Let's hear it for the supporting cast

22nd June 2007 at 01:00
As reported in The TESS of June 1, Bob Cook, in addressing the Personal Support in Schools national conference, was at pains to reassure guidance teachers that their work was valued and they were "an essential pillar of support" in every school.

He emphasised their role in supporting learning and teaching, and contributing to the school improvement agenda. Bob admitted afterwards that this message had not been part of his original script, but he had picked up so many negative comments throughout the day from pastoral care staff, about how they considered themselves to be undervalued and unappreciated, that he felt he had to set the record straight.

Why do pastoral care staff, or at least a significant percentage of them, feel like second-class citizens? Perhaps it can be explained in part by the fact that they are there to support - and support, by definition, is a secondary function. Children go to school to experience the curriculum, and pastoral care exists to support children through that experience. But that should not mean that those who provide support have a lesser function than those who provide direct access to the curriculum.

So are they merely being paranoid in thinking they aren't appreciated? The McCrone inquiry seemed oblivious to the existence of pastoral care, as did the subsequent teachers' agreement. Implementation of A Curriculum for Excellence is proceeding apace, but where is pastoral care?

Glasgow has implemented a successful tutor system, which has been valued highly enough by most headteachers and is to the credit of the pastoral care staff who support it and, particularly, to the tutors, who are showing a genuinely collegiate approach. It recognises that pastoral needs affect the quality of learning that takes place.

My appeal is to those responsible for the strategic direction of Scottish education. Bring pastoral care into the fold. Accord it the status not just that it deserves, but that will continue to attract good teachers.

Loretta Scott adviser in pastoral care, Glasgow City Council

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