The necessity for the truly specialist guidance professional in the current educational setting becomes daily more evident. The increasing expectations laid upon schools, with the full implementation of Higher Still, the inclusion policy, community schools, Better Behaviour - Better Learning, and a host of other national and local initiatives, demand an innovative flexibility if guidance staff are to meet the myriad needs of pupils.
The day of the vaguely well-meaning teacher with a kindly interest in his or her pupils drifting into a guidance role is well and truly over. Now guidance staff require expertise in a range of professional skills and techniques. They need to know about counselling, group dynamics, anger management, stress management and transactional analysis, as well as have a firm grasp of the latest approaches to the problems of drugs and alcohol, sex education, citizenship and so on.
Pity, then, the guidance teacher struggling to shoulder the burden of it all.
The answer lies with the continuing professional development element of the post-McCrone agreement. As local authorities work out their plans for CPD provision, they have a golden opportunity to ensure that emphasis is given to courses and materials which will serve the needs of developing guidance practitioners.
Strathclyde University is an early entrant into this field. As part of a package which includes an in-tray exercise for guidance managers and a desk planner for guidance staff, the Faculty of Education has produced a video which takes an in-depth look at guidance in two large secondary schools. As well as the practice of guidance, the video considers its place within the schools' overall framework, from the perspective of headteachers and those assistant headteachers who currently have responsbility for guidance.
This is where the video's strength lies, with school staff talking about day-to-day situations which arise. As one of the headteachers says:
"Guidance is the fulcrum of the development of our youngsters."
The video's main use will be to stimulate discussions, rather than demonstrate skills and teaching techniques. Any future video productions could usefully feature experienced guidance staff and outside experts dealing directly with pupils in different situations.
Innes Murchie is principal teacher of guidance at Bridge of Don Academy, Aberdeen.