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Inquiry into use of guidance staff

The General Teaching Council is to lead an investigation into school guidance, but has rejected any move for guidance teachers to be separately registered. Tony Finn, the GTC's education convener, told last week's council meeting in Inverness that demands on guidance teachers were likely to increase with the advent of the Higher Still reforms.

Mr Finn, headteacher of St Andrew's High in Kirkcaldy, challenged the view in the Inspectorate's recent report on guidance that more effective time management and clearer priorities were the answer to these pressures.

A school with 850 pupils, he said, is entitled to five guidance teachers, a standard devised some 25 years ago. Yet the minimum allocation of 40 minutes a week for every 15 pupils requires the school to find around 36 hours, which is the equivalent of 1.7 teachers. At a time of falling staffing standards, schools are finding this impossible.

Mr Finn said that guidance teachers are responsible for "establishing and maintaining contact with pupils; for monitoring their progress, security and well-being; for assisting pupils with course choices, careers education and personal and social education; for preparing pupils for job applications and for access to further and higher education; for communications with parents and with countless outside agencies; for responding to and seeking to remedy or prevent problems of discipline, attendance, poor health and fractured relationships with other pupils, staff and parents.

"This is by no means an exhaustive list. And yet, guidance teachers also teach, assess and report on pupils. They prepare materials for their own classes, contribute to curriculum development, and attend general sessions on staff development." This pointed to a "self-evident" need for dedicated time and training and reconsideration of whether guidance posts should be full time.

The council agreed that better training leading to qualifications for all staff working in guidance, including "first-line" guidance teachers, was essential. Its education committee concluded that this was preferable to compulsory registration which would require guidance teachers to have an additional qualification and would have enormous cost implications for education authorities.

The GTC's move was welcomed by Barbara Clark, president of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association and herself a guidance specialist. It was also backed by Joan Robertson, another council member who is head of Pitcorthie primary in Dunfermline, who said that every primary teacher is a guidance teacher despite having no support or time for the task.

Gordon Kirk, GTC vice-convener and principal of Moray House Institute of Education, said the guidance issue illustrated once again the need for the council to win its seven-year fight to be granted extended powers over the continuing professional development of teachers. Professor Kirk said the GTC may be "within striking distance" of having its wish granted following remarks by the Education Minister. Raymond Robertson told the council last week that he had "listened sympathetically" to the GTC's case.

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