First we lose the penises, now our sanity

31st August 2007 at 01:00
Renaming guidance as pupil care and support suits me because I'm paid by the word, but it's a hell of a mouthful when you are sending a wean off to that department.

The problem for them is that a bigger name means a bigger workload. Each PCS teacher has more pupils to care for and support, and some pupils are hugely needy. The class teacher might feel the brunt of an angry child in the classroom, but the PCS staff are involved in numerous meetings, in hours of trying to calm the situation (when the teacher as well as the pupil needs to be mollified), as well as knowing the full story behind the situation.

The confidential information they carry must weigh them down, especially in cases of sexual abuse. Cared for children need delicate handling. The lines between social worker, psychologist and teacher blur even more in this department.

Bullying can take weeks of patient counselling to resolve. School refusers claim hours. Parents take up precious time, and staff need a wee machine they can click on when parents phone in that says "uh-ah" and "mmmmm" every few seconds while the teacher gets on with paperwork.

Pupil care and support also provides "soc ed", and the remit there grows I know that because their store cupboard is the biggest in the school. Luckily, most pupils love it and are eager audiences, waiting with breathless anticipation for the banana and the condom. It has to be a banana just now because (as was announced in the staffroom) "Ian has lost the penises".

It's a pity they (condoms, not penises) aren't given out free by the school nurse, because the PCS staff become involved in pregnancies and abortions too.

And, of course, they also have their subject classes to teach which, added to the pupil care and support commitment, is often all too much. It is hard for their subject department to cope when meetings drag away their staff.

PCS staff do a wonderful, necessary job, and it should be a full-time post. They would then have the time to counsel their charges properly and attend meetings with time off in lieu when necessary.

If we don't do something about their overwhelming workload, then we are going to need a teacher care and support department where overloaded, burnt-out pupil care and support staff can regain their sanity.

Penny Ward

teaches at Carnoustie High

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