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Guidance as it was for a senior housemaster and how it should be now

So there are compelling reasons why a vertical guidance system should be preferred to a horizontal one (TESS, September 7).

I wonder if any of your readers remember the debate held by the Lanarkshire House Staff Association in 1973-74 as to which system was preferable. I do not remember the issue going to the vote, but have never myself understood why anyone would want to look after a year rather than a house.

Two aspects of the job stand out in my memory of the five years I held the post of senior housemaster: the pleasure of getting to know families as siblings joined the house, and the variety of concerns from anxious entrants in the first year of secondary school, through S2S3 subject choices to S6 university entrance, a variety spread the workload over the whole year and gave a perspective on an individual pupil's experience of school that could only be matched by a year head after several sessions.

Why did the vertical system lose out to the horizontal? Was it simply the name with its associations with competition that put people off? If so, it was at least a better name than "clan" with its associations with internecine warfare. Can anyone suggest an alternative that would make schools more willing to put in place the guidance structure that serves staff and pupils best?

DAVID HILL Mansionhouse Road Edinburgh

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