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No dogma on pastoral care

There is to be no "national prescription" for guidance, the Scottish Executive's review group has recommended in its long-awaited report, Happy, Safe and Achieving Their Potential. Its conclusions have been accepted by ministers.

Despite criticism of the guidance system and of personal and social education for pupils, the group suggests that there is effective practice in most schools."A range of models has been shown to be effective and local circumstances and needs should inform development without the need for national prescription," it states.

Peter Peacock, Education Minister, supported the concept of "a broad framework . . . to create caring school communities in which children and young people are seamlessly supported".

The reference group has opted for a 10-point "standard of personal support" for pupils, which Mr Peacock is urging all schools to establish. This will link support for pupils to the national education priorities and to the principles behind the curriculum review.

The new standard covers existing aspects of guidance such as career planning, personal development and "healthy lifestyle choices", but extends it to other areas such as the inculcation of learning skills and participation in the life of the school.

The Educational Institute of Scotland described this as "a very ambitious agenda" and sought assurances that time and resources for teachers would be forthcoming.

"The report suggests a significant shift in the way in which pupils are being supported," Ronnie Smith, the union's general secretary, said. "It means that all teachers will have to be involved in the process of change to ensure that these plans are successfully implemented."

Mr Smith also warned that the role envisaged for class teachers had to be set against the research findings which were carried out as part of the review, indicating that only half of teachers considered pupil support to be part of their job (although this view was confined to the secondary sector).

The review group reported none the less that its research, as well as HMI reports, "found that children, young people and parents were satisfied with the way support and guidance was delivered, regardless of the way in which it was structured".

Staff were also said to agree that all teachers should play their part in pastoral care. The group noted that primary staff in particular regarded pupil support as a core part of classroom duties. It went on to conclude:

"Of the different models of delivering pupil support and guidance in secondary schools, no particular model emerged as more effective."

The report observes that simply increasing the number of specialist guidance teachers did not necessarily increase pupils' use of that support.

It found backing for the emerging concept of "extended pupil support", which involved professionals from other agencies as well as school staff.

Frank Lennon, headteacher of St Modan's High in Stirling, who was a member of the review group, said that effective staff development was crucial if secondary teachers were to be persuaded that they had a broader role beyond their own subject.

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