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Taking counsel

THE new guidelines on pupil counselling to be issued to all schools by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, revealed in The TES Scotland last week, are to be welcomed. That is the easy part and easy to say. Their timing is none the less impeccable as more and more pupils present troubled and troublesome challenges to teachers, at the very time when the guidance system is coming under fundamental pressure. So any initiative that helps pupils to manage their stress and their distress is not only to be welcomed; it is almost essential.

The problem is: where do we go from here? The policy-makers need to come on board, but Tuesday's launch was not an auspicious start when none of the invited politicians turned up - including one of the speakers. There are a myriad of reasons why better pupil support, including counselling, is a requirement not only for well-adjusted pupils but for effective education.

A properly resourced school counselling service may seem a pipedream at present, but it is the logical outcome of much of the rhetoric about education, whether it is about attainment or behaviour.

There is one glaring omission from this development - the needs of the teachers. Who is to counsel them? It is often said that teachers do not address their own problems until they become too serious, that they bottle things up, that they believe their problems would not be taken seriously; what they are therefore looking for is a service that is independent, confidential and non-stigmatising.

In fact that is Childline Scotland's list of children's needs, not those of adults. But as Mike Finlayson of Teacher Support Scotland said at the launch of the guidelines: "Emotionally healthy teachers have a positive effect on young people and emotionally healthy young people enable teachers to be more effective."

So the time has surely come for a full review of the way in which we support both pupils and staff.

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