Guidance fails care kids

CHILDREN'S organisations have criticised the guidance system in secondary schools for failing the pupils who are most at risk.

Young people have lost confidence, according to an umbrella grouping of eight children's charities, led by Barnardo's Scotland.

In contrast, teachers have strongly defended traditional patterns against efforts by local authorities to restructure the approach to guidance in the post-McCrone era, which will see a gradual extension to the primary sector.

The children's organisations are therefore stiffening the resolve of policy-makers in central and local government to press for reform.

In their joint statement, they say that current procedures do not allow teachers the time and training to support all children and young people. "It is not a system upon which all children and young people can rely or place their confidence and trust."

They stress that those who are most vulnerable to exclusion, isolation, discrimination and bullying are leaving school after being denied the right to education because of lack of support. "The service is under immense pressure, which also means that those with occasional or less severe support needs are being denied a quality service," they state.

The charities believe that promoting inclusion is the responsibility of all teachers and that teaching is about much more than passing on knowledge about a particular subject.

They state: "The best teachers are those that know and understand how to work with children and young people - skills in listening and maintaining effective discipline are key to effective education."

"Evidence from our work suggests that too often the most disadvantaged children and young people do not feel listened to, respected or valued at school. Respect for children should not just be about respect from teachers but also encouraging respect from their peers."

Young people should be involved in decisions about their schooling and better pupil-teacher ratios, a more pupil-friendly culture and effective anti-bullying policies would help to ensure that children feel safe, respected and valued.

The charities advise Cathy Jamieson, Education Minister, to encourage schools to pay more attention to the artistic, physical and practical aspects of education. "Young people with low aspirations, low self-esteem or confidence and a lack of individual support . . . struggle to engage with the learning process and become bored and distracted," they conclude.

The charities involved include Aberlour Childcare Trust, Childline, Children 1st, Quarriers and Save the Children.

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