff remain responsible for all children. We are, in fact, strengthening guidance."

Council restructuring is also taking place so that staff from departments who will link with the pupil support teams come under a new social inclusion service.

"This service will work with the home, the school and the wider community in a multi-agency provision. This will mean that guidance teachers are less isolated," says Mr Irvine.

The pupil support assistants, who have been in post since April and are paid like classroom assistants, all have a youth and community interest or background. They receive continuing professional development in matters such as child protection, first aid, social skills and anger management.

"The pupil support manager will always report to a depute head, who will always deal with support structures and ensure linkage is effective between educational provision and the social inclusion service," says Kate Reid, West Lothian's head of service for secondary school development.

"This is an extended pupil support structure, not a diminution. It will be both universal (as guidance should be) and targeted (as pupil support should be), with less chance of guidance being swamped by low level pastoral issues or faced with acute problems which a school on its own could never tackle.

"In the past the system wasn't perhaps realistic because guidance staff were being asked to deal with everything. Now we're defining purpose and remit.

"Severe problems will always be referred to the pupil support manager, who can bring a multi-agency service to bear while the delivery of guidance will remain universal. It's about thresholds of intervention, each suited to the individual child's needs."

At primary school level, integration officers have been introduced in new community schools, to look at early intervention.

"Primaries have never had the guidance structure of secondaries, so the introduction of integration officers is a step forward," says Mrs Reid. "We will need to examine if there are higher levels of needs than can be delivered by class teachers and look at early intervention models at school and school cluster level.

"There will be mentoring in primary schools too and we will be addressing this through what is traditionally called guidance, through class teachers and the new principal teachers.

"Overall, we are about improving provision and service, not saving money. Our approach is spend to change. It's about investment."

While Glasgow may feel able to adapt its model to anything a national review may recommend, the last thing West Lothian wants, having gone so far down the road of developing its own model, is a belated blueprint from the Executive. "We would not wish any rigid structure from central authority," says Mr Irvine.


Springburn Academy in Glasgow has been running the model of full-time guidancepastoral care teachers for four years.

"It was the headteacher Walker Cowan's vision for the 21st century to use Excellence funding to create a full-time department. It has improved the whole ethos of the school," says assistant headteacher and head of guidance Jackie Sheikhly, whose title will change to head of pastoral care next August.

"Attendance is up, exclusions are down and behaviour has improved tremendously. For us it has been an absolutely wonderful experience."

The school has four full-time pastoral care PTs, who spend a third of their time delivering the personal and social education curriculum, a third on traditional duties such as monitoring and target setting and a third developing areas of individual expertise. These are education for work, a whole school health education programme, behaviour support programme and social inclusion, encompassing a child support team, social inclusion group work and links with external agencies.

"It is the full-time aspect which is making the difference," says Mrs Sheikhly. "It intensifies the pastoral remit, giving us more time to fulfil the pastoral role.

"It has allowed us to make strong links with external agencies so that when we become a new community school next session the transition should be smooth.

"We have had a positive response from pupils, parents and primary cluster heads. And we have some 70 employers working with pupils because we have time to do this."


St Kentigern's Academy in Blackburn is developing its own guidance structure around West Lothian's flexible model.

Headteacher Kathleen Gibbons says: "As a new community school we have a pupil support manager and an integration officer who works with cluster schools and the social inclusion service. They offer support and pastoral care at the 'high tariff' end, to free up guidance staff to get to know all the pupils individually."

The school is also building up year-group teams from among pupil support staff and its 11 support workers, who are paid on the level of classroom assistants. "Eleven is a big investment," says Mrs Gibbons.

"The responsibility for solving problems goes to the pupil support team while the three year-group teams (with three support workers assigned to each) attend to low level pastoral care, such as checking homework diaries and attendance cards, to relieve guidance to concentrate on monitoring attainment and progress and working on individual learning plans," says Mrs Gibbons.

"Thus, pupil attainment becomes the main focus for guidance. The guidance staff can reach every child because we've taken away both the high tariff problems which schools can't solve on their own anyway and the soft problems that would otherwise be distracting."

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you