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Guidance leaves GTC powerless

Reforms to the guidance system that the General Teaching Council regards as essential cannot be implemented on existing levels of staffing and funding - but it says it is powerless to do anything.

Responses to consultations held by the GTC underlined the importance of resources and a report from the council says it recognises "the significance of this problem and considered its resolution to be very important to the development of guidance in schools."

But it adds that staff and working conditions are beyond its power. "The council can only indicate the way forward; it is for others to secure the means to do so."

The GTC's guidance report, which was approved at its December meeting, says that the staffing levels set in 1971 of one promoted guidance post for every 150-200 pupils should be reviewed by the local authorities.

The council says its investigations showed there were "significant variations in the time allowed for the completion of guidance tasks by schools.

"In general, the time available often fell significantly below even the minimum recommended time allocation. And yet, given the changing practice and expectations of guidance teachers in schools, there was a case for reviewing this minimum figure."

The title of the GTC report, Making the Difference, is a symbolic statement of the importance which the council believes should be attached to guidance, according to Tony Finn, the GTC's education convener.

"It underlines our belief that good guidance does make a difference to children, helping them to progress and to cope," Mr Finn said.

Mr Finn, head of St Andrew's High in Kirkcaldy who chaired the council's task group on guidance, said all staff in a school have a contribution to make to the development of their pupils. As the report puts it, "successful guidance depends on the commitment of classroom teachers. " It therefore recommends that all student teachers should study guidance during their initial training.

But specialist guidance input is still as essential today as it was when the system was first introduced to secondary schools almost 30 years ago, Mr Finn added.

The council recommends, however, that teachers should be expected to have a basic guidance qualification either before their appointment or as soon as possible thereafter, existing guidance teachers should be required to "work towards" the certificate in guidance. The new qualification for headteachers should also include a guidance component.

The GTC report also suggests that, while primary teachers have a general responsibility for the personal and social development of their pupils, "there is now a case for considering a more structured response to the provision of guidance needs in primary schools."

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